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Thread: will x 2

  1. #1
    M56 Guest

    Default will x 2

    What's your opinion on the sentence marked by asterisks below?
    ...............

    Mark stared at him fiercely. "I'm trying to save his life, okay? Maybe, just maybe, he'll see that this is not working, and maybe he'll decide he should wait or something. Why is that so hard to understand?"

    "Because he's crazy. **If he'll kill himself, then he'll kill us. Why is that so hard to understand?"**

    Excerpt from John Grisham's The Client.

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: will x 2

    I have nothing against the will..will structure, but it's not a winner of a sentence to me. Here, wouldn't a straight present/present work better? Maybe not, but I still think it could be done better.

  3. #3
    M56 Guest

    Default Re: will x 2

    Quote Originally Posted by tdol
    I have nothing against the will..will structure, but it's not a winner of a sentence to me. Here, wouldn't a straight present/present work better? Maybe not, but I still think it could be done better.
    Can you give us an example of present-present, and is the first "will" future reference for you?

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    Default Re: will x 2

    Isn't it more 'if he's prepared to kill himself, then he's prepared to kill us'? You could say that it's future reference as the killing would have to be after the time of speaking, but I wouldn't say that the modal is there to indcate futurity. Apart from assumptions about completed actions in British English, there's almost always a degree of futurity there when 'will' is used, even when telling people that you'll answer the phone. However, I think there's clearly something else at work in this sentence; I don't think the speaker is informing me simply about some possible future event, but trying to get inside the head of the nutter.

    With will..will conditionals, there has to be more than simple futurity, otherwise they'd just follow the pattern of a regular first conditional:

    If you do the dinner, Metal, I'll do the washing-up.
    If you'll do the dinner, Metal, I'll do the washing-up.

    In the second sentence, the actions are in the future, but that's not why I shoved the 'will' in the first part. I put it there to balance the two halves, and to try topersuade you to put on an apron and get busy in the kitchen. I could have left the first 'will' out without affecting the time frame at all. I presume Mr Grsham's sentence has a similar function.

    But then, I've never believed that English has a future tense, or that 'will' functions only to indicate future time.
    Last edited by Tdol; 20-Jul-2005 at 02:56.

  5. #5
    M56 Guest

    Default Re: will x 2

    <Isn't it more 'if he's prepared to kill himself, then he's prepared to kill us'?>

    Of course it is 'if he's prepared to kill himself, then he's prepared to kill us', or similar. There's just some speakers who can't see that.

    You could say that it's future reference as the killing would have to be after the time of speaking, but I wouldn't say that the modal is there to indcate futurity.>

    Many utterances talk about actions that will happen after the time of speaking, but they are not all intended as future reference.


    <Apart from assumptions about completed actions in British English, there's almost always a degree of futurity there when 'will' is used, even when telling people that you'll answer the phone.>

    Futurity comes out of what is said by the speaker.

    I will open the door when he arrives.

    That would probably indicate a perceived separation between the now of the present moment surrounding the speaking and the then of the action.


    He's here! I'll open the door.

    That would probably indicate no perceived separation between the now of the present moment surrounding the speaking and the then of the action. All would be "now" for the speaker.


    In the second sentence, the actions are in the future, but that's not why I shoved the 'will' in the first part. I put it there to balance the two halves, and to try topersuade you to put on an apron and get busy in the kitchen.

    (my highlighting)

    Probably the most important part of your comment is now in red above.

    See this I posted elsewhere:

    <I will even stoop to a queen's work if you share the throne with me.>

    The double use of the "will" helps emphasise the equal sacrifice of the two parties.

    Longer extract:

    MAGNUS. It must be magnificent to have the consciousness of a goddess without ever doing a thing to justify it.

    ORINTHIA. Give me a goddess's work to do; and I will do it. I will even stoop to a queen's work if you will share the throne with me."

    There, Orinthia is showing her willingness to sacrifice her "high" position if Magnus will also sacrifice his position as a public servant.

    "Will" is used in each clause to show the (assumed) equality of the two sacrificial actions.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: will x 2

    I think this is down to the idea that we have a future tense, but it comes down to a big-endian/little-endian argument in the end. However, given that the present can carry the futurity idea, there has to be a demonstrable purpose behind using 'will' in the if-clause, which I don't think the future tense purists can explain away. If the present can carry futurity, then the modal has to carry meaning when used, and it isn't often used, unless the two are completely interchangeable, which I don't think is true.

  7. #7
    M56 Guest

    Default Re: will x 2

    Quote Originally Posted by tdol
    I think this is down to the idea that we have a future tense, but it comes down to a big-endian/little-endian argument in the end. However, given that the present can carry the futurity idea, there has to be a demonstrable purpose behind using 'will' in the if-clause, which I don't think the future tense purists can explain away. If the present can carry futurity, then the modal has to carry meaning when used, and it isn't often used, unless the two are completely interchangeable, which I don't think is true.
    Yes, I agree on all points above.

  8. #8
    M56 Guest

    Default Re: will x 2

    Quote Originally Posted by tdol
    I think this is down to the idea that we have a future tense, but it comes down to a big-endian/little-endian argument in the end. However, given that the present can carry the futurity idea, there has to be a demonstrable purpose behind using 'will' in the if-clause, which I don't think the future tense purists can explain away. If the present can carry futurity, then the modal has to carry meaning when used, and it isn't often used, unless the two are completely interchangeable, which I don't think is true.
    Yes, I agree on all points above.

  9. #9
    Steven D's Avatar
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    Default Re: will x 2

    Quote Originally Posted by M56
    What's your opinion on the sentence marked by asterisks below?
    ...............

    Mark stared at him fiercely. "I'm trying to save his life, okay? Maybe, just maybe, he'll see that this is not working, and maybe he'll decide he should wait or something. Why is that so hard to understand?"

    "Because he's crazy. **If he'll kill himself, then he'll kill us. Why is that so hard to understand?"**

    Excerpt from John Grisham's The Client.
    If he's willing to kill himself, he's willing to kill us.

    The sentence doesn't mean he'll kill himself first and then us, of course. He has to be willing to kill himself, then he'll be willing to kill us. First he'll kill us, and then he'll himself. What are his intentions?

    That's how I see this "will x 2" sentence.

    However, I don't often, if at all, think of or hear "will x 2" sentences.
    Last edited by Steven D; 20-Jul-2005 at 12:59.

  10. #10
    Steven D's Avatar
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    Default Re: will x 2

    Quote Originally Posted by X Mode
    If he's willing to kill himself, he's willing to kill us.

    The sentence doesn't mean he'll kill himself first and then us, of course. He has to be willing to kill himself, then he'll be willing to kill us. First he'll kill us, and then he'll himself. What are his intentions?

    That's I see this "will x 2" sentence.

    However, I don't often, if at all, think of or hear "will x 2" sentences.

    Even though "will" means "willing to" here, I take it that "will" also means later, not now.

    Here's another:

    If he kills himself, he kills us.

    In that sentence he can detonate a bomb. The speaker and his listeners are in the same room. The guy who has the bomb is somewhere in the building or in the same room as well. That's a statement of fact. Therefore, we can call it a zero conditional. It means "if this happens, that happens no matter what".

    The "will x 2" statement can be considered a statement of fact, but not in the same way as my example sentence can be considered a statement of fact. Even though "will" means "willing to" here, I take it that "will" also means later, not now. Zero conditionals speak of what happens as a matter of fact, not later because one is willing to. The idea of "willingness" also places a requirement on what actually happens. The sentence means "he has to be willing to do both". So, it can't be a zero conditional. Zero conditionals refer to things that happen no matter what.

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