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What Does "Be That as It May" Mean?

"Be as be may" first appeared in the written work of Geoffrey Chaucer.
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  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2014
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The idiom "be that as it may" generally indicates partial agreement with another person's statement or idea while keeping a definite and unchanged opinion about the given subject at hand. This saying is frequently used as an opening phrase to a counter-argument in situations where both parties' ideas or arguments have some degree of validity; the objective is generally to determine which idea is more valid or germane than the other. The person stating "be that as it may" is generally indicating that he or she does not agree with the entirety of the opposite argument, regardless of the other person's attempts at persuasion or debate.

The use of this type of English saying is generally more commonplace among leaders or managers who have the final decision-making powers regarding a given set of circumstances or a possible course of action. This idiomatic expression can be spoken as a verbal attempt to acknowledge another person's point of view while still indicating that his or her argument or suggestion will not be accepted as a whole. "Be that as it may" can often be interpreted as very close in meaning to the word "nevertheless" in these kinds of exchanges. The phrase is usually considered a more informal expression of such synonymous words.

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This idiomatic expression has its roots in older versions of the English language; some linguistic scholars believe that the saying is a modern derivation of the phrase "be as be may," which first appeared in the written work of Geoffrey Chaucer. Since the saying begins with a form of the verb "to be" that differs from its more common uses as a linking or auxiliary verb, the exact meaning can sometimes appear unclear to first-time learners of idiomatic English sayings. When mentioned in instructive grammar texts, "be that as it may" is often designated as an informal spoken instance of the "to be" verb.

"Be that as it may" can have various positive or negative connotations depending on the circumstances and the debated issue. The idiom is frequently spoken as a means of determining agreed-upon truth relative to a situation, and as such it can be meant to counter another statement without completely discrediting the person with the opposing point of view. The saying can generally imply that the other person's statement may not be relevant at the time, although that fact does not take away from his or her general level of credibility.

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JackWhack
Post 5

I had a teacher named Mr. Mark May in sixth grade, and he was always using this expression. He generally stated it after someone would give him an excuse for why they didn't have their homework.

He heard everything from, “My dog ate it,” to, “The wind caught it up.”

He would respond by saying, “Be that as it may, I have to give you and F on it, since it isn't here for me to look at.”

Mr. May would not be fooled. However, it was sad when something really did happen to a kid's homework, because he still responded with the same idiom, regardless of the circumstance.

cloudel
Post 4

@Oceana – That is such a sad situation! I'm sorry you lost your dog.

I know how this phrase can fill you with dread. I have had my fate put into the hands of a judge before, too, and there is nothing quite as terrible as hearing the words that you know signify that this is not going to go your way.

I lost custody of my daughter because of health problems. The judge said that it was amazing that I had managed to keep my daughter in as good of a condition as she was, considering how sick I had been, but when he said, “Be that as it may,” I immediately burst into tears, because I knew that the news wasn't going to be good.

lighth0se33
Post 3

My mother used to use this phrase a lot when my sister and I were young. We would often have disagreements, and my mother would listen to both of our complaints before uttering, “Be that as it may, you are sisters, and you need to learn to get along without me resolving your arguments for you.”

She would then leave us to work things out. We got into shouting matches and sometimes fought physically, but we really did benefit from not having a mediator.

We get along great these days, and we have determined to raise our kids the same as we were raised. May it be as beneficial to them as it was to us.

Oceana
Post 2

I always hate hearing this idiom, because I know that a negative response to whatever I have suggested is coming. I have heard it a few times before in my life, and in both instances, it filled me with dread.

Once, I was trying to obtain custody of a dog that had showed up at my house and had stayed with me for six months. The original owner showed up during the sixth month and took him away.

I had taken her to court over this, and when the judge was about to tell us his ruling, he started by commending me for taking such good care of the dog for so long. When he followed that with, “Be that as it may,” I knew that he was about to rule in her favor.

anon281481
Post 1

Thanks for the precise explanation!

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