Clauses of Condition

Conditional sentences can express either a real condition ("open condition") or an unreal condition:

If you ask him he will stay here, (real condition)

If you asked him, he would stay here, (unreal condition)

270In real condition, both the main clause and the dependent clause are truth-neutral; in If you ask him, he will stay here, we cannot judge whether either the request or his staying here will take place.

Although the most common type of real condition refers to the future, there are no special restrictions on the time reference of conditions or on the tense forms used to express them.

The following examples may illustrate the variety of time relations and tense forms expressing them:

If you re happy, you make others happy.

(Simple Present + Simple Present)

If he told you that yesterday, he was lying.

(Simple Past + Simple Past)

If she left so early, she will certainly be here tonight.

(Simple Past + will "future").

The truth-neutrality of an if-clause is reflected in the possibility of using such constructions as:

If you should hear news of them, please let me know.

(Should + Infinitive in place of the Simple Present)

The effect of predication with "should" is to make the condition slightly more tentative and "academic" than it would be with the ordinary Present Tense.

A more formal expression of a tentative real condition is achieved by omitting if and inverting the subject and the auxiliary "should":

Should you remain I'll help you with pleasure.

Unreal conditions are normally formed by the use of the Past Tense (Indicative or Subjunctive) in the conditional clause, and would + Vinf in the principal clause, e.


If you left in the morning, you would be at home at night.

If you had come, he would have changed his mind.

The precise grammatical and semantic nature of the switch from real to unreal conditions is obviously relevant to overlapping relations in such types of sentence-patterning

Clauses of this type are generally introduced by such connectives as: if, unless, provided, on condition that, in case, suppose (supposing), but that, once.

What has immediate relevance here is the grammatical organisation of the conditional sentence, the verb-forms of its predicate, in particular.

If it hadn't been for his blunders, he would have finished the article in three days.


If he doesn't comply we can't bring proceedings for six months. I want to get on with the matter, Bellby. (Galsworthy)

And if Holly had not insisted on following her example, and being trained too, she must inevitably have cried off.

Suppose he talked to Michael? No! Worse than useless. Besides, he couldn't talk about Fleur and that boy to anyone — thereby hung too long a tale. (Galsworthy)

Mr. Pinch stood rooted to the spot on hearing this, and might have stood there until dark, but that the old cathedral bell began to ring for vesper service, on which he tore himself away. (Dickens)

271Synonymic alternatives of conditional clauses:

a) Infinitival Nominals:

To have followed their meal in detail would have given him some indication of their states of mind. (Galsworthy)

(Syn. If she had followed their meal... it would have given him...).

To record of Mr. Dombey that he was not in his way affected by this intelligence, would be to do him an injustice. (Dickens) (Syn. If we record of Mr. Dombey that...)

No one would believe, to look at her, that she was over thirty. (Huxley)

(Syn. if one looked at her...)

b) Gerundial Nominals:

But for his having helped us we should not have been successful in this work.

c) Participial Nominals:

Living in London you know what fogs mean.

Weather permitting, we shall start tomorrow.

Consider also reduced sub-clauses of condition. Examples are commonplace.

What would one of her own people do if called a coward and a cad — her father, her brother, uncle Adrian? What could they do? (Galsworthy)

It was clear to him that she could not take her Dartie seriously, and would go back on the whole thing if given half a chance. (Galsworthy)

And, if true, what was the director's responsibility? (Galsworthy)

She was seldom or never at a loss; or if at a loss, was always able to convert it into again. (Galsworthy)

Once in, you couldn't get out. (Galsworthy)

A word must be said about stylistic transposition of imperatives co-ordinated with following declaratives to which they have the meaning relationship that clauses of condition or cause would have.

Scarcity of linguistic units with inherent expressivity is often counterbalanced by effective stylistic transpositions of the Imperative Mood.

In terms of stylistic value and purpose, it is most essential to observe how different patterns of grammatical organisation come to correlate as identical in denotative value but different in expressive connotation.

Contextual nuances are sometimes very elusive.

Here are a few examples of the Imperative Mood in transposition:

a) Tell him of a quality innate in some women — a seductive power beyond their own control! He would but answer: Humbug!

She was dangerous, and there was an end of it. (Galsworthy) (Syn. If you told him of a quality innate in some women...)

b) He would have fought for this man as determinedly as for himself, and yet only so far as commanded. Strip him of his uniform, and he would have soon picked his side. (Dreiser)

(Syn. If you stripped him of his uniform...)

(c) Make me do such things, make me like those other men, doing the work they do, breathing the air they breathe, developing the point of view they have developed, and you have destroyed the difference, destroyed me, destroyed the thing you love. (London)

272(Syn. If you make me do such things...)

(d) Walk among the magnificent residences, the splendid equipages, the gilded shops, restaurants, resorts of all kinds; scent the flowers, the silks, the wines; drink of the laughter springing from the soul of luxurious content, of the glances which gleam like light from defiant spears: feel the quality of the smiles which cut like glistening swords and of strides born of place, and you shall know of what is the atmosphere of the high and mighty. (Dreiser) (Syn. If you walk...; if you drink of the laughter...;

if you feel the quality of the smiles... you shall know...)

Deep grammar analysis will always show the difference between the patterns given above.

In (a) and (b) the verb-forms of the Imperative Mood function as stylistic alternatives of the Oblique Mood;

in (c) and (d) the verb-forms of the Imperative Mood are used as stylistic alternatives of the Indicative Mood.

As can be seen from the above examples, the use of the Imperative Mood in such transpositions can imply conditional, causal or resultative meaning. Similarly in Russian and Ukrainian:

Да будь я и негром преклонных годов, и то без унынья и лени я русский бы выучил только за то, что им разговаривал Ленин. (Маяковский)

Скинь з нього окуляри, кинь дві розбійницькі іскри в очі — та й матимеш готовий образ дяка-пиворіза. (Стельмах)

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