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Use of 'Be' Options
Swami108
Posted: Friday, March 22, 2013 4:23:21 AM

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Hi

When do we use 'be' instead of its other forms?
As in this sentence: "I will do it, if need be."
Why not: "I will do it, if need is."

Thanks.
papo_308
Posted: Friday, March 22, 2013 4:38:32 AM
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My opinion:

The "be" in "if need be" is in the subjunctive form (formally identical to the infinitive).
This form is used if you are unsure or doubt if there will be any need.

I think that a correct form would also be:
"I will do it if there is a need."
but it does not express the same degree of uncertainty.
Swami108
Posted: Friday, March 22, 2013 4:42:08 AM

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Thanks Papo!

But is this the only rule that I need to keep in mind for such use of 'Be'? Uncertainity/certainity?
Could you please spare some time to provide a few more examples?
kool-wind
Posted: Friday, March 22, 2013 4:57:32 AM
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papo is right about 'be' being in the subjunctive, but the thing to bear in mind is that it is a fixed expression.

No native speaker thinks about using the subjunctive in this case, you just say it that way.
papo_308
Posted: Friday, March 22, 2013 5:56:17 AM
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Hi ashish,
I think it would be best for you to find some good grammar book if you want to learn something about subjunctive.
But you shouldn't rack your brains about it very much, this form is not normally used in speech except in such
fixed expressions like "if need be", as kool-wind pointed out.

You can find it in formal texts, especially in legal or technical contexts and it's not only about uncertainty.
For example:
"It is required that she be there." (Normally you would say "It is required that she should be there."
It can be used in the past as well:
"It was required that she be there."
chromomancer
Posted: Friday, March 22, 2013 7:42:16 AM
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As kool-wind says, it is a fixed expression. I would guess it is a contraction of "I will do it, if need there be" which sounds archaic to me - in modern language (if we didn't have the fixed expression) we would say "I will do it if there is a need" as papo says.

There are lots of fixed expressions and set phrases. For example, the word "fro" only occurs in the phrase "to and fro". It's a shortened form of "from" but I can't imagine it being used anywhere else, except in poetry.

As for using the subjunctive, most native speakers (in England) are no longer taught about it, and wouldn't recognise a subjunctive if it bit them on the nose. For example, it is correct to say "If I were you" but it is rare to hear it, even by educated speakers, and the incorrect "If I was..." is far more common. I can't bring myself to say "If I was you..." but I don't want to sound pretentious by saying "If I were..." so I now avoid the construction altogether. "In your place, I would..." (which is still subjunctive, of course).

After all, how can we say "If I was you" is wrong, if that is what the majority of native speakers would say?
papo_308
Posted: Monday, March 25, 2013 6:58:58 AM
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At times, expressions containing subjunctives can still be heard in today's English. This morning I heard the following on the BBC:

(some people...) gathered at the presidential palace and demanded that he resign.
IMcRout
Posted: Monday, March 25, 2013 7:28:12 AM
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Another fixed expression that comes to mind is "the powers that be"
ghu
Posted: Monday, March 25, 2013 8:38:14 AM
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Hello, chromomancer!
chromomancer wrote:
As kool-wind says, it is a fixed expression. I would guess it is a contraction of "I will do it, if need there be" which sounds archaic to me..

Could you tell please if "I will do it, if need there be" is not some contraction of other sentence, also?
It sounds to me strange yet. Naybe, "I will do it, if there will be need"? OR "I will do it if there need would be"?
thar
Posted: Monday, March 25, 2013 9:57:09 AM

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I think the point is that the subjunctive 'if need be' etc includes the subjunctive mood, so you do not have to add it explicitly with a word like 'would'.

'would' is another way of making the sentence subjunctive, and it then takes the bare infinitive 'be' in its normal way.

It sounds strange because, as chromo says, it is not the fixed expression.

I personally doubt it is a contraction of 'if there be a need' - I suspect the noun 'need' could simply take the subjuctive 'be' - "if need exists", or in the subjunctive, - "if need were to exist" - "if need be". - but that is not a point that anyone is going to be able to rule on, I think!

Jyrkkä Jätkä
Posted: Monday, March 25, 2013 10:17:50 AM

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ghu wrote:

Could you tell please if "I will do it, if need there be" is not some contraction of other sentence, also?
It sounds to me strange yet. Naybe, "I will do it, if there will be need"? OR "I will do it if there need would be"?


Translation, please!
d'oh!
Barely literate
Posted: Monday, March 25, 2013 1:29:30 PM

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papo_308 wrote:
At times, expressions containing subjunctives can still be heard in today's English. This morning I heard the following on the BBC:

(some people...) gathered at the presidential palace and demanded that he resign.

_____________________________
Hi All

Speaking plainly, I had never heard of a term such as "Subjunctive" till I enrolled this forum. So, I will have to admit that I know very little about it. So I request you all to help me to have a right comprehension on this term with regards my questions given below.

1) In POPO's sentence, "(some people...) gathered at the presidential palace and demanded that he resign.". And he says the sentence contains an element of subjunctive. If yes, Please tell me whether the element of subjunctive is in the rewritten sentence given below.
"(some people...) gathered at the presidential palace and demanded him(= the president) to resign."

2)Should we bring in the subjunctive element in the sentences contain "wish" or "Hope"? If yes, the sentences contain "wish" are written normally in past tense.For example " I wish I had an umbrella"

3)Which format is right?
(a)I hope it work/works out
(b)I hope it go/goes well
ghu
Posted: Monday, March 25, 2013 1:44:16 PM
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thar wrote:


I personally doubt it is a contraction of 'if there be a need' - I suspect the noun 'need' could simply take the subjuctive 'be' - "if need exists", or in the subjunctive, - "if need were to exist" -


Maybe "if need was (were) to be"?
Buy the way, is the phrase "if there be a need" possible in English and used sometimes? It doesn't sound strange to me.
This phrase wouldn't seem strange if it were "if be a need" "if there would be a need" "if need (could)be" (if need be)
ghu
Posted: Monday, March 25, 2013 1:47:28 PM
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Jyrkkä Jätkä wrote:


Translation, please!
d'oh!

Once more..I will do it, if there will be a need"? OR "I will do it if there would be a need"?
ghu
Posted: Monday, March 25, 2013 1:59:16 PM
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Just my opinion.
salesh2010 wrote:

"(some people...) gathered at the presidential palace and demanded him(= the president) to resign." (it doesn't contain subjunctive mood)
I wish I had an umbrella (it's right, the verb "have" is in subjunctive mood)

3)Which format is right?
(a)I hope it work/works out (I hope it works)
(b)I hope it go/goes well (I hope it goes well)
ghu
Posted: Monday, March 25, 2013 6:08:34 PM
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ghu wrote:
thar wrote:


I personally doubt it is a contraction of 'if there be a need' - I suspect the noun 'need' could simply take the subjuctive 'be' - "if need exists", or in the subjunctive, - "if need were to exist" -


Maybe "if need was (were) to be"?
Buy the way, is the phrase "if there be a need" possible in English and used sometimes? It doesn't sound strange to me.
This phrase wouldn't seem strange if it were "if be a need" "if there would be a need" "if need (could)be" (if need be)

I became to doubt if "need" is a noun in " I will do it, if need be" because
1)An article is absent before "need", while in explanations it is present.
2)I think it is the case when the modal verb "need" is used in subjunctive mood. The subject is absent in the conditional if-clause.
I will do it, if it need be necessary (to do it). (necessary is absent too, as the redundant word)
leonAzul
Posted: Monday, March 25, 2013 7:02:28 PM

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ghu wrote:
ghu wrote:
thar wrote:


I personally doubt it is a contraction of 'if there be a need' - I suspect the noun 'need' could simply take the subjuctive 'be' - "if need exists", or in the subjunctive, - "if need were to exist" -


Maybe "if need was (were) to be"?
Buy the way, is the phrase "if there be a need" possible in English and used sometimes? It doesn't sound strange to me.
This phrase wouldn't seem strange if it were "if be a need" "if there would be a need" "if need (could)be" (if need be)

I became to doubt if "need" is a noun in " I will do it, if need be" because
1)An article is absent before "need", while in explanations it is present.
2)I think it is the case when the modal verb "need" is used in subjunctive mood. The subject is absent in the conditional if-clause.
I will do it, if it need be necessary (to do it). (necessary is absent too, as the redundant word)

Unfortunately you would be mistaken. I understand that this is tricky, but you should also understand that it is not essential to good communication in English to work out each and every permutation of the words.

RuthP
Posted: Monday, March 25, 2013 7:12:34 PM

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ashish_schekon wrote:
Hi

When do we use 'be' instead of its other forms?
As in this sentence: "I will do it, if need be."
Why not: "I will do it, if need is."

Thanks.

If need be is an idiomatic phrase. Don't try too hard to parse idioms; memorize how they are used. They are idioms precisely because they are phrases or clauses which are widely used, but which do not fit precisely into the usual rules.

It means if there is (a) need, or if it is necessary.

In saying if there is (a need)(need), it would be most common to use a need, although it is grammatically OK without the article; need may be considered either quantifiable or not. We usually quantify it: a need.

To keep the same order in non-idiomatic language, one could say
I will do it if (a) need exists.

The to be verbs pretty much mean exist.

There is a red ball. = There exists a red ball.

I am here. = I exist here (for now, at least).
Barely literate
Posted: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 11:51:02 AM

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salesh2010 wrote:
papo_308 wrote:
At times, expressions containing subjunctives can still be heard in today's English. This morning I heard the following on the BBC:

(some people...) gathered at the presidential palace and demanded that he resign.

_____________________________
Hi All

Speaking plainly, I had never heard of a term such as "Subjunctive" till I enrolled this forum. So, I will have to admit that I know very little about it. So I request you all to help me to have a right comprehension on this term with regards my questions given below.

1) In POPO's sentence, "(some people...) gathered at the presidential palace and demanded that he resign.". And he says the sentence contains an element of subjunctive. If yes, Please tell me whether the element of subjunctive is in the rewritten sentence given below.
"(some people...) gathered at the presidential palace and demanded him(= the president) to resign."

2)Should we bring in the subjunctive element in the sentences contain "wish" or "Hope"? If yes, the sentences contain "wish" are written normally in past tense.For example " I wish I had an umbrella"

3)Which format is right?
(a)I hope it work/works out
(b)I hope it go/goes well
thar
Posted: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 12:24:01 PM

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salesh2010 wrote:
salesh2010 wrote:
papo_308 wrote:
At times, expressions containing subjunctives can still be heard in today's English. This morning I heard the following on the BBC:

(some people...) gathered at the presidential palace and demanded that he resign.

_____________________________
Hi All

Speaking plainly, I had never heard of a term such as "Subjunctive" till I enrolled this forum. So, I will have to admit that I know very little about it. So I request you all to help me to have a right comprehension on this term with regards my questions given below.

1) In POPO's sentence, "(some people...) gathered at the presidential palace and demanded that he resign.". And he says the sentence contains an element of subjunctive. If yes, Please tell me whether the element of subjunctive is in the rewritten sentence given below.
"(some people...) gathered at the presidential palace and demanded him(= the president) to resign."

The point here is that papo's example is the only way you can say this. Although the meaning is as you have said it, you cannot say it that way.

Basically, you are reporting the people saying 'we demand thay you say "I will resign", or that you decide to resign'. It is the phrase- what they are demanding SHOULD or MUST happen, that is in the subjunctive.
For some verbs you can use the infinitive with 'him' as you have in your explanation
they commanded him to resign. - They told him "Resign!"

but, for other verbs it does not work to use the infinitive. It does not sound right to me, to say
"they demanded him to resign". It only works with direct ordering words - tell, order, command etc.
You tell someone to go
They tell him to go
but,
you demand [something]
They demand that he go.

YOu have to use the subjunctive (basically, the same as the bare infinitive, ie it does not change in the third person, or have any tenses. Any tense is only in the main verb in the sentence)
They demand that I go
They demand that he go
They will have demanded that I go.
etc


That is using what the grammar seems to call the present subjuntive (be, go, resign, etc).


2)Should we bring in the subjunctive element in the sentences contain "wish" or "Hope"? If yes, the sentences contain "wish" are written normally in past tense.For example " I wish I had an umbrella"

3)Which format is right?
(a)I hope it work/works out
(b)I hope it go/goes well


No, it does not depend on the meaning of the verb, because the verb itself already conveys that meaning, it does not need a particular mood of the following verb to convey that.
What you already know is correct.
The fact is, some verbs take the present subjunctive, some don't. I am not sure if there is an easy way to tell which is which!
The hope itself is real.
eg
I hope it works out.
I hope that he resigns.


If you want to express a wish, you would use, (as I think you have probably already learned), the subjunctive (which is apparently called the past subjunctive). Not because it is about the past, but because it uses the past form:
I wish you were here.
I wish he would resign.

but other verbs expressing the same feeling would take the present subjunctive
I demand he resign.

You have probably already encountered a few instances of the present subjunctive
eg
I demand that you stop doing that (he stop doing that)
I vote that he be chairman of the committee.
I suggest that he go first.

In many cases, you do not need to use it, and can find the same sentence without it, using a simple verb in the clause
I suggest that he goes first.

As to which may be correct....Silenced


I hope this is not confused you (it did me!). I suggest working through a couple of online tutorials to get a feel for when it is used, and then I bet you will start seeing it everywhere!
Barely literate
Posted: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 12:45:54 PM

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Thank you Thar for a detailed answer.
leonAzul
Posted: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 1:12:20 PM

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salesh2010 wrote:
papo_308 wrote:
At times, expressions containing subjunctives can still be heard in today's English. This morning I heard the following on the BBC:

(some people...) gathered at the presidential palace and demanded that he resign.

_____________________________
Hi All

Speaking plainly, I had never heard of a term such as "Subjunctive" till I enrolled this forum. So, I will have to admit that I know very little about it. So I request you all to help me to have a right comprehension on this term with regards my questions given below.

One reason for this is that the methods for teaching English were largely developed for native speakers. They focus on getting the inflections right and assume that the rest will come by listening to experienced speakers and reading good writing. They are more descriptive of the forms and not so clear on the underlying function.

This is changing, fortunately, as teachers realize that such methods poorly prepare the students for learning other languages that do have more explicit conjugations. It also helps an adult learner if there is a functional explanation to go with the formal ones.

salesh2010 wrote:

1) In POPO's sentence, "(some people...) gathered at the presidential palace and demanded that he resign.". And he says the sentence contains an element of subjunctive. If yes, Please tell me whether the element of subjunctive is in the rewritten sentence given below.
"(some people...) gathered at the presidential palace and demanded him(= the president) to resign."

This involves the use of an infinitive which has no tense or mood.

salesh2010 wrote:

2)Should we bring in the subjunctive element in the sentences contain "wish" or "Hope"? If yes, the sentences contain "wish" are written normally in past tense.For example " I wish I had an umbrella"

This involves the past subjunctive, which is much more common than the present subjunctive.

salesh2010 wrote:

3)Which format is right?
(a)I hope it work/works out
(b)I hope it go/goes well

The indicative present (works, goes) is the most common.

In fact, "to hope" doesn't call for a subjunctive, but can express a conditional (would work, would go).

Here, again, many grammars have combined the two because it is often acceptable to use the conditional form to express the subjunctive. Please note the way I have written this. It is the clauses themselves that are in one mood or another, the verb forms are just one of several ways to indicate them.

Conditional mood is so-called because it expresses ideas that depend on a condition to be true, and that thing they depend on is the subjunctive. This is easiest to see in an "if [subjunctive clause] then [conditional clause]" construction.

"If I were a rich man, then I could retire early."


ghu
Posted: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 12:44:45 PM
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leonAzul wrote:
ghu wrote:

I will do it, if it need be necessary (to do it). (necessary is absent too, as the redundant word)

Unfortunately you would be mistaken.


Fortunately I would be right.
ghu
Posted: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 1:54:47 PM
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leonAzul
Posted: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 2:13:57 PM

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QED

ghu wrote:

I became to doubt if "need" is a noun in " I will do it, if need be" because
1)An article is absent before "need", while in explanations it is present.

The word "need" is the subject of the subjunctive clause and clearly a noun. The equivalent expression would be "if there be a need."

ghu wrote:

2)I think it is the case when the modal verb "need" is used in subjunctive mood. The subject is absent in the conditional if-clause.
I will do it, if it need be necessary (to do it). (necessary is absent too, as the redundant word)

While this is a legitimate use of the verb "to need" in present subjunctive, it is quite unnatural sounding in modern English, and would have been considered archaic or dialect two hundred years ago.
ghu
Posted: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 2:24:19 PM
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leonAzul wrote:

The word "need" is the subject of the subjunctive clause and clearly a noun. The equivalent expression would be "if there be a need."


But why then you couldn't say "if there be need" and "if a need be"?
Also, I never meet the term "the subjunctive clause". "Subjunctive" reffers to a verb.
ghu
Posted: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 2:28:31 PM
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leonAzul wrote:

While this is a legitimate use of the verb "to need" in present subjunctive, it is quite unnatural sounding in modern English, and would have been considered archaic or dialect two hundred years ago.

But I don't say it sounds like modern English. I just want to know from where it came and which part of speech the "need" is. Because this phrase is not clear to me on its own.
QED ?? Eh?
leonAzul
Posted: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 3:28:54 PM

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ghu wrote:
leonAzul wrote:

While this is a legitimate use of the verb "to need" in present subjunctive, it is quite unnatural sounding in modern English, and would have been considered archaic or dialect two hundred years ago.

But I don't say it sounds like modern English. I just want to know from where it came and which part of speech the "need" is. Because this phrase is not clear to me on its own.
QED ?? Eh?


Sorry, that is quod erat demonstrandum, roughly translated, "(That is) what has been demonstrated" or "you have proven my point for me."

If I may offer a suggestion, the reason it isn't clear to you is that it isn't very clear to anyone else. I have to squint and cuss several times to make sense of it.
Whistle
It's not your fault that these nooks and crannies of the language are largely neglected and sometimes difficult to explain.
Jyrkkä Jätkä
Posted: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 4:38:05 PM

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ghu,

when you see a word here you want to look up, just copy/paste it into TFD search box shown in every page of forum



[image not available]

ghu
Posted: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 5:58:36 PM
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leonAzul wrote:

If I may offer a suggestion, the reason it isn't clear to you is that it isn't very clear to anyone else.explain.

A difficulty is that I can't use the sentence if I can't get it. I don't understand Present Subjunctive.
Using the verb, which coincides with the bare infinitive, without auxiliary verb is not acceptable to me.
The clauses "he resign" "she dance" "he sing" and so on.. It seems that some auxiliary modal verb (could, must, should) is absent there.
as to "need be",, I think "need" is a modal verb. Also, I think that "maybe," came from "it may be".

I will ask him if it need be done".
I will do it, if it need be done.
RuthP
Posted: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 7:00:27 PM

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ghu wrote:
leonAzul wrote:

If I may offer a suggestion, the reason it isn't clear to you is that it isn't very clear to anyone else.explain.

A difficulty is that I can't use the sentence if I can't get it. I don't understand Present Subjunctive.
Using the verb, which coincides with the bare infinitive, without auxiliary verb is not acceptable to me.
The clauses "he resign" "she dance" "he sing" and so on.. It seems that some auxiliary modal verb (could, must, should) is absent there.
as to "need be",, I think "need" is a modal verb. Also, I think that "maybe," came from "it may be".

The examples are non-standard English.

I will ask him if it need be done".
Most AE speakers would say,
I will ask him if it needs to be done.

You may hear
I will ask him if it needs doing.

If the sentence is reworked using need be, then the meaning changes.
I will ask him, if need be.
In this sentence, need be refers to the act of asking, i.e. it means if it is necessary to ask him whether or not it needs to be done, then I shall ask him.


I will do it, if it need be done.
This would be said in one of these ways:
I will do it if it needs to be done.
I will do it if it needs doing.


I don't think this one would be as common as the others.
I will do it if need be.
leonAzul
Posted: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 7:02:05 PM

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ghu wrote:
leonAzul wrote:

If I may offer a suggestion, the reason it isn't clear to you is that it isn't very clear to anyone else.explain.

A difficulty is that I can't use the sentence if I can't get it. I don't understand Present Subjunctive.
Using the verb, which coincides with the bare infinitive, without auxiliary verb is not acceptable to me.
The clauses "he resign" "she dance" "he sing" and so on.. It seems that some auxiliary modal verb (could, must, should) is absent there.
as to "need be",, I think "need" is a modal verb. Also, I think that "maybe," came from "it may be".

I will ask him if it need be done".
I will do it, if it need be done.


It is a very uncommon and complicated construction in everyday English. It involves passive voice in present subjunctive mood and a nearly obsolete use of "need" as a modal auxiliary. It really doesn't get much more arcane or nerdy than this. Perhaps if you wanted to imitate sixteenth century English it might be useful, but no one speaks like that today unless it's "Talk Like a Pirate Day."

It would be much more natural and useful to practice the pattern, "I'll ask him if it's necessary to do it."
Edited to add:
I see RuthP also made some excellent suggestions.

ghu
Posted: Thursday, March 28, 2013 6:48:02 AM
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leonAzul wrote:

I see RuthP also made some excellent suggestions.


I still concider that "need" is a modal verb here. "need be" comes from out dated using the verb "need" as modal. But even now, sometimes one could see the using of "need" in affirmative sentence as the modal verb. It is rare, but it still exists.
Yes, "if it need be" means "if it is necessary" while "if it needs to be" means "if it must be".
So, if mother says "You needs to clean your room" it doesn't mean that "You need clean your room really".
"Why do I need to clean my room, if I needn't do it?" Whistle
thar
Posted: Thursday, March 28, 2013 6:58:58 AM

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ghu wrote:
leonAzul wrote:

I see RuthP also made some excellent suggestions.


I still concider that "need" is a modal verb here. "need be" comes from out dated using the verb "need" as modal. But even now, sometimes one could see the using of "need" in affirmative sentence as the modal verb. It is rare, but it still exists.
Yes, "if it need be" means "if it is necessary" while "if it needs to be" means "if it must be".
So, if mother says "You needs to clean your room" it doesn't mean that "You need clean your room really".
"Why do I need to clean my room, if I needn't do it?" Whistle


I think you need to move away form the notion of 'need' as a verb here. The verb is 'to be' in the subjunctive form 'be'
I will use it if need be.
I will pay if wrong I be.

'If need be' is a fixed expression. You cannot judge it by common grammars.
ghu
Posted: Thursday, March 28, 2013 7:29:51 AM
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Joined: 6/20/2012
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thar wrote:


I think you need to move away form the notion of 'need' as a verb here. The verb is 'to be' in the subjunctive form 'be'
You mean "to move away "from"?


thar wrote:
'If need be' is a fixed expression. You cannot judge it by common grammars.

I have nothing against "a fixed expressions". But I would like to know why you think that "need" is a noun here.
Only because the modal verb "need" is not used in modern English grammar in statements? I think it "is fixed" because he came from the distant past. Otherwise, which sense to say it "is fixed" is?
If you think that it is the common way to say,"If here be a need", where is "a" in "if need be"?
Or why it is not the comman way to say,"If here need be" then?
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