After J. Robert Oppenheimer made his discoveries of nuclear energy, he said a quote from Bhagavad-Gita, it goes as follows

I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.

Is this proper English?

  • Yes, it is proper English. Archaic, but grammatical. And it wasn’t his “discoveries about nuclear energy”, it was being the man in charge of, responsible for, the Manhattan Project, which developed the A bomb, dropped on two major cities.
    – Dan Bron
    Jul 15, 2019 at 11:39
  • This is a question that has been asked, and answered, many times before. We have a site search. Please use the site search. Thank you.
    – RegDwigнt
    Jul 15, 2019 at 12:41
  • 1
    @RegDwigнt don't suppose you could merge the two posts, so Greg Lee's answer also appears on the older post?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 15, 2019 at 12:59
  • @Mari-LouA yes, I always do that after a while. I give the OP a chance to see my comment first and understand what's happening. Once the question is merged, all the comments are gone, too.
    – RegDwigнt
    Jul 16, 2019 at 9:17

1 Answer 1


As Dan Bron says in his comment, it is proper archaic English, which is familiar to many English speakers through having read parts of the King James translation on the bible, which goes back to an earlier variety of English, Elizabethan English, when the perfect auxiliary verb "be" was used with verbs of motion, instead of the "have" in modern English.

Oppenheimer, as well as being the premier nuclear physicist of his day, was a student of the classical languages, including Sanskrit. Here, doubtless quite deliberately, he uses the archaic perfect form in imitation of that found in the KJ Bible, or possibly to invoke a traditional rendering in English of some passage in the Bhagavad Gita.

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