Unit 6.1

Alternatives to If

Syntax

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, First Conditional A2 level/Second Conditional, Third Conditional B1 Level}

There are other conjunctions that we can to introduce conditionals.

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…

  1. But for, if it weren’t for/If it hadn’t been for
    • But for your generosity, I would have been in big trouble (without your generosity… / If you hadn’t been so generous…).
    • If it weren’t for Miguel, we wouldn’t know how to defeat the other team (without Miguel…).
    • If it hadn’t been for your ambitions, we wouldn’t have lost (if you hadn’t been so ambitious…).
  2. Even if
    • Even if they win the game now, they still cannot compete for the championship.
    • I wouldn’t go out partying even if I had time.
    • Even if we had composed the song earlier, we couldn’t have played it during the concert.
  3. If in doubt, if possible, if Necessary…
    • If (you are) in doubt, take a dental appointment.
    • If necessary, you can call Jake at home.
    • I’d like a seat by the window if possible.
  4. If so, if not
    • “According to the weather forecast, it might rain tomorrow.” “If so, we’ll go to the music festival another day.“.
    • I hope Peter gets here soon. If not, we’ll cancel the show.
  5. In case and if
    • 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).
    • Take an umbrella in case it rains.
  6. If and when
    • If you heat water to 100 degrees Celsius, it boils.
    • When you heat water to 100 degrees Celsius, it boils.
  7. Only if
    • Acetaminophen is dangerous to children only if dosage is too high.
    • Only if you like winter sports it is worth coming here.
  8. So/as long as, providing/provided (that)
    • You can stay there as long as you pass your exams.
    • Provided/Providing (that) he doesn’t cheat, Mike will play with us.
  9. Suppose/supposing, what if
    • Suppose/Supposing you won the lottery, what would you do?
    • Suppose/Supposing you can’t find a job?
    • What if you fail the exam? What will you do then?
  10. Unless
    • I feel sick. I can’t organise the exhibition unless you help me (I can’t organise it if you don’t help me).

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

  1. Even if: it emphasises that something will happen, would happen or would 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 affermative 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;

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