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I've already seen threads like this, but I still can't decide if it's meaningful to say:

The art and language of a country represent its history, so it is important that they are both preserved.

Source: Writing Skills

Shouldn't it be:

so it is important that they be both preserved.

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    No, but you could write "they both be preserved", similar to "they both are preserved". To me it is a stylistic difference.
    – user3169
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 6:00
  • So the original sentence from the reference is grammatically correct and meaningful, right?
    – Mori
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 6:07
  • Yes, "they are both preserved" is OK, but you cannot sub "be" in this word order.
    – user3169
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 16:45

1 Answer 1

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Both are fine, although "be both preserved" is an archaic word order that it not generally seen in current usage - use "both be preserved" instead.

Otherwise, there is a slight semantic difference between the two, but it is so slight that in practice no-one would think of it.

It is important that they both be preserved.

This is using the subjunctive, and is theoretically not saying whether or not they are currently being preserved. It simply stresses that preservation is important.

It is important that they are both preserved.

Strictly speaking, this is saying that they are being preserved, and that it is important that this be so. If you're being really strict about the use of the indicative, you wouldn't use that if there's no preservation going on at the moment. However, that indicative/subjunctive distinction is entirely ignored in practice. People will frequently use the indicative in such situations when intending a subjunctive meaning. Thus, it cannot be said to be wrong to use it where the preservation is not currently taking place.

So, you say "shouldn't it be ...", and the answer is "yes and no". Yes, if you are trying to apply English grammar analytically and ignoring how people actually use the language. No, if you want to learn English how native speakers use it. There's no reason it should be that instead - but it can be, if you prefer it.

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  • "No, if you want to learn English how native speakers use it." This is real language — how people actually use it, not what grammars prescribe.
    – Mori
    Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 12:53

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