English is chock-full of odd grammar constructions and idioms. One such oddity happens when someone says, “So be it,” at the end of a frustrating conversation. Is “be it” proper grammar?
It is correct to say “be it” as part of a subjunctive statement resigning someone or something to its fate. It is an older construction often given informally in frustration or helplessness after “so.” One can say, “If he wants to spend his money on something that will break in a couple of months, so be it!”
Whether you’ve heard this in a movie, read it in a book, or listened to a native English speaker say it dramatically, this odd construction needs some unpacking.
What Does “Be It” Mean?
“Be it” is a subjunctive mood construction meaning “the state of something.” Its indicative mood equivalent is “it is.” We most often use “be it” in the idiom “So be it,” which means one accepts that there’s nothing he or she can do to change the situation (source).
We often use “be” to describe something’s state of being, especially feelings and emotions. So, for example, one can “be” happy, sad, upset, or confused.
Something can also “be” in a state of flux, motion, or progression, putting the sentence in the passive voice – the subject is acted upon rather than doing the action.
- The dog is being groomed.
- The old piano will be moved out next Friday.
These sentences are in the indicative mood – one of three English verb moods.
Mood changes a sentence’s verb form to best communicate a message. For example, in the indicative mood, we express facts and opinions, make statements, and ask questions (source). We use the indicative mood in most of our daily speaking and writing.
“Be it” is unusual because it is in the subjunctive mood, which we employ to express desires, suggestions, and “what if” questions (source). Look at the indicative and subjunctive versions of “be it” below:
- Indicative: “Is this going to happen?” “It is.”
- Subjunctive: “This is going to happen.” “So be it.”
In the indicative example, “It is” confirms that something will happen. In the subjunctive example, however, “So be it” is a terse acknowledgment that something will happen.
As you can see, “So be it” means “That’s just the way it is” and carries a sense of “and there’s nothing I can do about it” (source).
Another Meaning of “Be It”
Another way we often use “be it” is at the beginning of a statement about two possible scenarios. This meaning is akin to “whether it be” and remains in the subjunctive mood.
Take a look at these examples and replace them with “whether” or “whether it be.”
- “Are we still going to the game?” “Be it rain or shine; we will be there.”
- “You shouldn’t go in there.” “We’ve got to clean out this shed, be it snakes or rats.”
This form communicates one’s resignation to the situation, regardless of how the situation turns out. Usually, the two options one lists after “be it” are opposites or in the same category.
How Do You Use “Be It”?
When one says, “be it,” or the popular idiom, “So be it,” they are not happy about the situation. They are usually frustrated, upset, or disheartened that the circumstance is unchangeable (source).
The subjunctive mood nature of “be it” means one is looking forward to whatever lies ahead, but often with low expectations of the future. In either case, “be it” describes a possibility that is likely to happen, and one acknowledges that likelihood.
So, you must use “be it” near whatever you acknowledge. You can use it idiomatically in “So be it” at the end of a conversation or argument as a way of giving up, or you can use it as “whether” and follow it with two possible scenarios.
- You don’t want to go to any more of the kids’ basketball practices? So be it.
- We’re going to attend every practice, be it awful weather or grumpy kids.
When Can You Use “Be It”?
You can use “be it” whenever you are frustrated and want to give up in an argument or resign yourself to a situation. You can also use “be it” to reflect your stubbornness about seeing something through.
If you and your spouse have been arguing off and on for weeks about who should handle the dishes every evening, you can say, “So be it!” to give up and resign yourself to the unwanted chore. Usually, this would end an argument, but you can add a stipulation.
- So be it! I’ll do the evening dishes, but you will do the laundry every weekend.
Whenever you wish to express stubbornness to see something through to the end (whether threateningly, frustratingly, or sadly), you can use “be it” after what you acknowledge must be done and before two possibilities.
- We’ll toss every rock out of that field, be it weeks or years of trying.
You can use this same construction to brag about someone you believe will accomplish something, no matter how great the trials are.
- They’ll finish the job, be it costly or dangerous.
Using “Be It” in a Full Sentence
You can place “be it” at the head of a subjunctive mood clause, which may appear at the beginning or middle of a complex sentence. You can also use it with “so” to create a sentence.
Since you can put it at the beginning of a clause, it may stand at the head of wherever you place that clause, as in:
- We intend to drive straight through, be it day or night.
- Be it day or night; we intend to drive straight through.
The idiom “So be it” can stand alone or at the end of a sentence.
- “I’m done trying to make you break this habit.” “So be it.”
- I don’t know what else I can do to help you, so…so be it.
When Not to Use “Be It”?
You should not use “be it” if you are not entirely resigning yourself to the fact that something will likely happen. You should also avoid using “be it” if you are happy about something’s possibility.
Using “So be it” at the end of an argument signals that you give up and will comply with the outcome. So if you say, “So be it,” only to turn around later and balk at the situation, you were dishonest or insincere.
Likewise, if you are super happy about your son’s engagement announcement, saying “So be it” would sound very rude and dissatisfied with his choice or timing.
In writing, we prefer “whether” to “be it” in sentences with two possible choices. This simply comes down to how formal, stiff, and final the subjunctive mood sounds compared to the more genial “whether.” Observe the feeling of the following examples.
- I will stay with you, be it sickness or poverty.
- I will stay with you, whether in sickness or poverty.
The latter sounds like one chose to stay with someone out of love and genuine desire, while the first sounds like one is stubborn and doesn’t want to compromise his or her promise. In this case, the second is better and more touching.
What Can You Use Instead of “Be It”?
You can use “whether” instead of “be it” in sentences that list two possibilities. Other synonyms for specific situations are “despite,” “in spite of,” and “regardless of.”
You must ensure that whatever words you choose to replace “be it” captures the essence of your meaning. Otherwise, you may end up communicating ill feelings by accident.
As mentioned previously, you can replace “be it” with “whether” before two possibilities.
- She will buy a house whether it takes five years or ten.
Here are other examples using synonyms of “be it.”
- She will buy a house despite the cost.
- She will buy a house in spite of the cost.
- She will buy a house regardless of the cost.
Irregular verbs contrast with regular verbs in that they have no set pattern for changing between tenses. For example, to make the regular verb “walk” past tense, simply add “-ed” to the end. On the other hand, irregular “eat” becomes “ate” in the past tense.
English’s confusing verb spellings come thanks to the vast array of languages it pulls words from. Irregular verbs conjugate differently because English speakers tried to Anglicize some spellings but left others similar to their original language.
Though modern English is slowly kicking irregular verbs out, its 10 most common verbs are irregular: “do,” “be,” “have,” “go,” “say,” “can,” “will,” “see,” “get,” and “take.” So, though only 3% of modern English verbs are irregular, they are so integral to English that speakers won’t let them fade anytime soon (source).
This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
The best way to get the hang of using and spelling irregular verbs is to use them! To learn more about irregular verb conjugation, read Which is Correct “Are” or “Were”? When to Use Each Conjugation.
Using “Be” in the Subjunctive Mood
The subjunctive mood switches the factual “is” with the hypothetical stative “be” whenever describing a state of being in a desire, suggestion, or hypothetical situation. By doing so, English speakers understand that something is not a fact by simply hearing the verb change.
Here are some examples to demonstrate wishes, strong suggestions, and possibilities.
- Sam would be stoked to meet Steve Harvey.
- Tim wishes he could be richer.
- Starla suggests that you be there on time.
- It’s supposed to be at six tonight.
“Is” isn’t the only verb change from indicative to subjunctive, but “was” and “are” become “were,” especially in “if” statements.
- I could speak English without thinking about grammar if I were more fluent.
- I wish you were here.
“So be it” is an older, subjunctive mood expression you will sometimes hear when someone is done kicking against the goads and ready to accept the situation (even if they are frustrated or disheartened about it).
You may also hear it mid-sentence to express stubbornness or pride that something will get done. So be it today or tomorrow, we hope you’ll use “be it” soon!