"We may prefer that a stranger 'be' the star of the show than a friend whose success we'll be reminded of all too soon."

Is 'be' correct here?

Is something omitted in front of 'be'?

When do you use it like this?

Thanks!

Original Post

Kis,

"Be" is correct here.  This is an example of the present subjunctive.  Among other things, it is used in subordinate clauses when the main clause indicates a wish or desire.  The present subjunctive is written and pronounced the same as the simple infinitive.

DocV

kis2337 posted:

"We may prefer that a stranger 'be' the star of the show than a friend whose success we'll be reminded of all too soon."

Is 'be' correct here?

Hi, Kis,

I agree with DocV that the present subjunctive ("be") is correct there. "Prefer" is a verb that commonly takes the present subjunctive in "that"-clause complements, especially in American English. Here is an example from A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, by Quirk et al. (1985):

(2) "I prefer that she drive." (p. 1014)

In British English, the "that"-clause commonly contains "putative should":

(3) "I prefer that she should drive." (ibid.)

Perhaps that is what you are used to. "Prefer" also takes infinitive complements:

(4) "I prefer her to drive." (ibid.)

kis2337 posted:
Is something omitted in front of 'be'?

No, but something is missing in front of "than," which should be "rather than":

(1') We may prefer that a stranger be the star of the show rather than a friend whose success we'll be reminded of all too soon.

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