The Grammarphobia Blog

Live and let die

Q: Here’s a non-grammatical lyric that will amuse you. In the recording of “Live and Let Die,” Paul McCartney sings: “But if this ever-changing world in which we live in.” Isn’t this a serious overdose of the “in” word?

A: This lyric comes in for a lot of criticism from people who like complaining about ungrammatical songs.

Some people even hear one more “in” there: “But IN this ever-changing world IN which we live IN”!

However, the lyric, as originally written, is in fact perfectly correct. The line in question reads: “But if this ever-changing world in which we’re living ….”

The song was written by Paul and Linda McCartney for the James Bond movie Live and Let Die (1973). It was also recorded by McCartney’s band Wings and released as a single.

Here’s the entire stanza, quoted verbatim from the book Pop Fiction: The Song in Cinema, edited by Steve Lannin and Matthew Caley and published in the UK in 2005:

When you were young and your heart was an open book,
You used to say “live and let live”
(You know you did, you know you did, you know you did)
But if this ever-changing world in which we’re living
Makes you give in and cry,
Say “Live and Let Die.”

We’d like to put in a plea here for caution when critiquing song lyrics. The words found on Internet song-lyric sites are generally supplied by fans who merely post what they think they’re hearing.

And what they hear isn’t necessarily what the lyricist wrote. That’s why we don’t trust what we can’t actually see in published books or sheet music.

In fact, we don’t generally get all hot and bothered about ungrammatical song lyrics. As we’ve written before on the blog, lyric writers are exempt from the rules of grammar, syntax, usage, spelling, pronunciation, and even logic!

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