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  1. Lenka's Avatar

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    #1

    if / when

    If / when a dog is happy, it wags and chases its tail.

    Does the sentence sound correct? Can I use both "if" and "when"?

    How do I recognize when to use "if" and "when"?

  2. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: if / when

    Quote Originally Posted by Lenka View Post
    If / when a dog is happy, it wags and chases its tail.

    Does the sentence sound correct? Can I use both "if" and "when"?

    How do I recognize when to use "if" and "when"?
    In most cases, "if" and "when" are interchangeable in first conditionals.

    A first conditional employs the same tense in both clauses (usually present tense) and denotes either an accepted fact or a habitaul action.

    If/when you heat water to 212 F, it boils.
    If/when I eat at Joes, I order lasagna.

    Whenever works there as well.

  3. Lenka's Avatar

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    #3

    Re: if / when

    Thanks :)

  4. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: if / when

    Quote Originally Posted by Lenka View Post
    Thanks :)
    You're welcome.

  5. BobK's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: if / when

    Quote Originally Posted by Lenka View Post
    If / when a dog is happy, it wags and chases its tail.

    Does the sentence sound correct? Can I use both "if" and "when"?

    How do I recognize when to use "if" and "when"?
    Not only are they effectively interchangeable Lenka; they are sometimes combined to suggest doubt:

    "If and when they respond, I'll get my money back - but I'm not holding my breath."

    Some commentators (e.g. Fowler, in Modern English Usage) decry this usage; they advise that you use "if" in the case of doubt, "when" in the case of certainty, and "if and when" only when you mean 'as soon as it happens, if it ever does'. But the less precise usage is quite common.

    b

  6. Lenka's Avatar

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    #6

    Re: if / when

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post

    Some commentators (e.g. Fowler, in Modern English Usage) decry this usage; they advise that you use "if" in the case of doubt, "when" in the case of certainty, and "if and when" only when you mean 'as soon as it happens, if it ever does'. But the less precise usage is quite common.

    b
    Thanks for your response, Bob! According to this, I should say "When a dog..." when speaking generally, then... Am I right?

  7. BobK's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: if / when

    Quote Originally Posted by Lenka View Post
    Thanks for your response, Bob! According to this, I should say "When a dog..." when speaking generally, then... Am I right?
    Depends what you mean by generally:

    When a greyhound sees something moving, he chases it. [Always true, if the greyhound is healthy.]

    If a dog sees something, he may chase it. [Not all dogs do.]

    b

    ps - this is according to the rule I mentioned. I'd accept either in either case, and I'm not particularly easy-going in my use of English.
    Last edited by BobK; 14-Oct-2006 at 15:46. Reason: ps added

  8. Lenka's Avatar

    • Join Date: May 2004
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    #8

    Re: if / when

    Thanks...

    What about this sentence?
    "When a dog is happy, it wags its tail." (In my opinion, every dog wags its tail when it is happy.)

  9. BobK's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: if / when



    • Join Date: Aug 2006
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    #10

    Re: if / when

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    Some commentators (e.g. Fowler, in Modern English Usage) decry this usage; they advise that you use "if" in the case of doubt, "when" in the case of certainty, and "if and when" only when you mean 'as soon as it happens, if it ever does'. But the less precise usage is quite common.
    b

    Might I suggest that Fowler is the one who is off the mark? Bob, I'd consign that copy to the dustbin if I were you.

    +++++++++++++++++

    Do You Speak American . What Speech Do We Like Best? . Correct American . Decline | PBS

    Take Modern English Usage, by that good man H. W. Fowler, "a Christian in all but actual faith," as the Dictionary of National Biography called him. Despite a revision in 1965, it is out-of-date, yet it still has a coterie as devoted as the fans of Jane Austen or Max Beerbohm, who prize its diffident irony, its prose cadences, and, above all, the respect it shows for its readers' intelligence and principles. Here, for example, is Fowler on the insertion of quotation marks or an expression like "to use an expressive colloquialism" to mark off a slang word from which the writer wants to dissociate himself:

    Surprise a person of the class that is supposed to keep servants cleaning his own boots, & either he will go on with the job while he talks to you, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, or else he will explain that the bootboy or scullery-maid is ill & give you to understand that he is, despite appearances, superior to boot-cleaning. If he takes the second course, you conclude that he is not superior to it; if the first, that perhaps he is. So it is with the various apologies to which recourse is had by writers who wish to safeguard their dignity & yet be vivacious, to combine comfort with elegance, to touch pitch & not be defiled. . . . Some writers use a slang phrase because it suits them, & box the ears of people in general because it is slang; a refinement on the institution of whipping-boys, by which they not only have the boy, but do the whipping.

    This passage would not be out of place in the company of Addison and Steele. It is apt, amusing, and above all instructive. It obviously has done little to stem the mania for quotation marks (WE ARE "CLOSED," I saw in the window of a shoe-repair shop the other day), but it did at least persuade me to remove the quotes from around the word life-style in a review I was writing, and I am a better person for it.

    +++++++++++++++++++++

    Fowler, like all prescriptivists, never looked closely enough at the language. There is no clear demarcation for all language instances between a 'when' and an 'if', nor for that matter between an 'if - slightly doubtful' and and 'if - more doubtful'.

    Language must describe life and all its differing emotions and feelings. What about the speaker who uses, "If I went on this holiday with you" when that person has every intention of going. The speaker creates a falsity to influence the listener in some fashion. Language is not a series of factual statements.

    So too with 'if/when'. The focus can easily shift in a speaker's mind between doubt and certainty. Most assuredly, certain contexts and collocations will illustrate certainty or doubt and create a situation where an 'if' or a 'when' isn't the right choice. But this catch all rule is

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