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  1. Grablevskij's Avatar
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    #1

    Not if you are

    This is a passage from "All the King's Men" by Robert Penn Warren

    It is about a reporter who was engaged to discredit a rival of a politician.


    Then it was another day, and I set out to dig up the dead cat, to excavate the maggot from the cheese, to locate the canker in the rose, to find the deceased fly among the raisins in the rice pudding.
    I found it.
    But not all at once. You do not find it all at once if yu are hunting for it. It is buried under the sad detritus of time, where, no doubt, it belongs. And you do not want to find it all at once, not if you are a student of history.


    So, the question is what does this sentence mean:
    1) you don't want to find it at once unless you are a student of history;
    2) you don't want to find it at once if you are a student of history.

    Michael

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    #2

    Re: Not if you are

    The idea here is that if you are a student of history, you may not want your idealistic vision of the past spoiled by the discovery of unclean truths.

  2. Grablevskij's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Not if you are

    I supposed that, but I can not explain why. Could you speculate on this subject?
    I see that 'not' before if, and it can't be helped.

    Michael

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    #4

    Re: Not if you are

    The not before if means "[you do] not [want to find it] if you are a student of history (because there are things here that may disagree with the historical facts you've been taught). This is just my interpretation of what the author was trying to say is based on the short exerpt you've quoted. I've never read this book.

  3. Grablevskij's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Not if you are

    Do you want to say that a conditional clause may be introduced by a conjunction (if, unless, once, in case), and if anything is placed before the conjunction, it is another clause?

    Yes, I seem to be starting to catch the idea.

    Do you want to say that this not is the whole main clause, and the if-sentence is subordinate to it?

    Michael

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    #6

    Re: Not if you are

    Quite often, good writers (like Penn Warren) create sentences that are very effective in delivering a message to their readers, but are quite different from the style of English writing that is taught in grammar textbooks. As a student of English it is better for you to learn to appreciate this style of writing rather than to try to analyze it.

    Unless you have a teacher who is obsessed about it, the conditional mood is one of the least important factors in learning conversational English. Most (if not nearly all) educated native English speakers could not describe or define the conditional mood if their lives depended on it.

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    #7

    Re: Not if you are

    Thank you.
    Michael

  5. Grablevskij's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: Not if you are

    I have just read in a textbook:
    We can use not unless meaning 'only if'.
    We won't have a picnic unless it's fine.
    Aren't you going to join us? ~ Not unless you apologize.

    What if I place 'unless' instead of 'if' in our sentence:
    And you do not want to find it all at once, not unless you are a student of history.

    Does this sentence again mean that you don't want to
    find it at once if you are a student of history?

    Michael

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    #9

    Re: Not if you are

    "What if I place 'unless' instead of 'if' in our sentence:
    And you do not want to find it all at once, not unless you are a student of history."

    No, you will have the opposite meaning. It now means that you would want to find it only if you were a student of history.

    Look at these two sentences:

    1. You don't want to go outside unless you are wearing a coat.
    This means that it is very cold outside, and you will be uncomfortable without a coat.

    2. You don't want to go outside if you are wearing a coat.
    This means that it is very hot outside, and you will be uncomfortable wearing a coat.

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    #10

    Re: Not if you are

    Thank you for your help. I have found a link on this subjekt:
    http://www.ling.gu.se/projekt/siridu...dial-final.pdf

    Let's look at the expamples:

    U.1: Do I need a visa to enter the U.S.?
    S.1: Not if you are an EU citizen.
    S.1': Yes, if you are not an EU citizen.

    Can I fly on Monday?
    S.2: Not if you want business class.
    S.2': Yes, if you want economy class.

    U.1: Can I fly business class from Cologne to Paris on
    Sunday?
    S.1: Not if you want business class.
    S.1': Yes if you want economy class.

    Could somebody speculate on the comma? As far as I can see there is no clear rule for the case of 'yes', but we don't put a comma after 'not'.

    Michael

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