As time has gone by, we have found and accepted that dealing with problems, be they new or old ones, is always going to be a big part of our lives.

What is the difference between "be they" and "whether they are"? Would the above sentence retain its exact meaning if I used "whether they are" in place of "be they"?

  • 5
    Please ask only one question at a time. Be they and whether they are mean exactly the same - be they is a little more formal and traditional. Sep 1, 2022 at 10:36
  • 2
    The exact difference is that be they is a piece of obsolete grammar, retained in this construction for rhetorical effect.
    – Colin Fine
    Sep 1, 2022 at 16:19
  • 1
    See the first answer to this question on English Language and Usage for the "be they" construction. ("be they new or old" is sometimes called an exhaustive conditional construction, if you want to google it.)
    – Stuart F
    Sep 1, 2022 at 16:31
  • @ColinFine Not really obsolete, but archaic, perhaps. Sep 2, 2022 at 6:00

1 Answer 1


There is no difference in meaning, it's just other stile expressed with archaic form of subjunctive mood. Such inversion can happen with verb "to be" when you want to substitute, for example, "whether he is smart or not" With "be he smart or not"

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