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Consider the following:

You do this one more time and I'll slap you.

What form is "do"? I'd like to say it is the bare infinitive (see below), but I'm led to believe that it is the present indicative because of how I would express the same idea in the 3rd person singular, though this is probably much less common:

He does this one more time and I'll slap him.

If it is indeed the present indicative, then I'm confused over how to parse the following sentence, which uses the dynamic "be" (behavioral):

You be rude one more time and I'll slap you.

Let alone how it might be expressed in the 3rd person singular:

?He be rude one more time and I'll slap him.

?He is rude one more time and I'll slap him.

So what's wrong with this analysis? Is the verb really the bare infinitive and I'm misguided in thinking "He does this one more time and ..." is acceptable? Or is this construction simply not possible outside the 2nd person?

  • Yours is a good question! :) – F.E. Apr 28 '14 at 18:21
  • @F.E.: I like your reference to CGEL! So based on yours and oerkelens's answer, it seems that both the imperative and declarative are permissible in this conditionally coordinating asymmetrical "and" construction. One thing still nags me, though: the behavioral "be" used thus: "You be an individual, and I'll put you in your place.", "You are an individual, and I'll put you in your place.", and "He is an individual, and I'll put him in his place." Without the imperative, the conditionality is lost! Maybe "be" is just special, and that this construction is ill-suited in this case. – ephemeralist Apr 28 '14 at 19:57
  • Try your examples with "You be a rude person . . ." and then things might appear clearer. :) – F.E. Apr 28 '14 at 20:00
  • That is: "You be a rude person, and I'll put you in your place.", "You are a rude person, and I'll put you in your place.", and "He is a rude person, and I'll put him in his place." -- the last two examples have a declarative clause as the first element, and so, the overall constructions aren't conditional; you are going to put him in his place no matter what. The first version is a conditional, with an imperative clause as its first element. – F.E. Apr 28 '14 at 20:03
  • I just reread your first comment. My example merely re-showed what you said. But the first element can be a declarative clause in these types of conditionals. The difficulty might lie in being able to create a meaningful declarative 1st clause that happens to use "be" as its verb -- which is what you've already said. – F.E. Apr 28 '14 at 20:08
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Yes, your analysis is getting close. :)

You're touching on many of the essential issues. Some of those issues have come up before, but usually they come up individually (and often they are given bad answers).

Let me comment on this:

  • You do this one more time and I'll slap you.

That example seems to have the form of a clause-coordination where an imperative clause is the first element in that coordination, and that type of coordination is commonly interpreted as a conditional (2002 CGEL, pages 937-9). (Though, it could perhaps be reasonable to also consider your example as coordinating two declarative clauses.)

That kind of coordination involves an asymmetrical "AND" coordination (2002 CGEL, page 1301). That is: 'X and Y' implicates 'if X then Y'. Examples:

  • [28.i] I express the slightest reservation and he accuses me of disloyalty.

  • [28.ii] Come over here and you'll be able to see better.

  • [28.iii] Do that again and you'll be fired.

And here are two more examples, where the first element is not an imperative clause (2002 CGEL, page 1301):

  • I only have to express the slightest reservation and he accuses me of disloyalty.

  • I suggest you come over here and then you'll be able to see better.

Also, be aware that imperatives can also have 3rd person subjects, and also 3rd person vocatives (2002 CGEL, pages 927-8):

  • [8.ii] Kim, you be umpire please. -- [vocative "Kim", and subject "you"]

  • [9.i.a] Somebody at the front, write your name on the board. -- [vocative]

  • [9.i.a] Somebody at the front write your name on the board. -- [subject]

There's also the older related post: https://english.stackexchange.com/a/137100/57102

And of course, imperatives can have an overt 2nd person subject (2002 CGEL, pages 925-6):

  • [5.i] You be wicket-keeper and I'll bowl.

  • [6.i] (Just) you watch where you put your feet.

  • [6.ii] You mind your own business.

Now let's get back to your example that seems to be in the form of a clause-coordination where an imperative clause is the first element in that coordination: "You do this one more time and I'll slap you". Here's a related excerpt from CGEL, pages 937-8:

9.5 Imperatives interpreted as conditionals

When an imperative is the first element in a clause-coordination, it is commonly interpreted as a conditional:

[39]

  • i. Ask him about his business deals and he quickly changes the subject.

  • ii. Do that again and you'll regret it.

  • iii. Persuade her to agree and I'll be forever in your debt.

  • iv. Don't make him the centre of attention and he gets in a huff.

Thus we understand "if you ask him about his business deals he quickly changes the subject", and so on. The examples illustrate the prototypical case, where the second clause is declarative and overtly linked to the imperative by and. The conditional interpretation derives from the implicative of consequence that is commonly conveyed by and -- compare I'll offer him a 10% discount and he's bound to take it. The first clause is usually positive, but it is just possible for it to be negative, as in [iv]; the form of the negative shows clearly that it is indeed the imperative construction that we are dealing with here.

Also, notice their example that uses two declaratives in the clause-coordination: I'll offer him a 10% discount and he's bound to take it. There's also example [28.i] I express the slightest reservation and he accuses me of disloyalty.

This info might be enough for you to complete your own analysis, to figure out what is going on in your examples. If you have any questions, feel to ask and I'll try to update this post accordingly.

Note that the 2002 CGEL is the 2002 reference grammar by Huddleston and Pullum et al., The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (CGEL).

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When you include the subject, I see no reason why the verb should not simply be a present indicative.

However, when specifically addressing the possible receiving end of your slap, you may actually be using an imperative, and you could parse the sentence as follows:

You! Be rude one more time and I'll slap you.

In which case the use of a third person singular would not make much sense.

Another way to look at it would be to read it as a subjunctive (hence "he be rude"), but I don't really see how any normal reason why the subjunctive would be used here; unless you deeply wish him to be rude so you can slap him.

I don't see any problem with the following sentences:

You! Be late one more time and I'll fire you. (imperative)
You are late one more time and I'll fire you. (simple present indicative)
He is late one more time and I'll fire him. (simple present indicative)

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I must say that, to my French ear, it makes no ambiguity at all, as long as we share the same construct here.

  • In the present simple:

You do this one more time and I'll slap you.

Tu fais ça encore une fois et je te gifle.

  • In the imperative:

Do this one more time and I'll slap you.

Fais ça encore une fois et je te gifle.

A simple, foolproof way to know which of the present simple or imperative is involved in either cases is to rephrase the sentence using such auxilary as "be" [être in French], which is declined in both tenses.

And so:

You are late one more time and I'll slap you.

Tu es encore une fois en retard et je te gifle.

But:

Be late one more time and I'll slap you!

Sois encore en retard une fois et je te gifle.

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