Can we negate 'heaven forbid' in a conditional sentence like this: "If heaven didn't forbid it, I'd sleep with her"?



If heaven didn't forbid it, I'd sleep with her.

Based on what I read, heaven forbid is more common. But can you use its negative form?


Posted 2016-01-21T17:04:17.073

Reputation: 119



Interesting question

Heaven forbid

is an idiomatic appeal for divine intervention to not allow something to happen

Heaven forbid that happen!

it should not be confused with (ending s )

Heaven forbids

which is a phrase which introduces an action that heaven has does not allow

Heaven forbids that to happen

Using your example sentence

Heaven forbid I sleep with that girl!
I hope I never sleep with that girl

Heaven forbids I sleep with that girl.
I am not allowed by heaven to sleep with that girl

Opposites of Heaven forbid are

God willing
God willing they will be on time

Heaven help
Heaven help the little children

An official form or pledge of God willing is So help me God
Heaven help should not be confused with Heaven help us

An opposite of Heaven forbids is

Heaven allows
Heaven allows the sun to shine

In your sentence, if

If heaven didn't forbid it, I'd sleep with her.

is the negation, then

Heaven forbids (does not allow)

is the original sentence.


Posted 2016-01-21T17:04:17.073

Reputation: 63 575

4Another form of opposite is "God willing", although "God willing, I'll sleep with her" doesn't mean exactly the same as the questioner's sentence! I think you've hit the key point, though, which is that the questioner's proposed phrase in fact isn't a negation of "heaven forbid". – Steve Jessop – 2016-01-21T18:03:58.540

2+1. The verb is marked to reflect that it's an appeal, as you have said. What is the negation of an appeal? To appeal for the opposite, or not to appeal? – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2016-01-21T18:14:29.490


Also it might be worth pointing out that Heaven is a substitute for God in these idioms. Some religions have more literal interpretations of "taking the Lord's name in vain" so the substitution is more pious.

– ColleenV – 2016-01-21T19:06:32.400

I don’t think I’ve ever heard heaven help in that context. “Heaven help the small children,” to me, sounds literally like a prayer rather than an idiomatic expression that may or may not be a prayer. Meanwhile, *heaven help me* is an idiomatic expression—which means means either that you’re going to do something you shouldn’t (seeking assistance in resisting temptation), or else that you’re doing something extremely difficult (seeking assistance in succeeding, which may take a miracle). Heaven help me, I’m going to sleep with that girl implies something very different! – KRyan – 2016-01-21T21:16:52.023

God willing, as @SteveJessop suggests, is much more analogous. – KRyan – 2016-01-21T21:18:24.517

1That's a decent enough answer, but I think that @SteveJessop has the real answer with "God Willing". "Heaver forbid I sleep with that girl" is the opposite of "God willing, I sleep with that girl". In the first, they really don't want to and hope it doesn't happen, in the second it's the opposite. – DCShannon – 2016-01-22T03:00:52.460

@SteveJessop +1 Have added your suggestion – Peter – 2016-01-22T05:12:14.223

@KRyan: That particular usage does sound more like a prayer, but the general form is something I've heard as an idiom before. Say you're talking about a dangerous condition somewhere. You might add "And Heaven help anyone that stumbles into this without knowing [something]". In that usage, it's just another way of saying "people who fit this description will have a Bad Time". – Peter Cordes – 2016-01-22T09:35:51.207


Heaven forbid is an idiomatic expression.

Heaven don't/didn't forbid is not an idiom but you can certainly use it in the type of construction you have written.

Whether it sounds awkward or stilted is largely an opinion-based question. As a native speaker I don't consider it awkward, although I don't consider it to be common either.


Posted 2016-01-21T17:04:17.073

Reputation: 3 057

3It's grammatically correct but as a different native speaker I find it very awkward because it sounds like someone entirely failing to use the idiom correctly. However, it would sound fine to me using the similar idiom, 'God forbid'. – ssav – 2016-01-21T17:32:58.407

1@ssav As I said, opinion-based... – GoDucks – 2016-01-21T17:34:46.290

I wouldn't call it an idiom, so much as a use of the near-obsolete subjunctive mood. Its meaning can be taken fairly literally. – chepner – 2016-01-21T20:01:55.313

+1 but instead of "don't/didn't", I would say "doesn't". Heaven is a singular place, a singular noun. "Heaven forbid" is sort of a shortcut, for "May haven forbid!" So, past tense isn't appropriate. Should be "If Heaven doesn't/wouldn't forbid, then I will..." – TOOGAM – 2016-01-22T09:35:16.657


Note that Heaven would only forbid very bad things, and that we don't have any good examples of things we know Heaven does actually forbid. It appears to reserve its forbidding powers for truly horrible things.

If heaven didn't forbid it, I'd sleep with her.

So this is saying that you think sleeping with her would be so terrible that Heaven actually forbids it, and that you would do it anyway otherwise.

I don't think that is what you want to say.


Posted 2016-01-21T17:04:17.073

Reputation: 109


"heaven didn't forbid" is fine because it's a negative form of "heaven forbid", so people can figure out what it means from what the positive form means.


Posted 2016-01-21T17:04:17.073

Reputation: 3 192

1I'm with @ssav - it isn't "wrong", but it's a very nonstandard usage. I don't know about anyone else, but when I hear "Heaven forbid that ____", I don't literally think it means that Heaven has forbidden ____. – stangdon – 2016-01-21T17:43:29.357

3The distinction is not literal/figurative. "Heaven forbid" is not a declarative sentence. – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2016-01-21T18:18:00.117

Hmm. I see where you're coming from as far as an idiomatic view, I was thinking from a colocation view. But colocations don't determine meaning, so I'm still off. – modulusshift – 2016-01-21T22:50:20.513