previous next

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

I were best (to). The construction

“Thou wert better gall the devil.

“I were best leave him.

“Madam, you're best consider.

like the modern construction "if you please," (in which we should now say, and be correct in saying, that "you" is the subject, though it was originally the object, of "please,") represents an old impersonal idiom: "Me were liefer," i.e. "it would be more pleasant to me;" "Me were loth;" "Him were better." Very early, however, the personal construction is found side by side with the impersonal. The change seems to have arisen from an erroneous feeling that "Me were better" was ungrammatical. Sometimes the to is inserted:

“You were best to go to bed.

“You were best to tell Antonio what he said.

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: