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I've seen people write "God bless America", and it drives me nuts.

Shouldn't it be "God, bless America"?

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Good question. But no one is commanding God to bless America! Well, I suppose some would try, but I doubt it would work out too well for them :-) – Vincent McNabb Aug 9 '10 at 2:20
Well, it drives me nuts for other reasons than the lack of comma, but I digress... – MikeSchinkel Sep 11 '10 at 22:26
Standing up :-) – Evan Feb 4 '11 at 17:00
"God Bless Amurica!" – JohnFx Feb 4 '11 at 17:02
up vote 28 down vote accepted

Grammatically, I like to think of it as "May God bless America." The mood of the verb is subjunctive. The "may" is just dropped for conciseness.

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+1. This is supposed to be rendered in the subjunctive. What nerve a speaker would have to use the imperative with God. – Charlie Aug 7 '10 at 17:51
Yes, it's subjunctive with the "may" removed, certainly not imperative or addressed to God. Similar phrases with "May" dropped include, say, "Heaven help us", "The Devil take the hindmost", or "The Force be with you" (which I've not checked is actually present in the Star Wars corpus :p). – ShreevatsaR Aug 7 '10 at 18:13
They don't need "may" necessarily. I'd argue that the verb in these is in the subjunctive, though the "conjugation" isn't overt anymore. In the case of "the force be with you" or "the Holy Spirit be with you", "to be" I think is more clearly subjunctive. – Charlie Aug 7 '10 at 18:39
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
In BE it would be "God Bless, America" in a condescending tone like a grandmother patting a small child – mgb May 17 '11 at 20:41

You'll notice you also say things like, "I'd rather that he leave early..." (not "leaves"). You are using the subjunctive mood, which isn't grammatically overt in English all that often, but does pop up here and there. "God bless America" is one of these cases.


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You can also write God Bless America, the title of a song written by Irving Berlin and made famous by singer Kate Smith.

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protected by tchrist Aug 16 '13 at 1:53

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