If / Unless

Express specific conditions for an outcome

Cooking
 

 

If / Unless

IF

An if clause states a condition to achieve a specific outcome.  The (dependent) if clause may be placed before or after the main (independent) clause.

OUTCOME IF

You will have a tender turkey

 if you cook it slowly.

You will have a tough turkey

if you overcook it.

We'll arrive at 8:00

 if our train is on time.

We'll bring some champagne
   

if you wish.

UNLESS 

An unless clause states a condition that is an exception to achieving the outcome in the main clause  "except if"  "if not".

OUTCOME UNLESS

You will have a tender turkey

unless you overcook it.  

You will have a tough turkey

unless you cook it slowly. 

We'll arrive at 8:00 

unless our train is late.

We'll bring some champagne.
 

unless you object.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If / Unless  Clause Position

Punctuation

 

 

 

Emphasis Clause Order

EMPHASIS PLACEMENT

commaThe if or unless-clause can be placed before the outcome clause for emphasis.  A comma is placed after the if clause.

COMMA

 If you wish, we'll bring some champagne.

Unless you object, we'll bring some champagne.

STANDARD PLACEMENT

no commaWhen the if or unless clause is placed after the main clause, no particular emphasis is intended, and a comma is not used.

NO COMMA

We'll bring some champagne If you wish.
   

We'll bring some champagne unless you object.
   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If / Unless

Tense Agreement

 

 

 

Tense Use

PRESENT / PAST

When discussing habits or routines, the present or the past tense can be used in conditioned statements. See Pres-Past Conditions.

IF

We often arrive at 8:00 if our train is on time.

We often arrived at 8:00if our train was on time.(routinely)

UNLESS

We often arrive at 8:00 unless our train is late

We often arrived at 8:00unless our train was late. (routinely) 

FUTURE

However, when discussing future plans, the present tense is used to refer to the future in the unless-clause or if-clause.

 IF

We will arrive at 8:00 if our train is on time

 

*We will arrive at 8:00 if our train will be on time. (use present)

 UNLESS

We'll arrive at 8:00 unless our train is late.  

*We'll arrive at 8:00 unless our train will be late.  (use present)

 

*Yellow highlighting marks an example with incorrect usage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connectors for Condition

Other Expressions

 

 

 

Connectors for Condition vs. Outcome

IF / UNLESS

An if clause poses a condition in order to achieve an outcome: if, only if, unless , provided that.

ONE WAY (OTHERS MAY EXIST)

If you use a thermometer,  you will know when your turkey is done.

ONLY ONE WAY

Only if you use a thermometer, will you know when your turkey is done.  (auxiliary verb goes before subject)

NOT DOING IT THIS WAY  (– / +)

Unless you use a thermometer (+)  you won't know when your turkey is done. (–)

OTHER EXPRESSIONS

In contrast, the outcome of an otherwise or an or else clause statesthe likely outcome if you do not do  the action in the clause or sentence before it.

ONE WAY

Use a thermometer. Otherwise, you won't know when your turkey is done. (Introduces an independent clause)

ONE WAY

Use a thermometer, or else you won't know when your turkey is done.

SPECIFICALLY THIS WAY

Provided that you use a thermometer, you will have a delicious turkey. (+)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Only If

Word Order — Transposition

Dishwashing
 

 

Beginning with Only if

CONDITION

Both an if and an only if clause may be placed at the beginning of a sentence. A comma separates the condition clause from the outcome clause.

IF

If you dry your dishes with a towel,

If you use Zing dish soap,

If you used Zing dish soap,

ONLY IF

Only if you dry your dishes with a towel,

Only if you use Zing dish soap,

Only if you used Zing dish soap,  

OUTCOME

Note that he outcome of the only-if clause has the auxiliary verb placed before the subject.

STANDARD WORD ORDER

      they will be spotless!

      you  get really clean dishes. 

      you would get really clean dishes.  (conditional)

TRANSPOSED

will they [will] be spotless!
  move forward

do  you [do] get really clean dishes. (get = do get)
  move forward

would you [will] get really clean dishes.
  move forward 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commonly Confused

Only if / If only

 

 

 

A Condition vs. A Wish

ONLY IF

An only if clause states one condition required to achieve a desired effect. When used at the beginning of the sentence the auxiliary verb is moved before the subject.

ONE CONDITION

Only if  you dry your dishes with a towel, will they be spotless!

Only if  you clean up your room, will you find your lost jeans.

Your windows will be clean enough to see your face only if  you wash them with Zing!

I will please my mother-in-law only if my house is clean.

I am happy only if you are here. / Only if you are here, am I happy.

She was pleasant only if we told her what she wanted to hear.
  

IF ONLY

An if only clause expresses a wish – one that you are doubtful about actually happening.  The result clause is optional and is separate. It is more emphatic than I wish…

I WISH…

If only  I had more time!   I could relax.   

If only  you would clean up your room. You would find your lost jeans.  

If only I had some Zing window cleaner.  

If only  I could please my mother-in-law.

If only  you were here! 

If only  he hadn't told his mother everything. 

 

Also see Wishes (only if / if only)  

If Only (Huddleston 751)  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commonly Confused

Even if / Whether or not

 

 

 

Even if & Whether or not

EVEN IF

An even if  clause states a challenging or negative condition.  "No condition will change the outcome"  Even if emphasizes the speakers intent to achieve the outcome or goal without regard for a difficult or negative condition.

OUTCOME CHALLENGING CONDITION

I'll help you

even if I don't have much time. 

I like to walk to work

even if it is raining.

Your father loves you

even if your father doesn't say it.

He'll get his work done

even if he has to work all night

 

WHETHER OR NOT

A whether or not clause states that no condition (or its alternative) will stop the completion of the outcome in the main clause. That is, if the condition exists or if the condition does not exist, the outcome will or must happen anyway. 

OUTCOME THE CONDITION DOESN'T MATTER

I'll help you

whether or not I have much time.

I like to walk to work

whether it is raining or not .

Your father loves you

whether or not he says it.

He'll get his work done

whether or not we wants to work all night.

 

Whether can be split apart from or not by the subject and verb phrase of the clause. 
See  If / Whether.

alternative (n.) – something you can choose to do or use instead of something else
Also see  even if  Adverbs of Emphasis

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice

Road Rules 

wheel change
 

 

Complete the sentence with the conditional connector that is logical (+ / -).

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" button.

 

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