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    #1

    be it ever so severely

    Saul said, "May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if you do not die, Jonathan."
    http://biblehub.com/1_samuel/14-44.htm

    Can anyone please parse the structure of the expression be it ever so severely?
    I need native speakers' help.

  1. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: be it ever so severely

    It's a pair of old-fashioned idioms, be it and ever so.

    - Be it
    is used here to mean even though it might be.

    - Ever so means extremely.

    All together, the phrase means: even though it might be extremely severely.

    It's an older style of talking. Few people speak or write that way today, but there's nothing wrong with it. More examples:

    - I will win, be it the last thing I do. = I will win, even though it might be the last thing I do.

    - They were ever so tired. = They were extremely tired.

    Does that make sense?
    Last edited by Charlie Bernstein; 01-May-2016 at 20:55.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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    #3

    Re: be it ever so severely

    NOT A TEACHER


    Hello, Sitifan:

    I want to share some information with you that has helped me to better understand this kind of sentence.

    1. We are dealing with adverbial clauses of concession.

    a. Here is an example from one of my favorite books: "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him."

    b. The same book also gives this example: "Be it so humble, there's no place like home."

    NOTES:

    a. The book tells us that the verbs "slay" and "be" are the subjunctive (referring to something that is NOT a fact).
    b. The book labels the underlined words in "1a" and "1b" as concessive clauses.


    ****

    2. Now look at these sentences from my favorite book:

    a. "Home is home, be it ever so homely [humble]."
    b. "[T]here are certain great books that have for me no charm, charm they [the books] ever so many others whose opinions I respect."

    NOTES:

    a. The scholar agrees that the verbs "be" and "charm" are the present subjunctive.
    b. He does NOT agree, however, that those underlined words are -- technically speaking -- "clauses" of concession. He would accept only sentence 1a as a true clause of concession. He feels that sentences 1b, 2a, and 2b are simply another way to express the idea of concession. IF (repeat: if) I understand him, he considers those verbs ("be" and "charm") as subjunctives that serve as mild imperatives. That is, they seem to be weak commands.

    Sources: House and Harman, Descriptive English Grammar (copyright 1931 and 1950), pages 113 - 114; George Oliver Curme, A Grammar of the English Language (copyright 1931, 1958, and 1983), Vol. II, page 337.
    Last edited by TheParser; 03-May-2016 at 15:52.

  2. Piscean's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: be it ever so severely

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post
    Sources: House and Harman, Descriptive English Grammar (copyright 1931 and 1950), pages 113 - 114; George Oliver Curme, A Grammar of the English Language (copyright 1931, 1958, and 1983), Vol. II, page 337.
    I see that your sources are books originally published in 1931. The latest edition/reprint of either was in 1983, 36 years ago. I am not convinced that the views of people writing in the days before mobile phones, computers, texting, social networking, etc, are particularly relevant today.

    Like it or not, we old farts have to move on from what we were brought up with.
    Last edited by emsr2d2; 03-May-2016 at 20:38. Reason: Fixed typo

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