Perish the thought.

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New Member
Polish - Poland
Hello. I know that a verb that has a singular noun as its subject should have an -(e)s suffix, e.g. "John eats", "She goes". But today I was watching an episode of The Simpsons and Bart Simpson says "Perish the thought." How is this grammatically correct? If you want context here it is:

Bart Simpson: Hey, Dad! Can I have five bucks?

Homer Simpson: I hope you're not planning to see a certain movie starring certain space mutants that a certain mother didn't want you to see.

Bart Simpson: Perish the thought.
  • sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Hi Wolyn
    Welcome to the forum.:):)
    This is an idiom and as such does not follow normal grammar rules.
    WordReference Random House Learner's Dictionary of American English © 2018
    per•ish /ˈpɛrɪʃ/ v. [no object]
    1. Idioms perish the thought, (used to express the wish that something may never or should never happen):"Aren't you coming to the concert?'' —"Perish the thought!''


    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Initially I thought perish in 'perish the thought' was the older transitive use of the verb (like 'kill' or 'destroy'). However, the the OED labels it as subjunctive (in other words, 'Perish the thought' means 'May the thought perish'), and so it's actually the intransitive verb fronted. I've included the OED's first four quotations below:
    P1. intr. In optative subjunctive, in exclamations and imprecations.
    Thesaurus »

    a. perish the thought (also man, name): may the thought (man, name, etc.) die, be destroyed, be damned, etc.
    1526 Bible (Tyndale) Acts viii. 20 Perish thou and thy money togedder.
    1600 Shakespeare Henry V iv. iii. 72 Perish the man whose mind is backward now.
    1697 Dryden tr. Virgil Æneis xii, in tr. Virgil Wks. 614 Call them not Trojans: Perish the Renown, And Name of Troy, with that detested Town.
    1700 C. Cibber Tragical Hist. King Richard III v. iii. 52 Perish that thought.


    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Yes, to me it's a subjunctive. :)

    It's a relatively uncommon usage in modern English, but as Nat has explained it equates in meaning to "May the thought perish".


    Senior Member
    UK English
    The term normally used in grammar books is formulaic subjunctive. A similar phrase is God save the queen!

    However, one can just describe it as a fixed expression, a formula, or an idiom (#2).
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