re: As If? page 3

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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 3) 
Hello Mr P again

I agree to you. I had long believed that should be followed by subjunctive mood, as told by Fowler (and OED). But actually it seems many people are using consciously in a way other than . So I feel we have to treat and as two colloquials someway similar but someway different.


I guess one of the reasons why we ESL students (at least me, and probably NES people also) get confused with the matters of and is that some NES people are using and consciously differentiating them but some NES are not.
Hello Paco

Yes, I think you're right about tenses in relation to the if-clause/main clause. Also about the confusion – a native speaker complained to me quite recently about the fact that people say 'if I were you', instead of 'if I was you' – he couldn't understand how it could be grammatical to use a 'plural' with a singular pronoun.

And then, some native speakers overcompensate, and use the subjunctive in all kinds of unsuitable situations.

So the poor ESL speaker is in any case quite likely to be blamed by native speakers when he uses the subjunctive correctly, and commended when he uses it wrongly...

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