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  1. Newbie
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    #1

    Question The usage of "if...then..."

    Hey, professors,

    I just found a sentence that is very confusing.

    If it be aristocratic in organization, then it seeks to protect the man who is superior only in law against the man who is superior in fact; . . .

    Is this sentence grammatically right? if yes, why does the author use the present subjunctive form "be"?

    Isn't that should be:

    If it is aristocratic in organization, then it seeks to protect the man who is superior only in law against the man who is superior in fact; . . .

    that make more sense (at least to me )?

  2. 5jj's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: The usage of "if...then..."

    The subjunctive is correct if the speaker is presenting a hypothetical situation., though very formal, and rather old-fashioned. Most speakers of BrE would use 'is'. If the writer is accepting the situation, then only 'is' is correct.

    Incidentally, 'if + present subjunctive?' would have been a better title for this thread.

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    #3

    Re: The usage of "if...then..."

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    The subjunctive is correct if the speaker is presenting a hypothetical situation., though very formal, and rather old-fashioned. Most speakers of BrE would use 'is'. If the writer is accepting the situation, then only 'is' is correct.

    Incidentally, 'if + present subjunctive?' would have been a better title for this thread.
    If in hypothetical situation, isn't the sentence should be:

    If it were aristocratic in organization, then it would seek to protect the man who is superior only in law against the man who is superior in fact; . . .?

    So do you mean that we are no longer use the verb form "be" now in the if sentence? Or is there any occasion that we still use the "if+N+be..." form?

  4. 5jj's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: The usage of "if...then..."

    If the organisation is aristocratic in organisation (and I accept that it is), then it seeks ...
    As this is accepting the situation as a fact, then it is not hypothetical.

    If the organisation be/is aristocratic in organisation (and I do not necessarily accept that it is), then it seeks ...
    This is hypothetical. It is putting forward a (real) possibility, not a fact.

    If the organisation were aristocratic in organisation (and I do not necessarily accept that it is), then it would seek ...
    This is hypothetical. It is putting forward a less real, or unreal (counterfactual) possibility.

    In British English we rarely use subjunctive be. A few people still use it, especially in such expressions as 'if that be so/ if that be the case', which we can think of as fixed expressions. However, even with these, 'is' is much more commonly used.

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    #5

    Re: The usage of "if...then..."

    Quote Originally Posted by Orris View Post
    Hey, professors,

    I just found a sentence that is very confusing.

    If it be aristocratic in organization, then it seeks to protect the man who is superior only in law against the man who is superior in fact; . . .

    Is this sentence grammatically right? if yes, why does the author use the present subjunctive form "be"?

    Isn't that should be:

    If it is aristocratic in organization, then it seeks to protect the man who is superior only in law against the man who is superior in fact; . . .

    that make more sense (at least to me )?
    This is an archaic first conditional. Standard contemporary English uses the indicative in this position.

  5. Newbie
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    #6

    Re: The usage of "if...then..."

    Re#4
    That is a very clear explanation, thank you

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