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Whether it 'be' or 'is'?

Whether it be comedy, action, or pure narrative, he surgically hones pictures and sound to that perfect place.

  • Secondary question: Whether it be comedy, action, or pure narrative, he surgically hones pictures and sound to their perfect place. ?? – vyllek Jan 25 '17 at 1:44
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whether it be something, something is a set phrase in English. So, it is always be and can never be is. I know the grammar may seem a little bit strange, but like I said this is a set phrase—it's unchangeable. Another variant of this expression which also is equally common in usage is be something, something with the word whether left out.

Example #1:

I like all things American whether it be music, movies or even politics.

Example #2:

I like all things Korean, be it food, culture or what have you.

From a grammatical perspective, this is a form of subjunctive carried over to modern English from time immemorial. The subjunctive is a mood of verbs expressing what is imagined or wished or possible (dictionary definition). You may not have literally seen or experienced all things that are related to American culture, but if you had been presented with something from America, you would have probably liked it because it's American and you like everything American.

  • Hello, Michael. I'm afraid I must disagree that "... it is always be and can never be is". Even set expressions can (and are seen to) change in some cases over time. I'm not saying that it's incorrect to use 'whether it be', but must agree with Colin Fine when he says "The usage you are asking about is less common [in the UK]". Probably his "I would say that anybody using it today is being deliberately archaic" is going too far, but I'd normally use the indicative in OP's example: << Whether it's comedy, action, or pure narrative, he surgically hones pictures and sound to that perfect ... – Edwin Ashworth Aug 1 '19 at 11:21
  • place.>> I'd agree with Colin (in an answer he gives to this question over on ELL) that the subjunctive often sounds archaic (or worse, grandiloquent), at least in the UK. But have you any supporting references for your opinions? – Edwin Ashworth Aug 1 '19 at 11:22

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