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    #1

    Post Strange sentence with "if"

    I came across the following sentence while browsing a 3rd grade study material prepared by some institute in UK. I've never seen/used a sentence like this before. I typed it in MS Word it didn't report any grammar errors.

    "If the dog barked, the baby woke up"

    What does it mean?
    Could someone explain please?

  2. jackolantern's Avatar

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    #2

    Re: Strange sentence with "if"

    I am not a teacher, but I am a native speaker.

    It could also be said "When the dog barks, the baby wakes up". Does that make more sense? It could also be said "If the dog happens to bark, the baby will wake up".

    Also, do not depend on MS Word's grammar-checker. English sentence structure is much too complex for a mindless computer to correct it I always turn grammar check off first.

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    #3

    Post Re: Strange sentence with "if"

    Thanks for your reply Jackolantern. I understand both of your examples.

    I'm not sure what type of conditional sentence this is. Past Real Conditional? Something that usually happened in past?

    Let me rewrite that sentence
    "If I killed a deer, I ate it" <= Means: Everytime I killed a deer I used to eat it (but I don't do that anymore)?

    Similarly,
    "if the dog barked, the baby woke up" => Means: Everytime the dog barked, the baby used to wake up (but the baby doesn't do that anymore) ?

    Please see the tutorial in the link below.
    ENGLISH PAGE - Past Conditionals

    Your help will be appreciated!

  4. Raymott's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Strange sentence with "if"

    Quote Originally Posted by dbals View Post
    Thanks for your reply Jackolantern. I understand both of your examples.

    I'm not sure what type of conditional sentence this is. Past Real Conditional? Something that usually happened in past?

    Let me rewrite that sentence
    "If I killed a deer, I ate it" <= Means: Everytime I killed a deer I used to eat it (but I don't do that anymore)?

    Similarly,
    "if the dog barked, the baby woke up" => Means: Everytime the dog barked, the baby used to wake up (but the baby doesn't do that anymore) ?

    Please see the tutorial in the link below.
    ENGLISH PAGE - Past Conditionals

    Your help will be appreciated!
    Yes, this is how the sentence would be interpreted if one accepted that it was correct - which it could be in the right context.
    It is the Past Real Conditional, according to the categories on your link.

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    #5

    Re: Strange sentence with "if"

    As a footnote:

    "If I killed a deer, I ate it" <= Means: Everytime I killed a deer I used to eat it (but I don't do that anymore)?
    Your paraphrase is correct (or you could replace "if" with "when", as Jack suggests); but the sentence does not necessarily imply that you don't do that any more.

    Best wishes,

    MrP

    Not a professional ESL teacher.

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    #6

    Re: Strange sentence with "if"

    Quote Originally Posted by dbals View Post
    I came across the following sentence while browsing a 3rd grade study material prepared by some institute in UK. I've never seen/used a sentence like this before. I typed it in MS Word it didn't report any grammar errors.

    "If the dog barked, the baby woke up"

    What does it mean?
    Could someone explain please?
    This is a variant zero conditional (also termed a 'past conditional'), in which the present tenses have simply been replaced by past tenses, but whose 'if' nevertheless retains the characteristic zero-conditional sense of 'when(ever)'.

    Compare

    If the dog barked, the baby would wake up.

    - a true second conditional.

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    #7

    Smile Re: Strange sentence with "if"


    Looking at the number of threads posted everyday in this forum I had lost hope of receiving more than one reply for my question. I really appreciate everyone taking time to explain this to me.
    Thank you.


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    #8

    Re: Strange sentence with "if"

    Quote Originally Posted by dbals View Post

    Looking at the number of threads posted everyday in this forum I had lost hope of receiving more than one reply for my question. I really appreciate everyone taking time to explain this to me.
    Thank you.
    your sentence is not the best one to explain the grammar with, first of all stop thinking about it in terms of a conditional sentence because it is no use doing it - it works slightly different than ordinary conditionals and I am not sure if grammarians would call it a conditional, so, take a look at my sentence:

    I dont understand why they were accusing my brother if I killed (if I was the person that killed) that man.

    the part 'if I killed that man' is a statement that I really did it, the 'if' here does not introduce any doubt about it, it sometimes may be replaced by 'when' as was suggested earlier or best it can be replaced by 'knowing that' or 'given that' or anything similar, so the sentence would be:

    I dont understand why they were accusing my brother knowing that I killed that man.

    there are sentences that can and cannot be explained that way but the general concept is the same.

    other sentences with that strange 'if':
    If I disposed of the glass it was not useful anymore, that was the only reason why I did it, I did not do it out of spite

    your sentence was 'If the dog barked, the baby woke up (and it is crying now)', if it is hard for you to understand try ' If the baby woke up (that means that) the dog barked' - but the meanings depend on tenses too, namely, we dont know what happened first


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    #9

    Re: Strange sentence with "if"

    Hi, your sentence is not strange at all and it IS a conditional :) Non-predictive one. I know I am using unfamiliar term but that's the truth. Here's some more "strange sentences":

    If you need any help, my name is Ann.
    If you are hungry, there are some biscuits on the sideboard.

    If you knew she was dead, why did you come down here?
    If you will be going to Paris, why did you buy a ticket to Tokyo?
    here comes a nice one :)
    The philosophy of life, if it could be defined by such a phrase, was beyond his grasp.



    You can find those examples and a realy thorough analysis of all conditionals in these books:


    Dancygier Barbara and Eve Sweetser. 2005. Mental Spaces in Grammar: Conditional Constructions. Cambridge Studies in Linguistics 108. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    Dancygier, Barbara. 1998. Conditionals and Prediction: Time, Knowledge, and causation in conditional constructions. Cambridge Studies in Linguistics 87. Cambridge University Press.


    I know 'cos I wrote a thesis on conditionals. So now let me explain a little to make it a bit easier for you.


    1. Conditional constructions, usually of the form If P/Q, set up mental spaces (imaginary worlds) for the purpose of the utterance where the construal of something within that space (the main clause Q) is true. In other words, when a speaker makes a conditional sentence he/she imagines a world which is not necessarily the same as the real world where the reality of the created world, however strange it may be, is treated as true.


    2.
    THe conditionals (first, second, third, mixed, zero) that everybody teach are Predictive i.e. they hypothesize two alternative scenarios of events. The if-part of a conditional P is a sort of background and the Q-clause bases a prediction about resulting events using unexpressed knowledge or assumptions about the scenarios. Normally, speakers assume causal relation behind the events in P and Q. The alternative scenarios are incompatible possible developments in the local world i.e. we are not considering all global possibilities that might bring about Q or prevent Q but only the scenarios presented by P. In fact the directly mentioned alternative is the preferred one.


    3.
    The example you gave and the ones I quoted are non-predictive i.e. they-- @page { margin: 2cm } P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm } --> present a reasoning process which does not involve patterns of alternative scenarios, consequently there are no restrictions on the use of verb forms since they refer to the real time of the events mentioned.


    so the dog barked in the past (if it barked) and if it did the baby woke up in that past moment as well(obviously - the noise) :)



    It is hard to summerize 2 thick volumes in few words but if you want to continue the discussion ..well you know what to do.


    Cheers

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