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My Vietnamese friend was signing a wedding card and wrote, “I hope your love continue to grow”. I pointed out that she should have said ”continues to grow”. She replied that someone else wrote, “May your love continue to grow”. I replied that this was correct but couldn’t explain why one expression used ‘continue’ and anther ‘continues’.

What is the grammatical explanation for the different use of ‘continue’ and ‘continues’ in the following two expressions:

  • I hope your love continues to grow.
  • May your love continue to grow.
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    In your second example (syntactically, an "optative" sentence) you need an infinitive verb after may (thus, May he die a painful death). Although semantically the first one seems similar, in that it's also expressing a wish (that something should be true, or come to pass), syntactically it's just a simple declarative statement (I hope [that] he dies a painful death). – FumbleFingers Feb 4 at 17:02
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The explanation, I'm afraid, is that may and hope are different words, and have different syntactic requirements.

There is some generality here: may is a modal auxiliary, like can, should, will, and these are always followed by the base form of the verb.

But it is not predictable from its meaning that hope takes as its object a tensed clause, optionally introduced by that. (It can also take a non-finite to clause). This is part of the "dictionary entry" for hope, and needs to be learnt along with its spelling and pronunciation. Expect (with similar though not identical meaning) takes the same kinds of object, but anticipate (again similar in meaning) can also take an -ing clause, but not a to clause).

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Your love continues to grow. (usual S with singular third person) I hope doesn't affect the verb continues. I hope, the love continues, two different subjects with each their verb.

Your love may continue to grow. This is the same structure as:

  • "your love will continue"
  • "your love should continue"
  • "your love can continue"
  • "your love might continue"

May, should, could, will, might and others are modal verbs, they eat up the S rule for the third person.

  • 2
    The main part is right, but "I hope the love continues to grow" is not "two different subject with each their verb", but a single sentence including a subordinate clause (with "that" omitted). See my answer. – Colin Fine Feb 4 at 19:45

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