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Here's an IF statement:

1. If John is there already, we should go.

At first glance, it seems like a simple 'type 1 conditional'. Here's a possible context:

"John said he'd meet us at the station by 5 o'clock."

"Hmm. It's half past four now. Why not call him and see if he's arrived?"

"Okay, I'll call him now."

"If he's there already, we should go. But if he's still on his way, we may as well finish this bottle of wine first."

Now here's another IF statement:

2. If John is there already, we should go.

It still seems like a simple 'type 1 conditional'. But take this context:

"John said he'd meet us at the station by 5 o'clock."

"Hmm. It's half past four now. Why not call him and see if he's arrived?"

"Okay, I'll call him now."

{phone call}

"Okay, I've called John. He says he arrived a few minutes ago. He's waiting for us by the ticket office."

"A few minutes ago? If he's there already, we should go. Where are my car keys..."

_____________________________________________________

As the dialogue shows, #2 has a different meaning. There's nothing hypothetical about John's location. 'If' here means 'given that'; or, almost, 'since'.

To my mind, #2 isn't a true conditional statement. But how is an ESL student to distinguish between #1, where 'the rules apply', and #2, where they don't?

Must we say, you should always consider the logic of an IF statement, before you treat it as a conditional?

I'd be interested in any comments.

MrP
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Comments  (Page 3) 
Ah-huh!
I see!

(I thought: what I wrote must have been very bad and lost every confidence!)
Hello Roro

No, not 'bad' at all! Unfortunately I can only post in the evenings, at the moment – hence the long gaps between replies.

My thought on starting this thread was: 'is it possible to devise a routine that will enable the beginner to interpret and compose IF statements with complete confidence?’

I'm inclined to think that IF is poorly represented at the moment. For instance, on one site I find this comment:


‘The real conditional (often named 1st Conditional or Conditional Type I) describes situations based on fact. The unreal conditional (often named 2nd Conditional or Conditional Type II) describes unreal or imaginary situations.’
This seems at best questionable. Elsewhere, I’ve read about ‘sliding scales of probability’, and seen attempts to assess the likelihood of IF statements by means of percentages, etc. In other words, they're described in terms of their relation to the ‘objective truth’ of the situation in which they are used.

My own opinion is that when EFLs use IF statements, ‘objective truth’ is often very far from their thoughts. I would put more emphasis on the impression the speaker wants to give, for whatever reason, at the moment of presenting his ‘condition’.

Hence my interest in the taxonomy of IF...The beast itself is ambiguous enough, as it is; but the usual terminology makes it even more complicated than it needs to be!

MrP
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Hello, cannot agree more, on every point. Quite true.

And I knew .. or had a vague impression that my interest differed from yours'. Maybe I ignored your initial intention.

Thank you so much for your reply.

*******************************************************

By the way I know quite well that life is tough. But I cannot understand why my printer runs out of ink whenever I'm in a quite urgent situation !?
It's early in the morning still here and every shop is closed now!!

Phew!
Well, you can send it to my printer, if you want. (Though I'm a bit low on colour.)
thanks
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