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Using rooftops creatively allows us to tackle many of the challenges faced by cities today – be those environmental, social, technological, or cultural.
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Here how could I understand the structure be those...? Is it a imperative sentence?

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  • The "be those" clause is like an expansion of a subject. You can replace it with "whether those are" to have the same meaning. In this case, the subject being expanded is "the challenges faced by cities today", and the "be those" clause expands it to give examples. Jan 19, 2023 at 1:33
  • it's a concessive subjunctive clause. Here is an answer to a similar question on EL&U: english.stackexchange.com/questions/214687/…
    – JavaLatte
    Jan 19, 2023 at 1:47

2 Answers 2

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Be here is subjunctive. Another way of using the subjunctive is Using rooftops creatively allows us to tackle many of the challenges faced by cities today – whether those challenges be environmental, social, technological, or cultural.

The subjunctive mood in English, especially the present subjunctive, is nearly defunct. You're more likely to hear it in the US than in England, and you're more likely to hear it in certain formulaic constructions such as this one. It's often triggered by that or whether and similar words. The present subjunctive was formerly triggered by if, but now that sounds archaic: If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun (note the different form of the verb in each clause).

Another example is The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.

Without the subjunctive, the word whether (or another word with a similar function) is necessary to convey the uncertainty:

  • Good: I will accept them whether they are early or late.

  • Bad: *I will accept them, are they early or late.

By contrast, the subjunctive can convey uncertainty by itself:

  • Good: I will accept them whether they be early or late.

  • Also good: I will accept them, be they early or late.

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The sentence you provided is a declarative sentence, not an imperative sentence.

The sentence is stating that using rooftops creatively can address various challenges that cities face, and it lists some examples of those challenges (environmental, social, technological, and cultural). The phrase "be those" is used to introduce the examples of challenges. The sentence is not giving a command or an instruction, but rather making a statement about the potential benefits of using rooftops creatively.

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