God bless you. Why not blesses?

Status
Not open for further replies.

lundc

Member
Joined
Aug 25, 2010
Member Type
Student or Learner
You hear it all the time from the politicians: "God bless America." Or when someone sneezes: "God bless you." As the subject of a complete sentence, isn't "God" considered third person, singular (e.g., he, she, it)? If so, would it be more proper to say, "God blesses you" or "He blesses you".

Or is it used in the context of a command or request, as in, "God, please bless America!"

This has bothered me for so long, despite having lived in the States for decades. :)
 

Joe Wen

Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2010
Member Type
Student or Learner
In my opinion, the God is infinite and almighty;therefore,he is always thought to be a giant and is different from us.
 

birdeen's call

VIP Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2010
Member Type
Student or Learner
Native Language
Polish
Home Country
Poland
Current Location
Poland
You hear it all the time from the politicians: "God bless America." Or when someone sneezes: "God bless you." As the subject of a complete sentence, isn't "God" considered third person, singular (e.g., he, she, it)? If so, would it be more proper to say, "God blesses you" or "He blesses you".

Or is it used in the context of a command or request, as in, "God, please bless America!"

This has bothered me for so long, despite having lived in the States for decades. :)
That's because you don't state facts in such sentences. You don't want to say, "God blesses you." You want to express a wish. So you don't use the indicative mood. You use the third person subjunctive/imperative.
 
Last edited:

Tullia

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 9, 2010
Member Type
English Teacher
Native Language
English
Home Country
England
Current Location
England
You hear it all the time from the politicians: "God bless America." Or when someone sneezes: "God bless you." As the subject of a complete sentence, isn't "God" considered third person, singular (e.g., he, she, it)? If so, would it be more proper to say, "God blesses you" or "He blesses you".

Or is it used in the context of a command or request, as in, "God, please bless America!"

This has bothered me for so long, despite having lived in the States for decades. :)

It's the latter. It's a request ("God please bless") or wish ("May God bless"). I wouldn't call it an imperative - ordering God around is probably a bad idea ;)
 

birdeen's call

VIP Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2010
Member Type
Student or Learner
Native Language
Polish
Home Country
Poland
Current Location
Poland
There is an essential difference between "God, please bless America" and "God bless you" in my opinion. These sentences have different addressees. The first sentence is said to God, the other one is said to the person who is to be blessed by God.

As for the imperative/subjunctive thing, I think it's not easy. I always see people giving "God bless you" as an example of the subjunctive. The problem is that I translate it to the imperative mood in Polish. Not an order though. It's the third person imperative which is actually about expressing wishes.

This link has some interesting thoughts about the third person imperative in English. The most relevant part is on page 10.

According to them, "Don't he move! ("Don't God bless America!") is an arguably acceptable third-person imperative sentence while, "He move!" ("God bless America!") is not acceptable. Which would perhaps mean that "God bless America" must be subjunctive. ;-)

I don't think such analyses are important at all but they're interesting! ;-)
 
Last edited:

Tullia

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 9, 2010
Member Type
English Teacher
Native Language
English
Home Country
England
Current Location
England
Very interesting birdeen :)

What about when the President is speaking to the nation, and ends with the phrase "God bless America"? One could argue that either that is a request to God (Please God) or an address to America (May God).

I'd probably incline to the view that most of the time, it's "May God" or "Let God" and it's expressing a wish, rather than a direct appeal (or a true command) to God - mostly on grounds of punctuation, I think. Were it a direct appeal I would expect to at least sometimes see a comma "God, bless America" or hear a slight pause when it was spoken.

I think the same applies to "God bless you".
 
Last edited:

Nightmare85

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 17, 2009
Member Type
Interested in Language
Native Language
German
Home Country
Germany
Current Location
Germany
***Neither a teacher nor a native speaker.***

As some others have already mentioned it:
It's the imperative, not a statement.
In order to avoid confusion, I always use a comma and an exclamation point.
God, bless America!

However, it's not mandatory...
(It's your choice whether you want to say it that way or not.)

Cheers!
 

Nightmare85

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 17, 2009
Member Type
Interested in Language
Native Language
German
Home Country
Germany
Current Location
Germany
Oh, I see.
So it's more logical to use sentence #2 since we can't talk to god (yet) :)

Cheers!
 

euncu

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 22, 2009
Member Type
Other
Native Language
Turkish
Home Country
Turkey
Current Location
Turkey
Oh, I see.
So it's more logical to use sentence #2 since we can't talk to god (yet) :)

Case 1;
The chief of police
The criminal
You the mayor

You say : The chief of police, stop this criminal! (You order the chief of police to find and arrest the criminal)

Case 2;
The chief of police
The criminal
You the citizen

You say : The chief of police stop this criminal! (You're reading the story about the criminal and the chief of police's relevant statements on a newspaper, and thinking to yourself that it's about time that the chief of police stopped this criminal otherwise the mayor put someone more capable in charge.)

Notice that it's "put" not "puts".
 

lundc

Member
Joined
Aug 25, 2010
Member Type
Student or Learner
Thanks, everyone, for the comments.

I'll accept the meaning "[May] God bless you!" I.e., when you sneeze, your heart stops beating momentarily, and I wish that God will bless you to be able to restore your health.

Similarly, "[May] God bless America!"

:)
 

SoothingDave

VIP Member
Joined
Apr 17, 2009
Member Type
Interested in Language
Native Language
American English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States
Thanks, everyone, for the comments.

I'll accept the meaning "[May] God bless you!" I.e., when you sneeze, your heart stops beating momentarily, and I wish that God will bless you to be able to restore your health.

Similarly, "[May] God bless America!"

:)

Yes, it's a petition, a request to God. The "may" is unspoken, but understood.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top