I've heard people use “whether it be” and “whatever it be” a few times,
but I'm not sure whether “be” can be used with “wherever.”

If I were to say, “Wherever it be,” would it be considered correct?


Yes. "I will find it, wherever it be" is grammatically correct, although rather poetic. "Wherever it is" would be more common.

  • I agree to a point. I think "wherever it may be" is the commonest one of the three, but the one with "is" is runner-up.
    – Nick
    Nov 23 '17 at 3:46

Yes, it's an example of the old present subjunctive. In this sense, "wherever" means

"no matter where it [may] be."

The subjunctive is supposed to attach in such situations, but in Modern English, it isn't considered necessary anymore. It hasn't been consistent in history either, at least in the last 500 years, so it isn't the biggest deal in this situation. I personally like to write and say it using "may" or "might":

"Wherever it may / might be."

It can be used with any verb, too, and in present and past subjunctive forms, as well as any other form of the subjunctive:

"We shall find the murderer, whosoever he be!"

"If he were here, he would get the answer wrong, whichever answer he chose."

"If I were Trump, I would fire Comey and whoever else were in my way."

"Wherever he go, I shall find him."

"Whatever the answer were, even if it were right in front of him, I'm sure he would get it wrong."

"Whosoever get in my way shall surely die!"

The subjunctives should align, past and present, if you're going to follow this rule:

"Wherever he be, I will find him!" (present subjunctive)

"Wherever he were, I would find him!" (past subjunctive)

"Wherever he run, I will catch him!" (present subjunctive)

"Wherever he ran, I would catch him!" (past subjunctive)

It's very archaic-sounding or poetic when used in the present subjunctive form—not so much in the past subjunctive form, which is far more common in Modern English. I don't see it very often in contemporary English writing, but Shakespeare has a lot of these if I recall. Chaucer, who wrote in Middle English, also has a lot of these constructions, but his English is hard to read because he wrote before Shakespeare. In fact, Shakespeare actually wrote in "Early Modern English". In Chaucer's passages, one would have to translate them to get the same effect, but what I am arguing is that Chaucer would have used subjunctive conjugations in these situations. I do hear and read it with the past subjunctive "were" a lot, although, in the present subjunctive, most people who don't want to use the present indicative add a "may", "might", "shall", or "should" to preserve some semblance of the present subjunctive form:

"Wherever he may go; Wherever he might go; Wherever he shall go; Wherever he should go."

The two most common modals used in these situations are "may" and "might", however.

Also, with the conjunction "whether", the present subjunctive can be used with any verb:

"I'll do it whether he want me to or not."

"We're eating in five minutes whether he show up or not."

"I don't care whether he have to be at work in the morning or not!"

"It doesn't matter whether he go to school because he's still going to fail."

Again, some of these constructions are very formal or even somewhat archaic. They don't have to be said this way anymore, but someone who says "wherever he be" or "wherever he go" or "whether he be" or "whether he go" is not speaking incorrect English; on the contrary, he's speaking the Queen's English; he's speaking very fancy English.

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