I have a feeling that this may be the dreaded (at least for me) subjunctive. But I'm really hoping it can be analyzed as the imperative instead. I am hoping I can use this expression to help explain a similar pattern in Japanese.

Can we understand "Be that as it may" as meaning the same thing as "Let that be as it may, and yet still..."

EDIT: Thank you for the replies. I realize I made a mistake in my analysis of my reformulation above. Even if "let" is taken as the imperative, that wouldn't extend to "be."

I did a little more searching, and in its discussion of the subjunctive, Wikipedia gives examples such as "Be they friend or foe" and "Come what may," which both seem very similar to "Be that as it may."

Also, if I understand correctly, the "be" in a sentence like "May the force be with you" is the subjunctive. I think this sentence is very similar to my reformulation above ("Let it be..."). So it looks like even my (undoubtedly liberty-taking) reformulation uses the subjunctive.

All of this leads me to me to suspect that the "be" in "Be that as it may" really is the subjunctive. I would welcome any other thoughts, corrections, or input.

2 Answers 2


It appears to be an archaic form that has persisted as a colloquialism in modern English. "Be" is the verb "to be", connected to "that"; so the phrase essentially means "That is as it may [be]...".

To address your comparison to "Let that be as it may...", you could reasonably understand it as an equivalent to "For the sake of this discussion, let's say that's true..."


Yes, most grammars consider this 'be' a subjunctive.

But since 'be that as it may' could be literally interpreted as 'though it may be that', in all likelihood, I think that 'be' is better analyzed as a bare infinitive rather than an imperative form.

Note also that the imperative form is always used as a main clause in Present-day English, but that 'be that as it may' is always used as a subordinate clause in Present-day English. Another reason not to analyze it as an imperative form.

In a nutshell, it's a subjunctive, but if you'd like to get creative, a bare infinitive is as far as you could take it.

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