Lv 4
  asked in Society & CultureLanguages · 1 decade ago

Can "(thou) beest", and "(thou) art" be used interchangeably?


The form "beest" certainly appears many times in the classic literature... I'm assuming from Taivos' answer it's an uncouth manner of speech, can someone confirm that?

Update 2:

Julius Caesar by Shakespeare, William

If thou beest not immortal, look

he Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare, William

If thou beest rated by thy estimation,

Tempest by Shakespeare, William

If thou beest Stephano, touch me, and

Tess of the d'Urbervilles - A Pure Woman by Hardy, Thomas

Ah, th'st think th' beest everybody, dostn't, because th' beest first favourite with He just now

As You Like It by Shakespeare, William

Within these ten days if that thou beest found

Ivanhoe by Scott, Sir Walter

Paradise Lost by Milton, John

If thou beest he; But O how fall'n

All's Well that End's Well by Shakespeare, William

[To DIANA] If thou beest yet a fresh uncropped flower,

King Henry V by Shakespeare, William

thou beest mine, Kate, as I have a saving faith within me tells

10 Answers

  • Taivo
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    "Thou beest" is completely ungrammatical and was never used.

    "Thou art" is the only correct form for the second person singular present tense of the verb "be".


    Since that form isn't common I wasn't familiar with it (I'm not a big fan of the Shakespeare corpus, I'm more of an Old English/Middle English fan myself). I had to do some digging, but here's the result. Beest is a second person singular present subjunctive form, hence all the uses in "if..." constructions. In Middle English times, 400 years before Bill the Bard, the second person singular present indicative had already standardized to art in all dialects of English, but the subjunctive form was be (not beest, since all subjunctive person endings had been completely lost). In Early Modern English, the subjunctive mood was continuing to break down (and is virtually extinct in Modern English). Beest was a formation based on be with the addition of the (ungrammatical in subjunctive) second person singular indicative suffix -est. The more common subjunctive form continued to be be without the suffix. The form beest, therefore, cannot be used interchangeably with art (an indicative form), even if you choose to use the irregular beest. The fact that some of the quotes seem to use it in the indicative notwithstanding, the two are not interchangeable. The subjunctive was already breaking down in Early Modern English times (it was in serious decay already in Old English times and even more so in Middle English times), so the use of irregular subjunctive forms is to be expected.

    Source(s): I teach History of English at a university
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    3 years ago

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Gordo...what was that you were saying about the 'tongue'? Acceptable is NOT spelt with an i.

    'Thou beest' is not correct any more than 'you be' is.

    Thou art is now archaic, it's a shame though. Languages which still use the 2nd person singular..French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Welsh are much richer because of it.

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  • 1 decade ago

    I will explain the situation, thus nobody has understood your question. It is clear that the words belong to old English usage and anybody who has read Shakespeare at least can realize the answer. They can not be used interchangeably because the first one is present simple subjunctive mood and the second one is present simple indicative mood, but both expressions are correct, the first one is hypothetical the second one real.

    Source(s): Biligual applied Linguistic Teacher.
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  • claude
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago

    I think (not sure) that 'beest' is the subjunctive (hardly used in modern English) and 'art' would be the normal present.

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  • Anonymous
    6 years ago

    English has three moods, indicative mood (to express statements of facts), subjunctive mood (to express wishes, hopes, unreal situations which are contrary to the fact, pray, etc.), imperative mood (to express commands, requests, etc.). What is "mood"? Mood is a difference in the form of a verb denoting the mode or manner of predication.

    In Early-Modern English, "thou art" is used for present indicative mood; "thou wast" is used for past indicative mood. In the meantime, "(if / that) thou be" or its older variation "(if / that) thou beest" or its (West Country) dialectal "bist" is used for present subjunctive mood; "(if) thou wert" is used for past subjunctive mood. "Be (thou)(!)" is used for imperative mood (there is always present imperative mood; there is no past imperative mood since we cannot give commands to the second persons, singular or plural, in the past).

    Thus, we can say that "beest" and "art" cannot be used interchangeably. Thank you.

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  • 1 decade ago

    'Beest' is never used by any, save churls. Proper form is 'thou art' and none other is acceptible without shame.

    Bad form even today is 'you be, it be, he be, she be', etc. and is reserved for those not fit to learn the Tongue.

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  • 1 decade ago

    Yes, but not since about 1750....

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I would think not, IMHO.

    "to be" suggests a more fluid possibility, while "is" suggests a more concrete state.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago


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