the function of the second "if"

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optimistic pessimist

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Dear all,

I'd like to ask about the function of the Italicized "if".

..., but she thought that if her children didn't know she was studying for the test, nobody would know if she failed. She eventually confided in me...

Is this (A) a conjunction to make a hypothetical conditional clause, or (B) a conjunction that is interchangeable to "whether"?

Thank you

OP
 
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Raymott

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Dear all,

I'd like to ask about the function of the Italicized "if".

..., but she thought that if her children didn't know she was studying for the test, nobody would know if she failed. She eventually confided in me...

Is this (A) a conjunction to make a hypothetical conditional clause, or (B) a conjunction that is interchangeable to "whether"?

Thank you

OP
It seems to play the same function as the first 'if'.
"If her children didn't know she was studying for the test, nobody would know if she failed."

If i) her children didn't know she was studying. AND
If ii) she failed, THEN
Nobody would know [that she failed].

No, you can't use "whether".
The only thing concerning the woman is that, if she failed, her children would know that she had failed.
"if she failed" seems to be playing two roles. It means, "Nobody would know that she failed, if she failed". "If she failed, nobody would know that she failed".
"Whether" only covers one of these meanings: "If she failed, at least nobody would know whether she'd failed or not".
 

joelsensei

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Jul 4, 2010
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English Teacher
Hi,

According to Andrew Radford in "Minimalist Syntax", "if" is being used as a finite complimentizer. It's not necessarily a conditional clause, because a conditional construction requires a consequence (then-clause). "If", in this sense, is being used more like "that" or "for" like

"I think that you may be right"
"I doubt if you can help me"
"I'm anxious for you to receive the best treatment possible"

I hope this helps.
 
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