Hi,

What is the meaning of this phrase?

I looked it up in Garner's usage book and it says "if you will" is an elliptical form of "if you will allow me to use the phrase". Then, what does "if you will allow me to use the phrase" mean?Emotion: smile He doesn't provide an answer to that. So, I did some searches and found some other explanations for this phrase.

<New York Times>

"If you will" is a shortening of "if you will permit me to say" or "if you will pardon my saying so," which is not quite what the clipped phrase means. The speaker or writer needs no such permission; on the contrary, the shortening means "I'm going to say this, and you may not like it, but that's just too bad, so here goes." The point is not to show deference, as the words say, but to make a pass at submissive respect while making a forceful point.

<Geoffrey Pullum(one of the authors of "The Cambride Grammar of the English Language">

1. like

Geoffrey Pullum has noted that "if you will" can serve the same function as the much-maligned discourse particle like: "a way to signal hedging about vocabulary choice — a momentary uncertainty about whether the adjacent expression is exactly the right form of words or not." Semantically it does exactly what like does.

ex1)

A: They are, if you will, this country's governing body

B: They are, like, this country's governing body.

ex2)

A: We were willing to overlook it, if you will, being a growth company.

B: We were willing to, like, overlook it, being a growth company.

2) concession

Beyond that sort of hedging, "if you will" and its phrasal kin ("so to speak," "as it were," "if you like") may be doing other pragmatic work, such as "making a concession… without commit[ting] the writer or speaker to that position fully" ( He doesn't give any examples of this use)

Okay, it's now time for me to ask questions.

Q1) As for the New York Times' explanation, I couldn't understand the gist of what the author wrote because of the last part. "The point is not to show deference, as the words say, but to make a pass at submissive respect while making a forceful point." What is the author trying to say here? Could you give me an example?

Q2) ""like" is a way to signal hedging about vocabulary choice—a momentary uncertainty about whether the adjacent expression is exactly the right form of words or not."

So, this means that whatever comes after "like" conveys the speaker's lack of confidence about whether it's the right word choice? And "like" or "if you will" plays a hedging role in a way that the word that follows it may not be the most appropriate term. Correct? (I hope you understand what I mean)

Q3) "if you will" and its phrasal kin ("so to speak," "as it were," "if you like") may be doing other pragmatic work, such as "making a concession… without commit[ting] the writer or speaker to that position fully"

It's not clear what he means by this. Could you explain and give some examples?

I'd really appreciate it if you could take the time to answer my questions.
jooneyI'd really appreciate it if you could take the time to answer my questions.
I'm afraid that's too much for me to handle at the moment.
Have you considered sarcasm?

Many expressions are used sarcastically to mean the opposite of their dictionary definitions.

Rgdz, - A.

Edit. The NYT paragraph covers it nicely, in my opinion.

Sort of like saying "I respectfully submit to you that you're a complete idiot."

You have some excellent references here.

Q2 Please allow me to use this less-than-perfect phrase/explanation.

Q3 Perhaps the theory is wrong.
1) I couldn't understand the gist of what the author wrote because of the last part. "The point is not to show deference, as the words say, but to make a pass at submissive respect while making a forceful point." What is the author trying to say here?

The sentence I underlined is roughly equivalent to this one:

The point is not to be polite toward the other person (even though the words may seem to indicate this), but to try to look as if you're being polite while making quite clearly a claim that the other person disagrees with or doesn't like.

Personally, I do not use "if you will" in quite this way, so I can't give you examples that I can be sure are authentic examples of this usage. I would be inclined to say the frequently used "With all due respect" serves this function more often.

One senator to another:

With all due respect to the honorable senator, your approach is ridiculous, and if carried out, will bankrupt the country.

(With all due respect seems polite, but its function is just to provide a way of appearing to be polite.)

2) ""like" is a way to signal hedging about vocabulary choice—a momentary uncertainty about whether the adjacent expression is exactly the right form of words or not."

So, this means that whatever comes after "like" conveys the speaker's lack of confidence about whether it's the right word choice? And "like" or "if you will" plays a hedging role in a way that the word that follows it may not be the most appropriate term. Correct?

Yes. That's right.

Each of the candidates is looking for the right "hook", if you will, that will gain votes for them.

3) "if you will" and its phrasal kin ("so to speak," "as it were," "if you like") may be doing other pragmatic work, such as "making a concession… without commit[ting] the writer or speaker to that position fully"

... Could you explain ...?

'Pragmatic work' refers to functions of language outside the mere meanings of words. You can also call it 'extralinguistic functions', i.e., social functions or interpersonal functions. These functions are concerned not with the literal meanings of words, but with the reasons for saying them. For example, the pragmatic work of saying "Thank you" is to show appreciation to the other person; the pragmatic work of saying "I'm sorry" is to show regret; and so on.

"if you will" and other similar expressions, says the author, may have as their extralinguistic function the making of a concession (admitting that you may be using a less-than-correct expression) while, at the same time, not conceding completely (denying or casting doubt on the premise that the expression is actually wrong).

CJ
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Thank you very much for your help, Avangi.Emotion: smile
Thank you very much for the great explanations, CJ. I really appreciate it.Emotion: smile

It has become a meaningless phrase used mainly to insert a pause that allows the speaker to think about what he plans to say next.

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