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Let me thank you in advance if anybody can help me out about this.

When I was listening to Lee Ann Womack's I Hope You Dance, for my personal reason, I hear she is singing as "God forbid love leave you ever empty-handed". Am I just listening wrongly or in the case of the God, am I correct to understand even there is no tense at all? ( including past tense too??? )

Thank you again and let me apologize for taking your time about this.

  • A slight mistranscription but it makes a difference; she sings "God forbid love ever leave you empty handed." – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 1 '15 at 10:43
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God forbid love ever leave you empty handed.

I don't know that song but "God forbid" expresses a fervent hope or a wish.

(Let) God forbid...

That highway is full or crazy drivers. I hope they have no accident on the way to the airport. -- God forbid!

The verb, lacking the normal -s- ending of the third-person singular, is the vestige of the subjunctive mood, which has been gradually fading out of use over the last century.

So a paraphrase would be:

I hope (that) love never leaves you empty-handed.

Notice that in the original it says "leave", not leaves. That too is a subjunctive marker, indicating that this statement is not a statement of fact but the statement of a wish or hope.

To be left "empty-handed" means to be left with nothing, to be "at a loss". But here in this context it is likely to be a play on words: to be left empty-handed is to be left with no person to embrace or caress.

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  • Thank you for your answer and precious time kindly. and may I ask, if I understand you correctly, God's tense is the third person, and only in this song the word "let" is hidden so that the "simple" present? tense is used? Thank you anyway sincerely. – Kentaro Nov 1 '15 at 10:45
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    Tense is a time-marker (present, past, future) and does not apply to nouns but to verbs. Person refers to the noun's role: first person, second person, third person. Number refers to singular or plural. So God, a noun, has person and number but not tense. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 1 '15 at 10:48
  • The word "Let" is not hidden. I supplied it to help you understand the meaning of the expression with the verb that lacks the third person singular ending of the indicative mood. You can look up irrealis. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 1 '15 at 10:50
  • I see, so I don't know Lee is using which -- tense -- or person ---, however, if I concentrate my attention only at the person, God is the third person and tense also follows the rule of the third person?? I am sorry again. – Kentaro Nov 1 '15 at 10:52
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    The noun has no effect on tense (present, past, future). The verb agrees with the noun in person and number only. But the inflections (or lack thereof) which reflect this person-and-number agreement between noun and verb can be affected by the grammatical mood of the statement: it is a statement of fact (indicative) or it is a wish (subjunctive). – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 1 '15 at 10:58
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She's leaving out a few words to be poetic or to fit the meter of the song. I grammatically correct version of the sentence might be:

God forbid [if] love [were] ever [to] leave you empty handed.

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    The lyric is grammatically correct without those words you've supplied. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 1 '15 at 10:39
  • First, thank you for your quick answer. And just kindly let me add 1, and can I ask, if I follow you correctly, am I correct to say the third tense, such like "God forbids" will never happen and when we talk or sing about God, are we always required to use the presente and the first tense??? ( It looks like another answer has come so I am sorry I leave my comment like this.. ) – Kentaro Nov 1 '15 at 10:39
  • You can use whatever tense you want with God. It's a normal subject. – Graham Nicol Nov 1 '15 at 10:46
  • ahm...what is your last comment supposed to mean......?? I am sorry I am struggling to try to catch it. – Kentaro Nov 1 '15 at 10:48
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    You can use "God forbids", as in "God forbids murder". However, God forbid as it's used in the song is an idiom that means "May God prevent something from happening or being the case." idioms.thefreedictionary.com/God+forbid – Graham Nicol Nov 1 '15 at 10:53

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