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Thread: if this be true

  1. #1
    JoeC is offline Newbie
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    Default if this be true

    From The North American Review:

    1. If this be the motive of the philanthropist, the economist will show him that he is making an unwise application of his money in giving it to a mendicant.

    2. If this be the true explanation of the great service which the lower memory sometimes renders to eminent minds, it would follow that it is not by the direct cultivation of the memory, but rather by cultivating this cause of it that discipline can be useful.

    What I learnt was, if a writer chooses the present subjunctive, it must be referring to the present, so the main clause has will, like sentence one, while would require the past subjunctive: were, never be; did I learn the wrong thing or does the writer make a grammatical mistake in sentence 2?

    Thank you. Joe.

  2. #2
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    MikeNewYork is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: if this be true

    Quote Originally Posted by JoeC View Post
    From The North American Review:

    1. If this be the motive of the philanthropist, the economist will show him that he is making an unwise application of his money in giving it to a mendicant.

    2. If this be the true explanation of the great service which the lower memory sometimes renders to eminent minds, it would follow that it is not by the direct cultivation of the memory, but rather by cultivating this cause of it that discipline can be useful.

    What I learnt was, if a writer chooses the present subjunctive, it must be referring to the present, so the main clause has will, like sentence one, while would require the past subjunctive: were, never be; did I learn the wrong thing or does the writer make a grammatical mistake in sentence 2?

    Thank you. Joe.
    This language appears to be quite old. I cannot figure out what the second sentence means.

  3. #3
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: if this be true

    The second seems odd to me- were/would would be a more obvious pairing, though I too can't work out the meaning.

  4. #4
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    charliedeut is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: if this be true

    Quote Originally Posted by JoeC View Post
    From The North American Review:
    Is it an old quote, or were they quoting an older text? That would most likely help us discern the meaning which now escapes us.
    Please be aware that I'm neither a native English speaker nor a teacher.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: if this be true

    More context might help with #2, I agree, though, that "were/would" would be more natural than "be/would".

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