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  1. #1
    amrknInMoscow is offline Newbie
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    Default Obtuse Conditional Query?

    Hello All,

    I had emailed some students about a planned outing and days later, one of my students suggested that I had made a syntax error for a conditional statement that I made. The statement made was:

    If anyone else decides to make a surprise appearance, I知 not sure if we値l be able to seat them.

    His attention was drawn to the use of "if" within the main clause. Though looking deeply into my grammar bible and Googling my head off, I couldn't find any similar sentence constructs which would support the way that I wrote it. And looking back, I can now see alternatives for how I could have written it (e.g. substituting "if" with "that").

    Still, when I read my original variant back to myself, I can hear this as being a valid sentence. Perhaps I'm merely confusing the sloppy way with which people have muddled up the speech, but conditional rules aside, this sounds okay to me.

    I would love to hear another take on this from others.

    David

  2. #2
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    5jj is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Obtuse Conditional Query?

    Quote Originally Posted by amrknInMoscow View Post
    If anyone else decides to make a surprise appearance, I知 not sure if we値l be able to seat them.

    Though looking deeply into my grammar bible and Googling my head off, I couldn't find any similar sentence constructs which would support the way that I wrote it. And looking back, I can now see alternatives for how I could have written it (e.g. substituting "if" with "that").
    'Whether' is better than 'that',
    Still, when I read my original variant back to myself, I can hear this as being a valid sentence.
    It's fine.

  3. #3
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Obtuse Conditional Query?

    How about:
    If anyone else decides to make a surprise appearance, I’m not sure we’ll be able to seat them.

  4. #4
    amrknInMoscow is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Obtuse Conditional Query?

    Thanks for replying, fivejedjon.

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    'Whether' is better than 'that'.
    Like I said, "I can now see alternatives"; 'that' being just 1 alternative that I pointed out.

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    It's fine.
    Yes; it sounds fine to me also. Where I run into a problem is being able to point out to him via a textbook (whether a hard copy or online) why it is okay to use that syntax in that particular conditional statement. In other words, I can't seem to find any conditional rule which states that it is permissible to use "if" in the main clause; no matter how normal it may sound to my ears.

    Do you know of any source online which states such a rule for using "if" in the main clause in this manner?

    FYI: My grammar bible source is "Cambridge Grammar of English" (v. 2010).

  5. #5
    amrknInMoscow is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Obtuse Conditional Query?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    How about: Quote: If anyone else decides to make a surprise appearance, I知 not sure we値l be able to seat them.
    Hah! Yes, that would also work. But what I am looking for isn't alternatives to how to rephrase my syntax; but rather, is my syntax grammatically legal; preferably, a source which shows using "if" in the main clause as a viable conditional statement.

    In every exercise that I have shown them in the past (including the more advanced conditional variations), the use of "if" in the main clause has always been a no-no! And now, I'm using it myself. I suppose I'm looking for a sneaky way out. Hah!

    But in all honesty, I sincerely use this type of conditional in my everyday conversations. So I'd actually like to be able to share with my more advanced students such variant conditional options.

  6. #6
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Obtuse Conditional Query?

    I can't see any grounds for a grammar police arrest warrant here.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Obtuse Conditional Query?

    1. "Are you English?"
    2. He asked my parents if/whether they are/were English.

    3. "If you are English, can you give me some lessons?"
    4. He asked my parents if/whether they could give him some lessons if they were English
    .

    They are all fine. We don't need a grammar book to confirm every possible utterance in the language - it would have to be be thousands of pages long. We have, above:

    1. A direct question.
    2. A reported version of that question - an indirect/reported question.
    3. A conditional sentence that happens to be a direct question.
    4. That direct conditional question reported.

  8. #8
    amrknInMoscow is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Obtuse Conditional Query?

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    4. He asked my parents if/whether they could give him some lessons if they were English.

    They are all fine. We don't need a grammar book to confirm every possible utterance in the language - it would have to be be thousands of pages long. We have, above:

    4. That direct conditional question reported.
    Thanks fivejedjon. Item #4 is a fairly close example of what I said; though in reported speech.

    What I like more than anything is your blunt explanation towards the inability to completely cover every single variance in English. I believe I may have to quote you by incorporating that explanation whenever I fail to be able to hunt a viable source for future explanations.

    Thanks!

  9. #9
    amrknInMoscow is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Obtuse Conditional Query?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    I can't see any grounds for a grammar police arrest warrant here.
    I agree, Tdol. But this particular student just loves to catch me in error. Perhaps it makes him feel as if he's making great progress.

  10. #10
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Obtuse Conditional Query?

    Quote Originally Posted by amrknInMoscow View Post
    Do you know of any source online which states such a rule for using "if" in the main clause in this manner?
    To me this is more of an occurrence of if in the main clause rather than using it. It's simply If anyone else decides to make a surprise appearance, we’ll be able to seat them. with I am not sure if/whether/that shoved in. I don't see that the main clause is using if with regard to the if-clause. I'd ask the Doubting Thomases in your class to demonstrate the link between the two ifs. If they can do it, they may have a case, but I don't see the link.

    In grammar and in law, it's up to the prosecution to prove guilt IMO.

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