# Treacherous IF?

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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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It occurred to me that 'the possibility of negation' might be a test. For instance, in situation #1 above, we can say:

3. If John is there already, we should go. If he isn't, we should stay here.

It isn't possible to say this in situation #2, because we know John's location.

However, 'negatibility' doesn't help with this kind of IF statement:

4. If I'm right, John should be there already.

"John always allows a little extra time. I think he's likely to have done so on this occasion too. If I'm right, he should be there already. (But if I'm not, he's not.)"

Here, John's being there isn't a consequence of 'my' being right; it seems more like a corollary. So #4 doesn't seem to be a true conditional statement; but it can precede its own negation.

But perhaps we can interpret the 'if I'm right' as a substitute for the original thought:

4a. If John always allows a little extra time, he should be there already.

MrP
MrP,

I'm a bit uneasy calling an IF-clause a non-condition, since IF is the prototypical way of showing that a condition exists. I do know (I think exactly, in fact) what you mean, but the division into conditional IF and non-conditional IF introduces some awkward terminology. My two cents!

Do we mean the difference between if that truly means if and if that means since or given that?
Hypothetical if and indicative if, respectively?

Jim
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Hello Jim
CalifJimDo we mean the difference between if that truly means if and if that means since or given that?
Hypothetical if and indicative if, respectively?

That's a useful distinction. Moreover, #1 above could (a little stiffly) take a present subjunctive in the IF clause ('if he be there already'); and the past perfect in the IF clause of a 'type 3 conditional' is often presented as a crypto-subjunctive. So perhaps 'hypothetical if' has at least a whiff of the subjunctive about it.

It seems to me that with H-if, the interest is equally shared between the clauses; whereas with I-if, the interest usually lies in the main clause.

This kind of statement also seems doubtfully conditional, to my mind:

3. If the flowers are blue, the soil is acid.

4. If you like chocolate, you'll love new Choc-a-Bloc!

I'm more inclined to think of them as 'inferential' or 'correlative'. How do they seem to you?

MrP

Hello MrPedantic, CalifJim!
Modality & conditional are not my favorite subjects, but I hope I wouldn't bother your discussion if I add here a few words. (I beg your pardon in advance: I will ignore here completely the problem of subjunctive or other matters, peculiar to English Grammar.)
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Modus ponens is a valid, simple argument form (often abbreviated to MP): we can use it as a springboard to this discussion.
┌─────────┐
If P, then Q.
P.
Therefore, Q.
└─────────┘
The argument form has two premises. The first premise is the "if-then" or conditional claim, namely that P implies Q. The second premise is that P, the antecedent of the conditional claim, is true. From these two premises it can be logically concluded that Q, the consequent of the conditional claim, must be true as well. (From Wikipedia)
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It seems to me, the difference between #1 and #2 could be stated as follows:

In case #1, the sentence [If John is there already, we should go] pertains to only [If P, then Q] part of the argument. Thus a simple 'type 1 conditional.'

In case #2, on the other, the sentence [If John is there already, we should go] pertains to [P. Therefore, Q] part of the argument. (And this conclusion is based on the speakers' previous knowledge of the 'type 1 conditional,' #1.)

... I'd distinguish the meaning #1 and #2 in this way.
（Or could we say that P in #1 is not asserted; in #2 P is truely asserted...? I warn you: I used some terms as I like it, not strictly.）
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There's an another interesting point:
# 4. If I'm right, John should be there already.

[MrP: it seems more like a corollary.]
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I agree: this sentence differs from another, however the difference is to be stated.

The first thing I thought was: in #4 the word 'should' is [epistemic].

(In #1 & #2 they are [deontic] 'should.')

I know ... I have to present the definitions of [epistemic] & [deontic] modalities. I don't have them now. And as to remaining sentences I have no idea yet.

I really hope you wouldn't mind that I've put some ideas here.

With my best regards,
Hello Roro!

That's very interesting. In that case, I wonder whether we can subdivide 'If P, then Q':

1a. If P, next Q.

1b. If P, necessarily Q.

(This seems at first glance to be the 'type 0' conditional, where 'if' means 'when' or 'where'.)

Is there also an inverted version?

-1a. Even if P, Q.

It seems to me that the 'if' in each of these remains 'open'. However, in:

2. P, therefore Q.

the 'if' is closed: it is in effect a rhetorical 'if'. (This may be your thought when you say "this conclusion is based on the speakers' previous knowledge of the 'type 1 conditional'".)

MrP
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Hello MrPedantic ：）
Very sad to say, I cannot think over your points now (if I do so I'll forget my assignment, I'm afraid).

Just a word ... in your examples (including the ones up above), it seems to me, Ps have verious status, that is, probability. (Qs, too...? Perhaps..)

If we have some tool to treat this [probability], then something would be more explicit, maybe.

Roro...If we have some tool to treat this [probability], then something would be more explicit, maybe...
I agree. I originally thought that it would be possible to devise something along the lines of a dichotomous key for IF statements, but now I'm not sure that's feasible. But can we use the hypothetical/indicative distinction, to make things more explicit? To make a start:

1. X entails Y

Class A: situation presented as real/immediate
i) If X happens, Y happens.
ii) If X happens, Y will happen.

Class B: situation presented as speculative/remote
i) If X were to happen, Y would happen.
ii) If X happened, Y would happen.
iii) If X had happened, Y would have happened.
iv) If X had happened, Y would now happen.

2. X implies Y

Class A: real
i) If X happens, Y has happened.
ii) If X has happened, Y has happened.
iii) If X happened, Y has happened.

Class B: speculative
i) If X happens, Y may¹ have happened.
etc

¹ or other modal

3. Make X entail Y

i) If X happens, do Y.
ii) If you will do X, Y will happen.
iii) If you would do X, Y will happen.

???

MrP

1. If you like opera, you'll like John Adams.

X entails Y

2. Even if you like opera, you'll like John Adams.

X doesn't preclude Y

3. Even if you don't like opera, you'll like John Adams.

X doesn't preclude Y

4. Even if you like opera, you won't like John Adams.

X doesn't entail Y

5. Even if you don't like opera, you won't like John Adams.

X doesn't entail Y

???

MrP
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