I know the meaning of "Long live our noble Queen", but I don't know the structure.

What's the grammatical structure of "Long live our noble Queen" (quote from the British anthem)? Is it inverted? Is it imperative?

  • @BillJ How is inversion different from subject postponing? I thought they were basically the same thing. – user178049 Jan 23 '18 at 10:24
  • @user178049 No, postposing is not inversion. This is just a fixed phrase where the subject happens to be postposed to the end of the clause. When we talk of inversion, we mean subject-auxiliary or subject-dependent inversion. – BillJ Jan 23 '18 at 11:49

It's a form of present subjunctive that is now obsolete, other than in idiomatic expressions like this one. Another example of this type of idiom is "far be it from me."

If it were a simple matter of inversion, it would be "long lives our noble queen," so you can tell it's a type of subjunctive from the verb conjugation. It can't be imperative because "you" clearly isn't the implied subject.

For example, this is imperative:

(You) live long and prosper.

This clearly doesn't make any sense:

(You) long live our noble queen.

Also, you can tell that "wishing" is going on here, which helps to identify the irrealis mood.


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