previous next

VERBS, MOODS OF:-- INFINITIVE: "It were best (to):" "I were best (to)"

It were best (to). To is often omitted after "best" in such phrases as "it were best," "thou wert best," &c. Perhaps there is in some of these cases an unconscious blending of two constructions, the infinitive and imperative, exactly corresponding to the Greek οῖσθ̓ οὖν δρᾶσον.

“'Tis best put finger in the eye.

“I were best not call.

“'Twere best not know myself.

“Best draw my sword.

In most of these cases the speaker is speaking of himself: but often it is impossible, without the context, to tell whether the verb is in the infinitive or imperative. Thus in

“Better be with the dead,

it is only the following line,
Whom we, to gain our peace, have sent to peace,
that shows that be is infinitive. When we now use this idiom, we generally intend the verb to be used imperatively.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: