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I don't understand the structure of this sentence:

“Well, well, Inspector,” said he. “Do you follow your path and I will follow mine.

It is from The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge, part 2, a Sherlock Holmes short story.

Why is there a "do" there? shouldn't it be "you follow", or "you do follow"?

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It's just an archaic/poetic construction, inverting You do [something]. As in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar Act 1, Scene 2 But, look you, Cassius, The angry spot doth glow on Caesar's brow. – FumbleFingers Oct 8 '11 at 16:31
And the construction functions as an imperative, both in the OP's example and in the example from Shakespeare. (Where, incidentally, is your example from, Ulukam?) – Barrie England Oct 8 '11 at 16:36
it is from "The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge - part 2", a Sherlock Holmes short story. – Alpagut Oct 8 '11 at 16:59
Aha! Even more recent than Trollope then (Cerberus's answer). – Barrie England Oct 8 '11 at 17:48
@Barrie: Yeah, actually I'd not be very surprised myself to see it in a modern novel, archaic though it may sound now. – Cerberus Oct 8 '11 at 17:52
up vote 4 down vote accepted

This is a common construction in older English. It is an imperative, and I believe do used to be required (or very common) when the subject (= "you") of an imperative is expressed; constructions like you tell me! (with omitted do) sound modern to my ear, and often informal. I know it was at least still common in late-19th-century literature (Trollope's The Way We Live Now, for example).

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I suspect that overall, the most prevalent constructions omit both do and you, in such imperatives as, for example, "[Do] [you] listen to me!" – FumbleFingers Oct 8 '11 at 17:43
@Fumble: Oh, absolutely. I meant to say that do was prevalent when the subject is expressed. – Cerberus Oct 8 '11 at 17:50
All permutations do/did occur, but I think it's safe to say that including both "do" and "you" is invariably archaic/poetic today. But we often use just one, as in "Do listen to me!", and "You listen to me!", which both sound totally normal to me. – FumbleFingers Oct 8 '11 at 17:59
@Fumble: Yeah, but do listen to me! sounds emphatic, whereas do you listen to me! in older English does not—or does it? I'd say it doesn't. – Cerberus Oct 8 '11 at 20:53
Hmm. It's hard to say because we don't speak like that now. I agreed with you as I read the words, but the more I think about it, the more it feels to me that "do" has always added emphasis. Adding "but" as well things gets positively desperate - Do but listen to me – FumbleFingers Oct 8 '11 at 23:42

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