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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!')

Curious.

MrP
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  
Maverick wrote on the previous 'As if' thread, just as I moved my post here:
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'. )
9) It looks as [it would look] if [it were true that] he was lying. (Not 'were'.)

In this two I didn't understand why not 'were'.

*** Can I parahprase '13' into
'It's not as [it would be] if it was(\were) my fault'?

On reflection, I think #6 is wrong. I should have written:

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

i.e.

6a) 'It's not as if it was my fault.'

This describes an event in the past which could have turned out differently. If it had turned out differently, it would have been 'my fault'. But since it didn't, and the speaker knows it didn't, the 'fault' is no longer possible. With a closed possibility, we can't use the 'were' subjunctive.

9. It looks as [it would look] if [it were true that] he was¹ lying. (¹Not 'were'.)

In #9, the 'if' provides an inference, rather than a condition: 'if he was (in the past) indeed lying, it would now look like this; it does look like this; therefore he was lying'.

As for #13: we use this to protest against an implication of blame that is still current, and so it's 'is'. For instance, you're 12 years old, and you're taking your brother (who is 6) for a walk. On the way, a neighbour stops you, and sternly points out that your brother's shoelaces are undone. You tie the shoelaces; but later, when you're telling your mother the story, you say:

13. It's not as if it's my fault (he can't tie up his shoelaces)!

Now imagine a slightly different scenario: your brother falls over and cuts his knee. He runs wailing home. Later, your mother tells you off, and you say:

6. It's not as if it was my fault (he fell over)! He should learn to tie his shoelaces!

Here, the 'was' refers to the blame for your brother's falling over, which is a completed action.

Thank you for pointing out the discrepancy in #6, Maverick! I've no doubt there are others, as I'm not at all sure I've understood 'as if' correctly.

MrP
Hello people

I don't like to talk much about the subjunctive stuffs because it sounds difficult to find agreement between 'prescriptivists' and 'descriptivists'. (But I would like to say that, if I were a young ESL student, I certainly would choose prescriptivists as my English teachers because, for such students, one of the purposes of learning English grammar is surely to get higher scores in tests like TOEFL.)

Anyway I am not writing this to make an argument of that kind. I am writing it just to confirm one of the things about as if constructs, which I vaguely remember I learned in school days.

That is;
The main clause tense doesn't syntactically affect on the as if clause tense. (Of course, though, the main clause tense affects on interpreting the time that the event stated in the as if clause is fictitiously supposed to take place at.)
(1) He treats her as if she were his partner. [In fact she is not his partner]
(2) He treated her as if she were his partner. [In fact she was not his partner at the time]
(3) He treats her as if she had been his partner. [In fact she's never been his partner]
(4) He treated her as if she had been his partner. [In fact she hadn't been his partner before then]

Do you think this understanding is right in view from prescriptive grammar?

paco
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Mr.P.,
In #9 you wrote
'if he was (in the past) indeed lying, it would now look like this; it does look like this'
I didn't get this one. Do we really know that he wasn't lying? If it were like this:
'It looks as [it would look] if [it were true CERTAIN] he was¹ lying'.
Thanks
Hello Maverick

I was thinking of a scenario like this:


Two police officers:
'I checked out MrP's story. He said he was at CalifJim's last night, between 6 o'clock and midnight, and couldn't possibly have stolen all those prepositions. But CalifJim swears MrP left shortly after 9 o'clock. And he says he was driving a pick-up truck.'

'This CalifJim character – is he reliable?'

'Absolutely. He's a moderator on English Forums.'

'In that case, it looks as if our MrP was lying this morning, when he told us he didn't leave CalifJim's till midnight. And he was certainly lying when he told us he could only drive a bicycle...'

Here, 'it looks as if' compares two pictures:

1. How the situation looks.
2. How the situation would look if X.

Here, X = 'MrP was lying this morning'.

If we put this into the model, we get:

3. It looks as [it would look] if [it were true that] MrP was lying this morning.

This can be rephrased as:

4. If it were true that MrP was lying this morning, it would look as it looks.

i.e. #1 is compared with #2, and found to match.

So 'was' isn't an 'unreal' subjunctive here: it's an indicative past tense.

(What I haven't quite worked out is why 'it looks as if' requires a different model from 'he behaves as if'.)¹

MrP

¹ Edit:
The addition of [it were true that] appears to 'multiply entities unnecessarily'.

I notice that 'it looks as if' is often used in situations where the level of doubt is low or non-existent:

5. He's behaving as if he were crazy. (He is likened to a madman.)
6. It looks as if he's crazy after all. (He is a madman.)

(Cf. also 'it looks like he's crazy.)

I notice also that 'It looks as if' can have a slightly regretful tone, as of an unwilling concession to reality:

7. It looks as if I'll have to go to that presentation after all.

Here we mean no more than 'as things stand, I will have to go...'.

So perhaps 'X as if Y' requires one model where we are likening X to Y (cf conditional 'if'), and another where we have already matched X and Y (cf inferential 'if'):

8. He's behaving as [he would behave] if he were crazy.
i.e. he is like a madman.

9. He's behaving as [he would behave] if [it were the case that] he is crazy!
i.e. he is a madman.
Hello Paco

That sounds reasonable to me: perhaps the main clause tense doesn't syntactically affect the 'if' clause tense, because the 'if' clause relates to an ellipsis. For example:

4. He treated her as [he would have treated her] if she had been his partner. =>
If she had been his partner, he would have treated her as he treated her.

I might say something different for #2, if I were talking about an event that had happened quite a long time ago:

2a. He treated her as if she was his partner. [In fact she was not his partner at the time]

But if I had just come back from a party, where 'he' had indeed treated some unfortunate female as if she were his partner (I'm wondering what that would have entailed), I would probably say:

2. He treated her as if she were his partner.

But I think I understand the others as you do.

MrP
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Hello Mr.P.
First of all thank you very much for the help !!!

1)
5. He's behaving as if he were crazy. (He is likened to a madman.)


Can we add 'if it were true that' here?
He's behaving as if it were true that he was crazy.
(it looks like 'is' is more suitable in this case than 'was')
(Instead of '... he were crazy')

What about this one?
He WAS behaving as (he would behave) if (it were true that) he was crazy.
2)

3. It looks as [it would look] if [it were true that] MrP was lying this morning.

This can be rephrased as:

4. If it were true that MrP was lying this morning, it would look as it looks.


I quite don't understand why I can't just turn 'was' into 'part of the sunjunctive' like this:
It looks as [it would look] if MrP WERE lying this morning.
From:
If Mr.P. were lying it would look like this

Actually if we add the 'if it were true\the case that ...' every sentence can get the indicative 'was'.

3)

3. It looks as [it would look] if [it were true that] MrP was lying this morning.


As far as I can remember you said that we may add the '[it were true that]' part only when we are certain that it isn't right, when it's not the case(of what's written). (Please let me know if I'm wrong). So in the sentence above you are not certain about its wrongness. Why did you add this part?
Hello Mr P

Thank for your confirming my knowledge. So the rule is;

When we say any unreality by using clauses:
(1) If the unreality is concurrent with the main clause event, use past subjunctive.
(2) If the unreality is prior to the main clause event, use past perfect subjunctive.

I wonder whether this rule could be generalized to unreality if-clauses too.

paco
Maverick has a valid point about the insertion of [it were true that].

So I’ll try setting out ‘as if’ in the style of conditional structures instead, without using the [it were true that] structure. I’ve corrected some of my previous examples.


'Type 1'
[Edit: The ellipsis in these 'type 1' examples seems to require 'will'; but I use 'should' to bring out the sense of 'necessity'. 'Must' would be another alternative.]

He is behaving as [he should behave] if he is a fool =>
He is behaving as if he is a fool! (Cf. 'he's behaving like a fool'.)

He acts as [he should act] if he owns the place =>
He acts as if he owns the place!

It looks as [it should look] if he’s lying =>
It looks as if he’s lying.

It looks as [it should look] if I'll have to go to the presentation after all =>
It looks as if I'll have to go to the presentation after all.

It's not as [it should be] if it's my fault! =>
It's not as if it's my fault!

It looks as [it should look] if he's crazy after all =>
It looks as if he's crazy after all.

It looks as [it should look] if he was lying =>
It looks as if he was lying.

It sounds as [it should sound] if he has broken the window =>
It sounds as if he's broken the window.

'Type 2'
He is behaving as [he would behave] if he were a fool =>
He is behaving as if he were a fool.

He acts as [he would act] if he owned the place =>
He acts as if he owned the place.

He treated her as [he would treat her] if she were his partner =>
He treated her as if she were his partner.

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

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

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

'Type 3'
He is behaving as [he would have behaved] if he had been a fool =>
He is behaving as if he had been a fool.

He acts as [he would have acted] if he had owned the place =>
He acts as if he had owned the place.

He treated her as [he would have treated her] if she had been his partner =>
He treated her as if she had been his partner.

It was as [it would have been] if he'd never heard English spoken before =>
It was as if he'd never heard English spoken before.

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

He was behaving as [he would have behaved] if he was crazy =>
He was behaving as if he was crazy.

It isn’t as [it would have been] if it was my fault =>
It isn’t as if it was my fault.



The 'as if' structure seems to follow conditional structure as follows: 'if' clause = 'if' clause; ellipsis = main clause:

'It is as [it would be¹] if XYZ²' ~ 'If XYZ², then it would be¹ as it is.'

The tense of the 'introductory' clause seems to vary.

Type 1 seems to relate to exact or near-exact matches of A and B: 'he's behaving as if he is a madman!'. The 'it looks as if' idiom seems to require a verb in the indicative, as if 'it looks as if' meant little less than 'it is the case that'.

Type 2 seems to 'liken' A to B: it has a stronger air of the hypothetical.

Type 3 seems to relate to likening events in the past.

I don’t know if that’s any better...

MrP
PS: I'm still thinking about your question, Paco!
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