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Unread Jan 20th, 2007, 03:06 am
susan53 susan53 is offline
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Join Date: Oct 8th, 2006
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Default Re: Help with "May God have mercy on your soul"

This one has been driving me crazy and I've been awake half the night thinking about it - may you be forgiven, Mark!

Seriously, it was that example that started me off - it has a clearer relationship with the normal affirmative form than the Star Wars example I gave last time :

Oh well, I'm feeling generous - you may be forgiven Mark.

The inversion of the subject and verb (May you ..) gives it the imperative function I talked about before, even though it's clearly not imperative in form (or there'd be no subject.) I glossed it before as Let it be the case that ... but it occurred to me that May it be the case that is equally feasible.

OK, that didn't take me all night, but it led me on to all sorts of similar sentences which were a lot more complex, for example - in the first and third persons you can use both let and may with similar meaning - eg Let him be forgiven or May he be forgiven - but why in the second person can you only say May you be forgiven and not *Let you be forgiven?

And then there were examples of other modal verbs acting strangely - Would that I knew for example. That kept me going for a couple of hours (PM me if you really want the analysis, but don't say I didn't warn you).

Having got that off my chest, I'm now going back to bed (good job it's Saturday). And may all my dreams be non-linguistic ones ....
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