Given a wish of the form, "May he rest in peace," what tense is being used?

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    See page 5 of Fillmore's "May We Come In?". This is the "Magical sense" of modal auxiliary may, used in wishes, blessings, and curses. It occurs only in initial position. Oh, and since modal auxiliaries are not inflected for tense, it's either no tense at all or the present tense by default, depending on what church you go to. – John Lawler Mar 10 '14 at 17:10
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    @JohnLawler - Very good comment. If you make it an answer I think it's deserving of being marked as the accepted one. – James Tomasino Mar 13 '14 at 1:38

It's a rather old-fashioned usage, a formulaic subjunctive.

  • Though, of course, that's not a tense. :-) – John Lawler Mar 10 '14 at 17:06
  • Is that a mood marker, or are your keyboard markings as faint as mine? – Edwin Ashworth Mar 10 '14 at 20:50
  • Just a smiley, that's all. – John Lawler Mar 10 '14 at 21:54
  • I like the term 'Magical sense'. So magical, it seems to disappear entirely in 'God save the Queen.' – Edwin Ashworth Mar 10 '14 at 22:44

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