Is “believe you me” proper English?

I understand the phrase “believe you me” to be an emphatic version of “believe me” but how did it come to be? Is it a poor translation into English?

Answer

The phrase “Believe you me” copies the archaic word order one finds in Early Modern English for a marked imperative. Typical examples are from King James version of the Bible (both testaments).

See e.g. Book of Matthew 14:16

They need not depart; give ye them to eat.

and in a few common phrases such as “mind you” (but with a slight nuance) for example

Not that I would have accepted her offer, mind you!

This is also very common in Shakespeare.

Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, Scene 4, Lord Capulet speaking:

And bid her, mark you me, on Wednesday next–

[…]

Well get you gone: o’ Thursday be it, then.

In the interrogative voice, it takes an accusing turn.

As you like it, Act 5, Scene 2, Phebe speaking:

If this be so, why blame you me to love you?

and my favorite, Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 2, Rosencrantz speaking:

Take you me for a sponge, my lord?

It seems “Believe you me” is a relatively recent recreation of this syntax if one believes my copy of the OED.

Attribution
Source : Link , Question Author : ChrisO , Answer Author : Community

Leave a Comment