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    #1

    Regarding the "provided (that)" conjunction

    Consider the sentence "X happens provided Y happens."

    According to some dictionaries (say, Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary), the conjunction "provided (that)" means either "if", or "only if".

    Still, most other dictionaries, in essence, only say that "provided (that)" means "only if."

    In other words, according to most dictionaries, the sole interpretation of the above sentence is that Y is a necessary condition for X, while according to, say, Cambridge Adv. L. Dict., another interpretation of the above sentence is that Y is a sufficient condition for X.

    The obvious question is then this: is the only way to interpret the above sentence is as if it's saying that Y is a necessary condition for X, or could there be another interpretation, that Y is a sufficient condition for X?

    Thank you very much.

    Note: In light of Munch's reply below, I have edited the above; I've replaced "that X is a sufficient condition for X?" with "that Y is a sufficient condition for X?" at the end of the post. Thank you Munch.
    Last edited by milligram; 07-Oct-2010 at 06:47.

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    #2

    Re: Regarding the "provided (that)" conjunction

    Quote Originally Posted by milligram View Post
    Consider the sentence "X happens provided Y happens."

    According to some dictionaries (say, Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary), the conjunction "provided (that)" means either "if", or "only if".

    Still, most other dictionaries, in essence, only say that "provided (that)" means "only if."

    In other words, according to most dictionaries, the sole interpretation of the above sentence is that Y is a necessary condition for X, while according to, say, Cambridge Adv. L. Dict., another interpretation of the above sentence is that Y is a sufficient condition for X.

    The obvious question is then this: is the only way to interpret the above


















    sentence is as if it's saying that Y is a necessary condition for X, or could there be another interpretation, that X is a sufficient condition for X?

    Thank you very much.

    NOT A TEACHER


    (1) As has been stated, you are obviously an advanced student.

    (2) I do not pretend to understand your question.

    (3) I can, however, recommend a book that discusses this matter:

    The King's English, by the famous Fowler Brothers. First published

    in 1906. Reportedly a sensation among people seeking to speak and

    write "correct" English. Some people nowadays feel that certain parts are

    almost impossible to understand; others consider the Fowlers --

    especially Henry -- as "our leaders" in English usage. If you can

    get a copy, look for provided in the index.

    (4) I do not pretend that I understand completely what he is saying, but

    I think that you would really enjoy it and profit greatly. For example, he

    says:

    Provided is a small district in the kingdom of if [Nobody writes like that

    nowadays!!!]; it can never be wrong to write if instead of provided: to

    write provided instead of if will generally be wrong, but now and then

    an improvement in precision.

    (a) The brothers then continue to explain the correct and incorrect use

    of provided, with quotations from literature and from The Times, which

    (at that time) was the newspaper of the elite that ran the country.

    You will be entranced by the brothers' explanation, and I am sure that

    you -- unlike me -- will understand and relish every word.

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    #3

    Re: Regarding the "provided (that)" conjunction

    Thank you for raising this important issue.I have a problem on teaching providing (ed) that to my hign school students.
    We are supposed to provide them with this activity

    Consider sentences 1 and 2 below and answer questions A-D that follow.
    1. We will eradicate corruption providing (that) we act now.
    2. The chances of eradicating corruption will increase as long as all countries
    are committed to fighting it.
    Questions:
    A. Which of the following items do you think can be used instead of the words in
    bold?
    a. even if
    b. but only if
    c. except if
    d. even though
    Answer is:- but only if …
    B. What do providing that and as long as express?
    Answer is:
    - Condition


  1. Munch's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Regarding the "provided (that)" conjunction

    Quote Originally Posted by milligram View Post
    Consider the sentence "X happens provided Y happens."

    -- SNIP --

    The obvious question is then this: is the only way to interpret the above sentence is as if it's saying that Y is a necessary condition for X, or could there be another interpretation, that Y is a sufficient condition for X?

    Thank you very much.
    I changed your quote because I am fairly sure you meant Y there, not X.

    I think you can have sentences of the form "X happens provided Y happens." that at least suggest that Y is a sufficient condition for X.

    "Bill will work for you, provided that you pay him well." To me, this sentence strongly suggests that if you pay Bill enough money, then he will take the job.

  2. lauralie2's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Regarding the "provided (that)" conjunction

    Quote Originally Posted by milligram View Post
    According to some dictionaries (say, Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary), the conjunction "provided (that)" means either "if", or "only if".

    Still, most other dictionaries, in essence, only say that "provided (that)" means "only if."
    Collins offers "if and only if":

    as long as, contingent upon, given, if and only if, in case, in the event, on condition, on the assumption, subject to, upon these terms, with the proviso, with the understanding




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    #6

    Re: Regarding the "provided (that)" conjunction


    Provided is a small district in the kingdom of if [Nobody writes like that

    nowadays!!!]; it can never be wrong to write if instead of provided: to

    write provided instead of if will generally be wrong, but now and then

    an improvement in precision.
    Thank you. That was beautiful.


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    #7

    Re: Regarding the "provided (that)" conjunction

    Munch, thank you very much.

    I really like your reply, and basically that's the kind of reply I was hoping to see.

    But here's another question. As you said, your example suggests that if you pay Bill enough money, then he will take the job. Is it possible not to infer from your example that only if you pay Bill enough money, then he will take the job? I suspect the answer to this question of mine is that it is not possible, but I hope I'm wrong.

    Edit: On another thought, maybe it is possible (despite my concern above) not to infer from your example that only if you pay Bill enough money, then he will take the job. Because your example surely does not specify that it is possible that "Bill will take the job, provided that you will give him the office with the best view," and if that's true, then it's not true that only if you pay Bill enough money, then he will take the job. Any thoughts?
    Last edited by milligram; 07-Oct-2010 at 07:14. Reason: Adding a thought.

  3. Raymott's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: Regarding the "provided (that)" conjunction

    I don't think you can make a sentence like this behave in a logically specific way; because language is not as strict as a logical system.
    It's a very strange sentence structure anyway.

    Here are two examples:
    "The train arrives at this station on time provided it leaves the last station on time." This statement implies necessity, but not sufficiency. It is necessary that the train leaves on time, but it is also necessary that it doesn't crash on the way, etc. So leaving on time is not sufficient.

    "You can have breakfast before we leave, provided you get here on time." This seems sufficient - As long as he gets there on time, he'll get breakfast. But it's not necessary, since he can make his own breakfast at home.

    There's usually too much contextual overlay in language for it to function as a system of logic. You'd really need to use such phrases as "if and only if", etc. which would sound strange in normal conversation. Perhaps in a scientific paper, it would have a place.
    Did you have a specific example of where interpretation might be a problem?


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    #9

    Re: Regarding the "provided (that)" conjunction

    Thank you very much Raymott.

    My question is related to a scientific paper I'm reading. It is claimed there that "X happens provided Y happens." On the one hand, the context of the paper makes it very clear that Y is a sufficient condition for X; so there is no interpretation problem when one considers the context. On the other hand, my understanding (which I think may not have been complete until I read the replies here) was that such a conjunction implies that Y is a necessary condition for X, on most (if not all) cases of its usage, and that its interpretation does not depend on the context.

    This conflict between what I thought was the correct interperation of the conjunction and what the actual context of the paper implies was the reason I've raised the above question.

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