Unit 10.2

Alternatives to If

Introduction

A conditional sentence is usually composed by two parts: the If-clause (or conditional clause) that expresses the condition, and the main clause that expresses the consequence of that condition.

We have different structures for conditionals. {see Zero Conditional and First Conditional A2 level, Second Conditional and Third Conditional B1 level}

There are other conjunctions that we can to introduce conditionals.

Form

The alteranatives to If are: but for, even if, if in doubt, if it weren’t for/if it hadn’t been for, if necessary, if not, if possible, if so, in case, only if, providing/provided (that), so/as long as, suppose/supposing, unless, what if, when…

Example

  • Even if they win the game now, they still cannot compete for the championship.
  • If it weren’t for Miguel, we wouldn’t know how to defeat the other team (without Miguel…).
    But for/If it hadn’t been for your generosity, I would have been in big trouble (without your generosity… / If you hadn’t been so generous…).
  • If (you are) in doubt, take a dental appointment.
  • If necessary, you can call Jake at home.
  • “According to the weather forecast, it might rain tomorrow.” “If so, we’ll go to the music festival another day.“.
  • I’ll take a pill in case I get sick (I’ll take a pill because I may get sick later).
  • I’ll take a pill if I get sick (I’ll take a pill when I get sick).
  • Only if you like winter sports it is worth coming here
  • You can stay there as long as you pass your exams.
  • Provided/Providing (that) he doesn’t cheat, Mike will play with us.
  • Suppose/Supposing you won the lottery, what would you do?
  • What if you fail the exam? What will you do then?
  • I feel sick. I can’t organise the exhibition unless you help me (I can’t organise it if you don’t help me).
  • When you heat water to 100 degrees Celsius, it boils.

Use

We use the conjunctions that introduce conditions in the following cases:

  1. Even if: it emphasises that something will (or will not) happen, would (or would not) happen or would (or would not) have happened whatever the condition is/were.
  2. If it weren’t for/if it hadn’t been for, but for: these expressions mean without; they are used in second and third conditionals and are usually followed by usually precede a noun phrase.
  3. If in doubt, if possible, if necessary… : we can make the if-clause shorter, by omitting the subject and the verb be; in certain idiomatic expressions, the subject and be are normally omitted.
  4. If so, if not: they can stand for an if-clause depending on the context.
  5. In case and if: an in case-clause gives a reason, while an if-clause describes a condition. We can use should after in case.
  6. Only If: it makes the condition more restrictive; if the if-clause is first, the subject and the auxiliary in the main clause are inverted.
  7. So/as long as, providing/provided (that): we can use them instead of if to express a condition; note that providing/provided (that) is a bit formal.
  8. Suppose/supposing, What if: they can replace if, mainly in everyday conversation, and are often used without a main clause.
  9. Unless: it appears before an affirmative verb to express if … not.
  10. When: it can replace if in zero conditionals; in the other types of conditionals, we cannot use when instead of if.

Summary

Alternatives to if are the conjunctions that can be used in a conditional sentence instead of if.

Those conjunctions are: even if, if it weren’t for/if it hadn’t been for, but for, if in doubt, if possible, if necessary,if so, if not, in case, only if, so/as long as, providing/provided (that), suppose/supposing, what if, unless and when, and they are used in different cases.

For example:
— Even if I study all day, I will not finish the book in two days.” = We use even if to emphasise that the action of finishing the book will not happen in the future.
— “I will call her in case she wants to join us to the cinema.” = We use in case to give the reason, which is that she might want to join us to the cinema.
— As long as you keep attending the classes, you will pass the class.” = We use as long as to express the condition that if you continue attending the classes, you will pass the class.

Let’s revise this content within the {Form} section. Take a look at the {Example} section which shows its use within a context.

Exercises


License