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  #1 (permalink)  
Unread Nov 22nd, 2008, 10:32 am
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Default If-then Clause

People call it the "if-then" clause, but then most of the time we just see "If....., ...." - i.e. without the "then" starting the other clause. So it's:

1) "If he hits me, I will kill him."

rather than:

2) "If he hits me, then I will kill him."

Is it ungrammatical to use "then" as in (2)? I don't seem to see this kind of sentence often and I think I read somewhere that it's either unnecessary to use "then" or that it's outrightly ungrammatical to use "then".

So is it wrong to use "then"? If so, why do people call it this "if-then".

In the IELTS Handbook 2007, I came across this sentence:

"If texts contain technical terms then a simple glossary is provided"

And the above sentence doesn't have a comma (,) before "then".

So this brings me to a futher question on the comma - would a sentence be possible without a comma?

Grateful for some comments
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  #2 (permalink)  
Unread Nov 22nd, 2008, 01:47 pm
Sue
 
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Default Re: If-then Clause

If .. then is very common, both in everyday speech and in technical language, for example the language of computers where it has a precise meaning, see this explanation in Wikipedia, as it does in formal logic - Wikipedia again.


I'm surprised by your statement though that most of the time we just see "If....., ...." . Think about it - where do you see it "most of the time" ? In textbooks? Remeber - the language served up in textbooks is oftenvery simplified in terms of actual language use.

Here are all the examples of If sentences that I found in one article from the Daily Telegraph. (Excuse the reactionary tone - it's just what came up on Google).

If we take away risk, then capitalism is finished
If you don't want to accept that you might lose money at capitalism, then don't play the game.
If not, capitalism is over.
If only we had a serious opposition party to embrace, champion and uphold the vital values of capitalism, the cure might come far faster, and be far more durable.

Two with, two without. For me the addition of then simply emphasises the conclusion - which is, after all, what then marks.

But it's certainly not "ungrammatical" and if someone's told you that it is, then I'm afraid they're wrong. Grammatically it's known as a correlative conjunction (ie one with two parts). Others in the same group include both ... and, either ...or, and not only ... but also

As for the comma - looking at the first twelve pages of "if-then" results for Google, there are almost no instances of the structure being used without it - except in a couple of cases where the writer doesn't seem to use much punctuation at all. But again, it's not a matter of grammaticality. The use of commas in English is fairly flexible - they tend to be used if in the spoken language there would be a pause - for example after a longish subordinate clause. And as an if clause is a subordinate clause which is frequently fairly long, then the probability of a pause/comma is quite high.

Notice that I've just used a sentence with as ... then. If you stop thinking of If sentences as fixed structures, then the problem is resolved. Like any subordinating conjunction, an if clause can be tagged on to any main clause. There's no rule that says what happens in the first clause determines what happens in the second - the two are independent, and any two clauses can combine as long as they're semantically compatible - ie as long as the meaning makes sense. So there's no grammatical [/difference between eg:

If John has arrived, then we'll start.
As John has arrived, then we'll start.

Then introduces a result, which is equally compatible with a condition or a cause.

Hope that helps.
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Last edited by susan53 : Nov 23rd, 2008 at 05:23 am.
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  #3 (permalink)  
Unread Nov 22nd, 2008, 01:50 pm
Sue
 
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Default Re: If-then Clause

If .. then is very common, both in everyday speech and in technical language, for example the language of computers where it has a precise meaning, see this explanation in Wikipedia, as it does in formal logic - Wikipedia again.

I'm surprised by your statement though that most of the time we just see "If....., ...." . Think about it - where do you see it "most of the time" ? In textbooks? Remember - the language served up in textbooks is often very simplified in terms of actual language use.

Here are all the examples of If sentences that I found in one article from the Daily Telegraph. (Excuse the reactionary tone - it's just what came up on Google).

If we take away risk, then capitalism is finished
If you don't want to accept that you might lose money at capitalism, then don't play the game.
If not, capitalism is over.
If only we had a serious opposition party to embrace, champion and uphold the vital values of capitalism, the cure might come far faster, and be far more durable.

Two with, two without. For me the addition of then simply emphasises the conclusion - which is, after all, what then marks.

But it's certainly not "ungrammatical" and if someone's told you that it is, then I'm afraid they're wrong.

As for the comma - looking at the first twelve pages of "if-then" results for Google, there are almost no instances of the structure being used without it - except in a couple of cases where the writer doesn't seem to use much punctuation at all. But again, it's not a matter of grammaticality. The use of commas in English is fairly flexible - they tend to be used if in the spoken language there would be a pause - for example after a longish subordinate clause. And as an if clause is a subordinate clause which is frequently fairly long, then the probability of a pause/comma is quite high.

Notice that I've just used a sentence with as ... then. If you stop thinking of If sentences as fixed structures, then the problem is resolved. Like any subordinating conjunction, an if clause can be tagged on to any main clause. There's no rule that says what happens in the first cluase determines what happens in the second - the two are independent, and any two clauses can combine as long as they're semantically compatible - ie as long as the meaning makes sense. So there's no grammatical difference between eg:

If John has arrived, then we'll start.
As John has arrived, then we'll start.

Then introduces a result, which is equally compatible with a condition or a cause.

Hope that helps.
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  #4 (permalink)  
Unread Nov 25th, 2008, 09:16 am
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Default Re: If-then Clause

Thanks once again!
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  #5 (permalink)  
Unread Jan 15th, 2009, 07:08 am
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Default Re: If-then Clause

If then clause is very common but now we use if-,.But if-else is used in the programming language.

Last edited by Eric : Jan 15th, 2009 at 09:16 am. Reason: Removed links to personal websites. Please keep personal links in your signature.
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  #6 (permalink)  
Unread Jan 28th, 2009, 01:43 am
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Default Re: If-then Clause

But never forget that if-then is really a conditional of which there are 4 basic types. Scholars would say thousands of types, I won't argue with them. But for teaching you should teach and learn, if you are learning, the 4 basic types.

Learning the conditionals is an area of extreme interest and boredom, but it definitely does not include only if-then!

Not forgetting that we do not need to start with "if" either!

For sure, if you learn the conditionals to a point where you can "feel" their meaning, you English and fluency will take one very big step forward. From small streams a river will form.

Rob

Last edited by Eric : Jan 28th, 2009 at 09:58 am. Reason: Removed website promotion from content of post.
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