I think it is kind of inversion and I'd found some info on Wikipedia, but I cannot recall what term this structure is, I even remember some examples from Wiki, say, "be it ever so humble, there's no place like home." Can anybody help me out?

  • Fi Fi Fo Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman. Be he live or be he dead, I'll grind his bones to butter my bread.
    – B. Goddard
    Mar 31, 2019 at 22:08

1 Answer 1


In terms of morphology, the verb is in the subjunctive mood (be rather than indicative is).
In terms of word order, we’re dealing with a case of subject-auxiliary inversion (be before the subject).
In terms of semantics, the structure can express a variety of meanings such as optative, a wish or a hope (be it the best year of your life), in which case the structure carries archaic, formal, often religious connotations. But in your case it encodes arbitrariness or free-choice, ‘no matter which’ (be it new or be it old), or concession, ‘although, even if, even if I grant’ (be it as it may). The two uses are difficult to distinguish.

So your construction could be described quite well as a case of subject-auxiliary inversion with free-choice/concessive, subjunctive be.

  • Thanks for your detailed explaining Richard I learnt a lot; btw I just succeeded in locating it on the Inversion section of the English subjunctive on wikipedia and that's exactly what I wanted to find.
    – Angyang
    Mar 31, 2019 at 10:02
  • @Angyang Please mark this answer as your accepted answer if it answers your question.
    – R Mac
    Mar 31, 2019 at 22:53
  • @Angyang On the other hand, if you mean that either English subjunctive § Inversion or English conditional sentences § Inversion in condition clauses answered your question, can you please post an answer with those details?
    – Mathieu K.
    Apr 1, 2019 at 4:17

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