It is from Crash Course World History. It is at around 5 minute and 8 second. Here is the context:

Human beings, regrettable though it may be, are inherently vicious, and have to be restrained from their viciousness.

Would it mean the same if the host said it this way?

Human beings, though it is regrettable, are inherently vicious, and have to restrained from their vicikusness.

If he could, then why did he use may be?

  • 1
    As a footnote, this expression is often worded as: regrettable as it may be, but I don’t think the meaning changes when someone uses though instead of as. – J.R. Aug 10 at 7:35
  • What does "as it may be" mean? There are no, it seems, any entry in dictionary of this phrase. – Dmytro O'Hope Aug 10 at 8:43
  • Dmytro: Try looking up as it were. – J.R. Aug 10 at 8:54
  • Could you please give the reference to it? – Dmytro O'Hope Aug 10 at 11:30
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    @DmytroO'Hope - Try looking up "Be that as it may". Be that as it may or though/as it may be are idiomatic phrases that mean something "regardless of whether it is good or bad". – stangdon Aug 10 at 17:18
up vote 1 down vote accepted

regrettable though it (may) be is a clause of concession with the subject complement fronted for emphasis.

You can move such a clause around since it relates to the predication of the main clause, not to any one constituent:

The price, regrettable as it is, is over $10,000.

Regrettable as it is, the price is over $10,000.

The price is over $10,000, regrettable as it is.

Compare:

The price, sad to say, is over $10,000.

Sad to say, the price is over $10,000.

The price is over $10K, sad to say.

P.S. Clauses of concession historically were marked by the subjunctive (regrettable though it be) and may be could be a periphrastic substitute for subjunctive be, use of which has been on the decline.

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