Bishop Robert Lowth, a prominent Hebraist and theologian, with fixed and eccentric opinions about language, wrote A Short Introduction to English Grammar (1762). Many schoolroom grammars in use to this day have laws of 'good usage' which can be traced directly to Bishop Lowth's idiosyncratic pronouncements as to what was 'right' and what was 'wrong'.

On page 36 he writes:

Verb To Be. Indicative mode.

Present time.

  1. I am, --------- We are
  2. Thou art,---- Ye are
  3. He is. ------ They are.


  1. I be, -------- We be
  2. Thou beest,-- Ye be
  3. He is;(8) ----- They be.

(8)"I think it 'be thine' indeed, for thou liest in it." Shakespear, Hamlet. Be, in the singular number of this time and mode, especially in the third person, is obsolete; and is become somewhat antiquated in the plural. "A short introduction to English grammar(1762).

Is "I be" still grammatically correct?

  • 1
    @tchrist♦: ....no. Aug 19, 2018 at 18:51
  • 1
    @Cerberus Then how ’bout this or this?
    – tchrist
    Aug 19, 2018 at 19:01
  • 3
    I think "I be" is still used in some places, such as West Country dialects in the UK. See here for more: english.stackexchange.com/questions/93231/…
    – user184130
    Aug 19, 2018 at 19:02
  • 1
    @JamesRandom The OED calls this be or bees a sort of ancient habitual form still found in some regional varieties of English. Its ancient persistence in the West Country and its use in AAVE may or may not be related. Kipling wrote I bain't the ram-faced, ruddle-nosed old fule yeou reckon I be. and a hundred years later evverbody be jammin.
    – tchrist
    Aug 19, 2018 at 19:06
  • 4
    Does this answer your question? Can "I be" ever be considered correct?
    – Stuart F
    Feb 5, 2021 at 16:17

1 Answer 1


"I be" works fine in the subjunctive, but no where else: Mary requires that I be on time>

  • 1
    implied (implicit) "should"? ... that I (should) be ...
    – iBug
    Oct 6, 2018 at 17:19
  • OP specifies the indicative usages. Feb 5, 2021 at 15:38

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