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  1. #1
    phoenixqn81 is offline Junior Member
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    Default pls help me a query about "if" from a test book

    Dear teachers,

    Below is a dialogue I've read in a test book. It is:

    "I've never heard of such rubbish. Taking me for example, no harm is done to the education of my children, who change schools regularly - if they keep the same system, as in our Army schools. In my experience - and I 've known quite a few of them - Army children are as well adjusted as any others, if not more so."

    I've never seen the way of using "if" as in this dialogue. It just has one clause. I wonder if it is a new kind that I haven't studied and please show me the meaning of it here too.

    Thanks,

    Phoenix.

  2. #2
    abaka is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: pls help me a query about "if" from a test book

    Quote Originally Posted by phoenixqn81 View Post
    Dear teachers,

    Below is a dialogue I've read in a test book. It is:

    "I've never heard of such rubbish. Taking me for example, no harm is done to the education of my children, who change schools regularly - if they keep the same system, as in our Army schools. In my experience - and I 've known quite a few of them - Army children are as well adjusted as any others, if not more so."

    I've never seen the way of using "if" as in this dialogue. It just has one clause. I wonder if it is a new kind that I haven't studied and please show me the meaning of it here too.

    Thanks,

    Phoenix.
    The dash before the first "if" is perhaps confusing, but think of it as a colon, to introduce an important condition. If that still seems strange, try a comma. The usage of "if" is quite standard. The military brevity is the most difficult aspect of this passage. My additions are in italics, and the explanations are prefixed with =.

    No harm is done to the education of my children, who change schools regularly, IF [= as long as, on the condition that, if], when they change schools, they [=the children] keep [=are allowed to study under] the same system that they had in their old school, as [=in the same way as] in our army schools, [all of which obviously use the same system of education, so it makes no difference for the children if they have to change from one army school to another].

    Army children are as well adjusted as any others, if not more so.

    In other words: If Army children are not better adjusted than other children, then they are as well adjusted as the others.

    That is: Army children are at least as well adjusted as other children, probably better adjusted.
    Last edited by abaka; 15-Jan-2009 at 07:39.

  3. #3
    phoenixqn81 is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: pls help me a query about "if" from a test book

    Wow, this usage is really strange to me. It's dufficult too. Is it popular in conversation everyday? If possible, please give me some examples of that kind for my reference.

    Thanks much

    Phoenix

  4. #4
    abaka is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: pls help me a query about "if" from a test book

    Which usage do you mean? the dash before if, the brevity typical of conversation, or the second if?

  5. #5
    phoenixqn81 is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: pls help me a query about "if" from a test book

    I understood the phrase "if not more so" but just worry about the dash before if and the brevity typical of conversation in this sentence:

    "Taking me for example, no harm is done to the education of my children, who change schools regularly - if they keep the same system, as in our Army schools"

    please give me some samples so that I can learn more of it.

    Sorry for not telling my question clear making you troubled.

    Phoenix

  6. #6
    abaka is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: pls help me a query about "if" from a test book

    Quote Originally Posted by phoenixqn81 View Post
    I understood the phrase "if not more so" but just worry about the dash before if and the brevity typical of conversation in this sentence:

    "Taking me for example, no harm is done to the education of my children, who change schools regularly - if they keep the same system, as in our Army schools"

    please give me some samples so that I can learn more of it.

    Sorry for not telling my question clear making you troubled.

    Phoenix
    The dash really has nothing to do with the "if". Somewhat like a colon, a dash designates a strong relationship between what preceeds it and what follows. Or, much more eloquently, in the words of Sheridan Baker (the emphases are mine):
    The dash says aloud what the parenthesis whispers. Both enclose interruptions too extravagant for a pair of commas to hold. The dash is the more usefulsince whispering tends to annoy—and will remain useful only if not overused. It can serve as a conversational colon. If can set off a concluding phrasefor emphasis. It can insert a full sentence—a clause is really an incorporated sentence—directly to a key word. The dash allows you to insert—with a kind of shout!—an occasional exclamation. You may even insert—and who would blame you?—an occasional question. The dash affords a structural complexity with all the tone and alacrity of talk.
    S. Baker, The Complete Stylist and Handbook, 3rd ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1984, p. 403.
    To come to grips with brevity, the best way is to read poetry, perhaps the lyrics of pop songs, and to figure out each text for yourself.
    Last edited by abaka; 17-Jan-2009 at 02:00.

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