Here is the phrase in question:

. . . but whether he be, or whether he be not. . . .

Is the usage of the infinitive in that phrase above the same sort of thing as occurs in this quotation:

“Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.”

Are those two uses of the infinitive be the same syntactically, or are they different constructions altogether?

I find it rather weird that this formal or archaic usage coincides with the colloquial use of be as in

“Dudes be like. . . .”

Is this last quote perceived as a new colloquialism, but in fact has roots stretching back to Middle English (like for example the word ain’t)?

I’d really appreciate it if you could both parts of my question.

  • Outside of concessive disjunction in certain literary or oratorical circles, the present subjunctive is virtually never used in Contemporary English. It survives only as a fossilized phrase frozen in time and no longer productive. See this answer for some references. – tchrist Jan 12 '14 at 18:14

The uses of be in your first two examples you cite are not an examples of an infinitive but rather an example of the English subjunctive mood. The third example example is a colloquialism that uses the subjunctive form of the verb to suggest that the dudes being referenced are not actual persons, but persons being imagined by the speaker.

  • That's one way of putting it. Another way is to say that it's the infinitive form of the verb used in an idiomatic English construction that is often called "the subjunctive mood", because some of its meanings and uses are reminiscent of some of the uses of the subjunctive moods in Classical languages. Since there is absolutely no mark in the sentence for "subjunctive mood", except the use of the infinitive form of the verb, these descriptions are equivalent. But, by Occam's razor, the second is preferred by grammarians. – John Lawler Jan 12 '14 at 19:19

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