grammatical expression: God forbid…

I have an interesting expression today which seems very religious in nature, but actually it’s not. The expression is “God forbid…” We use it when we want to criticize someone else’s attitude about something. For example:

My husband really wants me to stay at home with him in the evenings. God forbid I should go out with a friend of mine!

My mother is always telling me to wear a long skirt. God forbid anyone should see my legs!

In the first sentence, the speaker is criticizing the attitude of the husband for not wanting her to go out in the evenings with any of her friends. In the second sentence, the speaker is criticizing the attitude of her mother for always wanting her to cover her legs.

We can also use this when another person doesn’t do something we think they should have done. For example:

We didn’t know how long we would have to wait in line. God forbid someone should come and tell us!

My family expects me to do all the cleaning in our house. God forbid they should help me!

In the first sentence, the speaker is criticizing the staff at the restaurant for not telling them how long they would have to wait. In the second sentence, the speaker is criticizing her family for not helping her clean the house.

Please note that with this expression we always use the word “should” in the sentence.

As I mentioned before, this expression seems very religious because of the use of the word “God”. However, most English speakers use it even if they are not Christian or Jewish. It has simply become a common expression and people usually no longer think about it as being religious.

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3 Comments »

  1. az Said:

    Interesting expression!

    Does it always accompany a topic sentence? E.g. can you simply say:

    God forbid someone should come and tell us how long we would have to wait in line!

    • Hi there.

      Thanks for your question.

      When we’re telling a story about something, it’s natural to use a topic sentence to set the context of the situation. In that case, it’s not necessary and seems strange to repeat the information “how long we would have to wait in line.”

      If you’re in the situation at the moment, you don’t need the topic sentence. In that case, you can say, “God forbid someone should come and tell us how long we have to wait in line.” If you’re in the moment, you don’t use the word “would” because it indicates a past situation.

      I hope that’s clear.

      Mike

  2. tk Said:

    hello.

    I would like you to write about what the difference between “whether” and “if” is.

    I hope you will write about it very soon. Thank you!


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