"Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor."

Unpredictable mind

New Member
Vietnamese
I wonder how the verb "be" is used in the if clause. Why is it not "if he is worthy" ?

Can you give me other examples, especially in negative sense ?

Thank you in advance :)
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Like 'whosoever' and 'shall', 'if he be' gives the sentence an archaic or very formal sound. These days we would say 'if he is' (and 'whoever' and 'will').
     

    cando

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I wonder how the verb "be" is used in the if clause. Why is it not "if he is worthy" ?

    Can you give me other examples, especially in negative sense ?

    Thank you in advance :)
    It's a subjunctive use of the verb to go with the speculative "If". English speakers don't use the subjunctive as often as some other languages but it does it exist. E.g.

    "He will not win, be he ever so brave". (implying "even if he proves himself to be ever so brave")

    I can't think of another negative one off hand, but I'm sure the quoted example has parallels in similar literature with its use in a sort of incantation or proverb. Such usages sound quite formal and the negative formation in particular does sound somewhat antique, which fits the context quoted.

    A common phrase that uses the first person subjunctive is:
    "I wouldn't do that if I were you."
     
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