a quick question:

Don't let the sun go down in your heart, my child, lest fear and woe would follow in your wake.

Is the above sentence correct, mainly the 'lest' part? English is not my native language. I am also uncertain about the use of the word 'would'.

Thanks in advance!

  • Welcome to EL&U. Proofreading requests are explicitly off-topic for this site; however, if you can identify a specific issue— why do you think lest is or isn't correct as used here? — we may be able to help. I strongly encourage you to take the site tour and review the help center for further guidance. – choster Mar 3 '17 at 14:00
  • @choster The OP did identify a specific issue. – Mick Mar 3 '17 at 14:25
  • @Mick Specifying the issue would be "I've seen X used in A and B, but it's not used that way in C and D, so I'm not sure whether X is right here. I tried Googling the difference, but there weren't any useful results." Or, "According to N, lest is used this in W way, but here it seems to be used in X way. I don't understand whether X is correct or not here." There is no such context provided here. – choster Mar 3 '17 at 14:55
  • Can you then point me to the forum where I can ask questions like this? Thanks. – Atte Kymäläinen Mar 4 '17 at 2:59

It's: "lest fear and woe follow in your wake". "Lest" is followed by an infinitive phrase with a bare infinitive. Otherwise it's fine !

  • As @tchrist has said, "We are looking for more substantial answers with documented references, not merely [statements that may possibly be no more than] personal opinion. Those are just comments, not answers." – Edwin Ashworth Mar 3 '17 at 20:01
  • In fact, though I wouldn't consider 'lest fear and woe would ...' acceptable nowadays, lest may also take 'should' (see the Swan example and Collins link). – Edwin Ashworth Mar 3 '17 at 21:09

The conjunction 'lest' has a similar meaning to 'in case' or 'so that...not'.

If we rewrite the sentence using 'so that...not', the meaning will be clearer: Don't let the sun go down in your heart, my child, so that fear and woe wouldn't follow in your wake.

The use 'lest' is very rare in modern British English; it is a little more common in formal American English.

Lest can be followed by a subjunctive verb.

The government should take immediate action, lest the problem of child poverty grow worse.

Screen shot from Michael Swan's PEU

  • You are correct about the need for a subjunctive (except that it is not optional). A link providing supporting evidence would help. – Mick Mar 3 '17 at 14:30
  • I have added a screen shot from the grammar PEU by Michael Swan. Thanks. – mahmud koya Mar 3 '17 at 14:41
  • @Mick You'd better point this out to both Swan & Collins: 'lest ... conj (subordinating; takes should or a subjunctive verb). – Edwin Ashworth Mar 3 '17 at 16:17
  • @EdwinAshworth My go-to source of all authority is Cambridge (Oxford if I absolutely have to). I'm too lazy to shop around. – Mick Mar 3 '17 at 18:15
  • @Mick 'except that it is not optional' is a very shaky arrogation, especially after Swan has given a counterexample. 'According to CDO it is not optional' is, with the link, acceptable and useful. // It has repeatedly been said on ELU that recognised grammars almost always trump dictionaries on grammaticality So one has to go above Swan (McCawley, perhaps). – Edwin Ashworth Mar 3 '17 at 19:55

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