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Are the following sentences grammatically correct? I think #2 is correct, but I'm not sure.

  1. My room always be clean
  2. My room is always clean
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#2 is absolutely correct for this example, but there are other constructions in which "always be" would be correct. –  JSBձոգչ Oct 10 '11 at 16:02
I've no idea why we always say My room is always clean, but My room always smells musty. @JSBᾶngs thinks the verb usually comes after "always", and Colin suspects the opposite. I don't have an opinion (yet), but I think this is a much more interesting issue than the grammaticality of My room always be clean. –  FumbleFingers Oct 10 '11 at 17:22
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2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Your #2 is correct. There are two rules in play here:

  1. The verb to be must agree with its subject.
  2. Normally, adverbs such as always follow the verb to be.

Because of these rules, #2 is correct and #1 is an error in standard English.

However, in a different syntactic frame the sequence "always be" could be correct. For example, if we add a modal verb then the sentence becomes:

My room would always be clean if I had time to clean it.

Here, the modal verb would blocks verb agreement, and the adverb always follows the inflected verb, which puts it before the verb be.

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But abnormally: ‘I always say that people’s rooms should be clean.’ –  Barrie England Oct 10 '11 at 16:20
I think your rule 2 is wrong. "He always goes away", "We always stop here". In fact I'm hard-pressed to find an example where it does follow an inflected main verb. Agreed that it usually follows a modal. –  Colin Fine Oct 10 '11 at 16:45
Good point, @Colin. On further reflection, this mostly seems to be a rule about be: The light is always on. She is always hungry. That guy is always a jerk. I'll update the answer. –  JSBձոգչ Oct 10 '11 at 17:17
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The first might be grammatical in some dialects, but only the second is grammatical in Standard English (unless it forms part of a sentence beginning, for example, 'They insisted that . . .')

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Presumably you don't know any of those hypothetical dialects. I certainly don't either, so I think it's best to assume they don't exist, and not mention them at all. If they do, you can bet your boots someone will point it out, and you can change your text to reflect that later. –  FumbleFingers Oct 10 '11 at 17:26
"[Subject} be..." in the place of "[Subject] is/are..." is commonly heard in AAVE. –  onomatomaniak Oct 10 '11 at 18:04
‘Standard English has irregular forms of the verb “to be” both in the present tense (“am”, “is”, “are”) and in the past (“was”, “were”). Many nonstandard dialects have the same form for all persons, such as “I be”, “you be”, “he be”, “we be”, “they be”.’ (Peter Trudgill. Full text here: phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/dick/SEtrudgill.htm) –  Barrie England Oct 10 '11 at 18:09
To supplement onomatomaniak's comment: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… –  sequoia mcdowell Oct 10 '11 at 18:15
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