re: As If? page 2

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This is related to a thread in the General Grammar section ( As if ).

I find 'as if' a curious phrase. Sometimes it seems to act like 'as [X would (have) Y Z] if' {edit: see note at bottom}, where X and Y and Z are the preceding noun/pronoun and verb and object:

1. It's as [it would be] if he were sleeping.

2. It's as [it would be] if he'd never heard English spoken before.

3. He said it as [he would say it] if he meant it.

4. He looked at me as [he would look at me] if he wanted to kill me.

5. He's behaving as [he would behave] if he were a fool.(Here, 'he's behaving like a fool' seems more natural.)

6. It's not as [it would be] if it was my fault. (Not 'were': cf. 'if it was my fault, it would be like this'. )

7. It was as [it would have been] if all the parakeets in New Zealand had simultaneously decided to alight on his shoulders.

So here I would agree that there's some implicit correlation with standard conditional structures.

But cf. 'it looks as if', which has an indicative air, as if it meant 'as [X would (have) Y Z] if [it were the case that]':

8. It looks as [it would look] if [it were true that] I'll have to go to the presentation after all.

9. It looks as [it would look] if [it were true that] he was lying. (Not 'were'.)

The correlation here seems to be with 'type 0' conditionals, or with 'if' clauses that aren't conditions, e.g.

10. If this is true, I'll have to go to the presentation after all.

11. If this is true, he was lying.

Other oddities:

12. As if I would lie to you!
(= '[It is not] As [it would be] if [it were the case that] I would lie to you!')

13. It's not as if it's my fault!
(= 'It's not as [it would be] if [it were the case that] it is my fault!')


Later edit: where I say 'as [X would (have) Y Z] if', I mean that 'would' and 'would have' are used as required to complete a standard conditional sentence with the 'if' clause.
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Comments  (Page 2) 
Hello Mr P

You (and Marv have) talked a lot about !

When I was in school, teachers taught us to use with a statement in subjunctive mood. Indeed Fowler wrote so in his "The King's English" a century ago, and still now OED seems to defy any use of . But language changes with time and so the . Some English grammar books (written in Japanese) say that native speakers often use when the speaker cannot judge whether the statement in the is true or unreal (namely, their judgment is neutral). So let me write my 'innovated' understanding about the

Let's note A-singed one as and B as
(1A) He looked at me as if I were poor.
(1B) He looked at me as if I was poor.
In this case, is a statement about the speaker themselves, and so the speaker should know whether the statement is real or unreal. In this regard (1A) has no problem. But to me (1B) sounds weird. If the speaker was really poor, he should use other expression like: "He looked down me since I was poor"
(2A) John behaved as if he were rich.
(2B) John behaved as if he was rich.
In this context, it is possible the speaker doesn't know whether John was rich or not. (2A) is a sentence to suggest that the speaker know that he was not rich. (2B) seems to be a sentence that the speaker refrains his/her judgment about whether John was really rich or not.

This seems to suggest that validity of clauses is strongly dependent on the context they are used in. How do you think about my renewed understanding? Is it better fit to current usage of ?

"He looked down me since I was poor"
Shouldn't it be "he looked ME DOWN" ?
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Thank you, Pieanne, for pointing out my error. I should have written rather "He looked down upon me".

I think I get it, Mr.P. and very hope so. Whenever I am skeptic about such a sentence I will look at the sentences you wrote which are now stored in a file and for which I am so grateful to you. Thanks again I really appreciate your effort to help meEmotion: smile
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Hello again Paco

When you say 'If the unreality is concurrent with the main clause event, use past subjunctive...' etc., are you taking 'main clause' to mean the clause before the 'as if' statement, or the ellipsis?

(I just want to check I'm not answering the wrong question again!)

You're welcome, Maverick!

I'm sorry we went round the scenic route. Thanks for pointing out the discrepancies!

Hello Paco

I do have one or two doubts about Fowler's comments about 'indicative as-if'. If 'as if' can only take the subjunctive, for instance, I'm not sure how we can explain this kind of usage, which was presumably already common in Fowler's time:

1. It's not as if I'm made of money!
2. It looks as if he was lying (when he said that).
3. It looks as if he's broken his arm.

In #2, for example, 'were' would sound extremely odd; besides, the 'was' refers to past time, whereas subjunctive 'were' refers to hypothetical time:

4. If I were you, etc.

In #3, perhaps we could say ' if he may have broken his arm'; but that's a different meaning.

It seems to me that we use this 'indicative as-if' in particular, real situations; which is why (to my mind) it resembles the type 1 conditional. Although 'as if' technically implies a hypothetical comparison ('this situation resembles another situation where XYZ would be the case'), it's also used when there is no or very little doubt about the exactness of the comparison:

5. It looks as if he's dead. ('It looks as [it should look] if he is dead.')
6. He looks as if he's dead. ('He looks as [he should look] if he is dead.')

In these examples, for instance, I get a sense of 'respectful regret': we distance ourselves from what we know to be the case by allowing a tiny 1% chance that we're wrong: it only looks as if he's dead; though of course we know he is. We express a doubt we may not feel.

If a policeman shows a witness a picture of the prime suspect, the witness may cry 'that's him!'; but he doesn't mean it literally (the representation isn't the person). Perhaps it's the same with 'indicative as-if': the 'as if' isn't to be taken literally.

Which is very lengthy way of saying I agree with your statement: 'the validity of clauses is strongly dependent on the context they are used in'!

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Hello Mr P

I used "main clause" to mean the part before in normal collocations.

What I meant is;
(1) "His being like a woman" is supposed to take place at the same time as "his looking so".
He looks as if he were a woman.
He looked as if he were a woman.
(2) "His seeing a ghost" is suppposed to take place prior to "his looking so"
He looks as if he had seen a ghost.
He looked as if he had seen a ghost.
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