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I think grammatically the phrase "God bless America" is wrong; it should be "God blesses America", don't you think so?

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Find out about "subjunctive"... –  GEdgar Jun 6 '13 at 15:05
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Nah, don't bother to find out about "subjunctive". God bless X is just short for May God bless X, which means exactly the same thing and is also a fixed formula. The initial magical May is predictable, and therefore deleted. Magical may is explained on the 5th page of this lecture. –  John Lawler Jun 6 '13 at 15:18
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Nah, find out "subjunctive". Linguists are doing their best to kill it, but just because it's not precisely the same as the Latin subjunctive is not a reason to do that. The term is still useful to describe exactly this mood. –  Andrew Leach Jun 6 '13 at 16:14
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@Andrew: If linguists do indeed tend to downplay the subjunctive, that's probably because they're more interested in what people say "naturally" today than in historical grammatical antecedents going all the way back to Latin. Nobody today says "John help us!", for example - this usage only occurs in "frozen" forms such as "Lord help us!". –  FumbleFingers Jun 6 '13 at 16:46
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@JohnLawler: I believe this is not historically correct, or is it? You suggest that this "bless" was originally part of a phrase "may...bless", which I believe is misleading. As Nohat commented: It is subjunctive, and there is no “may” which has been removed—it is simply a fixed idiom that comes from a time when the subjunctive could be freely used this way. – nohat♦ ↵ Aug 13 '10 at 19:18 –  Cerberus Jun 6 '13 at 18:47
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marked as duplicate by Andrew Leach, jwpat7, Alain Pannetier Φ, TimLymington, Kristina Lopez Jun 6 '13 at 17:31

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

God blesses America.

This is the Indicative Mood. It is just a statement that God (regularly) blesses America. The third person singular takes the inflection -(e)s.

God bless America!

This is the Subjunctive Mood. Here you are not stating anything. Instead, you're expressing a wish. The third person of the subjunctive coincides with the infinitive. Other examples of the subjunctive

God save the Queen!

Be that as it may, ...

It is important that he be here on time.

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Or it's blasphemous, commanding God to bless America. –  Little Big Bot Jun 6 '13 at 16:20
    
@LittleBigBot: I never said this was commanding. Unlike outis nihili, I said this is subjunctive, not imperative. –  Armen Ծիրունյան Jun 6 '13 at 16:24
    
I was joking, sorry for being unclear. –  Little Big Bot Jun 6 '13 at 16:26
    
@LittleBigBot: The first time someone said to me that the Earth was several thousand years old, I thought they were joking too. Later I simply stopped assuming a joke in any sentence that has even the slightest religious subtext :) –  Armen Ծիրունյան Jun 6 '13 at 16:36
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By saying "God Bless America" you are indicating a desire that God will bless America in the future. You could even term this a prayer.

"God blesses America" would be an indication that you think the blessing has already occured - or that the blessing is currently occuring.

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It's hortatory (i.e., imperative; however, the use of the word "imperative" for the hortatory in this case might have undesirable connotations).

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