So, I was looking through my textbook, and found this question:

Transform the sentence: 'Long live the King!' into a meaningful sentence, that expresses the same meaning (exact meaning; change the form, without changing the sense) as expressed by the given sentence. Your new sentence should end with a ? mark

My thoughts on this are:

"The King should live long, shouldn't he?"

My textbook doesn't have answers provided, so I seek an answer.

Is my reasoning correct? Or have I misunderstood some facts of this question?

  • 5
    I can't think of a way to preserve the optative meaning while transforming it into a question. Sorry.
    – user230
    Jan 23, 2014 at 14:07
  • 1
    I concur with snailplane. These instructions cannot be satisfied. Your guess is as close as you can get, but it does not express "the same meaning": it is an invitation to agree, not a wish. Jan 23, 2014 at 14:33
  • Can you give more context about this question? What is the chapter or sub-chapter/section that this is related to? Is there any example in the book that transforms a sentence into another one that ends in a question mark? Also, have you copied the complete question verbatim? Jan 23, 2014 at 14:59
  • Ok, I accepted Dipak's answer and I think the question should be left as it is, since, this question is so very confusing, and can't be answered. And this is why I called it "Bewildering". Even I faced the same problem as snailplane or StoneyB are facing, but posted the question just to make myself assured that no answer can fully satisfy this question. Thank you all. Jan 23, 2014 at 15:01
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    @CoolHandLouis The chapter is "Transformation of Sentences". Example Sentence: 'He took an active part in the contest.' Use an adverb instead of 'active' . Answer: He actively participated in the contest. And I am sorry, but this question I posted of King is the only question that deals with question marks at the end of the sentence. Jan 23, 2014 at 15:02

4 Answers 4


The question is a request to transform the optative sentence "Long live the King!" into a question (Interrogative).

Transformation of Sentences is the conversion of one "type" of sentence into another "type". The types are: assertive, interrogative, imperative, optative, and exclamatory. These categories, transformation rules, and examples are often found in ESL/EFL educational books.

The goal of transformation is a "very good" equivalence of meaning. How good is a "very good" equivalence? The only answer is "good enough" for whatever criteria is important. If taking a test, then "good enough" for the person grading the test. Beyond that, it's "good enough" for the needs of the writer/speaker.

How can a question "mean the same thing" as a statement? When one says, "Will you please stop talking?" (Interrogative), they are not literally asking a question; they are politely saying, "Stop Talking." (Imperative) or "I want you to stop talking." (Assertive). Rhetorical statements like "Is not wisdom better than riches?" (Interrogative) mean "Wisdom is better than riches." (Assertive). Similarly, when one says "Isn't this night beautiful?" (Interrogative), they mean "This night is beautiful." (Assertive). Another form is the tag question, "This night is beautiful, no?" (Interrogative).

"Long live the King!" is an "optative sentence": one that expresses a wish, desire, prayer, or hope. Optative sentences often start with "May" such as "May you live a long life." However, “Long live the King!” is an idiomatic expression that uses the subjunctive mood. In the subjunctive mood, the verb “live” is in the infinitive, e.g. to live, to be, to play, to run. Compare with third-person present tense, “The King lives long.”

This answer shows how to transform "Long live the King!" from optative to affirmative and then from affirmative to negative interrogative. (The OP updated that the teachers themselves could not answer this question and they discovered the textbook had a misprint! Such a double transformation is practically never asked in an ESL/EFL course. However, it can be done, and this answer is interesting because it's clearly within the ESL/EFL methodology to make each transformation separately.)

Subjunctive to Affirmative: First from subjunctive to various forms of a more affirmative style. Any of the following are equivalent meanings:

  • Long Live the King! (Optative)
  • May the King live long! (Optative)
  • May the King live a long time! (Optative)
  • May that the King lives a long time! (Optative)
  • I wish the King to live long! (Assertive)
  • I wish the King lives a long time! (Assertive)
  • I wish for the King to live long! (Assertive)
  • I wish for the King to live a long time! (Assertive)
  • I wish for the new King that he lives a long time! (Assertive) *
  • Let us all wish that the new King lives a long life! (Imperative) *

Affirmative to Negative Interrogative: Now from the affirmative to the rhetorical question, one uses a negation in this case. These are spoken (or written) in a context where the speaker's sentiment is obvious or conclusive. Any of the following could be a proper transformation of the original statement.

  • Long Live the King, no? (This is a bit odd, but it works. It's more stylistic of Spanish and French.)
  • Do we not all wish the King to live long?
  • Who would not wish the new King to live long? *
  • Who, amongst his loyal subjects, would not wish the new King to live long? *
  • Who, amongst his loyal subjects, would not wish that the new King lives long? *
  • Who's with me in wishing the King a long life? (Credit to @starsplusplus. Note this is "Interrogative" not "Negative Interrogative".) *

In my brief review of ESL/EFL prescriptions for transformations, there were a variety of "rules": some were rigidly syntactic while others allowed more semantic changes. There is no single "right answer" (other than a person grading your work). Consult with your instructor or exam requirements regarding "what is correct".

* The marked answers include variations that may push the boundaries of standard ESL/EFL transformations. What's the point of transformation if not to say the same thing in a different form?

Say "new King" if you need to make that idiomatic concept explicit. Similarly, "among his loyal subjects" may sound forced on its own, but it doesn't contradict the original meaning. All contextual meaning has to come from somewhere: an idiom, the environment/situation, prior sentences, character, or even from within the sentence itself.

  • 1
    I don't know what to say at this, but this is just amazing of yours! I had consulted with my teacher, and she had consulted with the head office, and in the end all had turned out to be the fault of the book. And you are pretty right in saying that there can be a lot of possible outcomes. Feb 9, 2014 at 10:38
  • I changed "among => amongst" to sound more old fashioned. Both mean the same. "Among" is more generally accepted in modern American English, while both are accepted in British English. Feb 9, 2014 at 10:56
  • I now see @starsplusplus actually answered this correctly on Jan 23 in the comments of another answer-post. Credit! (But there was no way I could have known - or known why - without going through the exercise and learning the concepts!) Feb 9, 2014 at 11:27

"Long Live.." is an expression used to express loyalty, support or praise for a specified person or thing.

"Long live the king!" should literally mean "May the King live for a long time!", however it really means "We support the king!" OR "We praise the king" OR "May the king prosper!" etc.

Your transformation of the sentence to:

"The King should live long, shouldn't he?"

is incorrect. As the expression "long live..." is definitely not a question. The person saying "Long live the king" is expressing his support for the king and not questioning it.

  • Thank you @Dipak. So, it means that there is no perfect transformation that can be there for the given sentence? Maybe can there be a sentence which expresses the same sense (might not the same meaning) ? Jan 23, 2014 at 14:40
  • 3
    The same sense but not same meaning could be something like "Who's with me in wishing the King a long life?" It expresses the same sentiment but in a different way (you're inviting others to join you in your good wishes to the King). Jan 23, 2014 at 15:52
  • +1 for the point about "We support the king!" The real meaning is indeed closer to that. Jan 23, 2014 at 15:53

I joked in the comments that the proper answer would be:

Long live the King!?!?!?

But a plausible answer could be:

Long live the King?

This is a declarative question (specifically, an echo declarative question, but only a linguist or grammar geek would know of such terminology). This would make sense as in the following conversation.

Rob said, "The King is dead! Long live the king!"
Sue responded quizzically, "Long live the king?"
Rob replied, "Yes! The King's son is the new king. It's a pledge of allegiance to the new king with full respect as 'the king'."

In this case above, Sue is simply declaring the same statement back with an upward inflection at the end to indicate some need for clarification. However, note that declarative questions can have a lot of different subtle meanings and usages other than the above example. Like excitement and disbelief on a game show:

Game Show Host: "You won a trip to Cancun!"
Contestant (excitedly and bouncy): "I won a trip to Cancun? I won a trip to Cancun?"
Game Show Host: Smiling and nodding yes.
Contestant (excitedly and jumping): "I won a trip to Cancun! I won a trip to Cancun!"

  • Oh! I see how this sentence can be different when the conversations are different. Thanks for making everything a bit much clear now. Jan 24, 2014 at 11:04

"I strongly hope that the king lives for a long time, [and I expect that you agree with me.]"

Doesn't have the same flavor!

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