Does "I be" mean both "am" and "was"?


I be traveling around the world.

Does it mean "I am traveling around the world" and "I was traveling around the world"? Does it indicate both of them?


Posted 2015-08-28T19:31:52.783


1It's using nonstandard grammar but since the (incorrect) verb form be is in the present tense, we assume that the correct verb form would also be in the present tense; so in normal grammar it would say "I am traveling around the world". – Hellion – 2015-08-28T19:39:25.533

1Please can you tell us where you found the sentence, I be traveling around the world. Did you write it yourself or did you read it somewhere? – chasly - reinstate Monica – 2015-08-28T19:44:51.197

Some U/S slang uses "I be..." and "We be..." – Kristina Lopez – 2015-08-28T19:47:34.333

Can it have been a fragment? – Victor Bazarov – 2015-08-28T20:02:42.633

1The biggest problem with this sentence is that I can't help reading it in a stereotypical pirate accent, and following it up with 'Yarr!' – MrTheWalrus – 2015-08-28T20:28:06.060

@MrTheWalrus - Arr, it be an American poirate though. Only one 'L' in traveling. – chasly - reinstate Monica – 2015-08-28T21:08:36.327

@chasly Er moight be good mummerset poirate wat cannot spell. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2015-08-28T22:51:38.423



It may be an instance of the "habitual be" used in some dialects (including the pirate stereotype @MrTheWalrus mentions).

Otherwise, "be" in a sentence like that can indicate the present tense subjunctive mood ("If I be travelling..."). This would only be the case if the sentence is somehow contrary to fact, conditional, or otherwise in the subjunctive mood. I think this use of the subjunctive is fading from some English dialects although I can't find a reference for this.

It is also possible that it is a simple error.

Wim Lewis

Posted 2015-08-28T19:31:52.783

Reputation: 518

1It's almost certainly the habitual. What traditional grammar calls the 'present subjunctive' has virtually vanished from every English dialect and register, except in clauses complementing 'mandative' verbs like *command, require, order, plead'. The mandative subjunctive is mostly a conservative US usage, but it is said to be reviving now in UK English. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2015-08-28T22:50:17.197

Until the OP tells us the origin of the sentence we can't possibly know whether it is dialect or an error or anything else. Maybe the OP made it up. – chasly - reinstate Monica – 2015-08-28T22:57:35.277