There is a wall near my house where this phrase has recently been graffitied -

Only God judge me

My reaction to this (!) has been to realise that most similarly-constructed phrases I can think of use the indicative mood:

Only my dog loves me;

Only his partner tells him what to do;

Only swimming relaxes me;

Only a fool worries about the niceties of English usage.

Clearly, the graffiti is not using the indicative mood. My research suggests that it's using the jussive (mandative,declarative) mood. If this is the case, I'm wondering whether both of the following can be understood with equal validity, or whether, one of them only is the usual meaning:

1) (the author believes that) Only God has the authority/ability to judge him/her (i.e. Only God can judge)

2) (the author permits that) Only God may judge him/her

  • 1
    Most likely there's just a missing 'can' – user339660 Apr 24 '19 at 10:58
  • 1
    Clearly 2 for me. Absolutely anyone can judge you. And indeed absolutely everyone will, especially if you go spraying on walls. – RegDwigнt Apr 24 '19 at 11:09
  • It's graffiti!! The fact that you can make sense of it at all is notable. – Hot Licks Apr 24 '19 at 11:44
  • Yes! Defiant rather than fatalistic... – Dan Apr 24 '19 at 13:29

Clearly, the graffiti is not using the indicative mood.

It is worth noting that graffiti is not a medium well known for its sterling grammar. The expected meaning of the phrase ("you people shouldn't judge me") suggests the indicative mood wasn't intended but it may mean something like "only God [really] judge[s] me [and your opinions aren't important]".

My research suggests that it's using the jussive (mandative, declarative) mood.

Nah, there's not a main verb that would require it. It could be a hortative subjunctive, equivalent to "[Let] only God judge me," but in English that's usually expressed/understood as an imperative and this is an awkward way to say it.

Most likely there's just a missing 'can'.

Yup. That's much more likely.

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