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Condition subordinators:

In Case

The last big category of adverb clause subordinators is the conditionals. In fact, this particular group is more a complete subcategory of adverb clauses than merely a group of subs, and will be addressed more extensively in another section. However, for now, a brief overview of of the four subs above can be useful

If  Vs. Unless

   In the example below...

    If Tom steals Jessica's burger, she will break up with him.

we have a condition that must be met before a particular result can happen. In other words, only if the condition [Tom steals Jessica's burger] happens, will the result [she will break up with him] happen.

Unless is quite similar to if with one key difference. Unless means if not.

   Thus the example...

    Unless Tom steals Jessica's burger, she will not break up with him.

...is the same as...

    If Tom does not steal Jessica's burger, she will not break up with him.


Although whether is normally found within the condition subordinators, it is probably more accurate to think of it as the anti-condition sub.

   In the example below...

    Tom will come to your party whether you invite him or not.

...it doesn't matter what the condition is [invite Tom or not]. The result [he will come to your party] will be the same.

In Case

In case can be difficult for students who often confuse it with the preposition in case of which has the same meaning as if.
Perhaps a good way to think about in case is as a precaution as can been seen in the following sentence...

    Tom will wear his seat belt in case he has an accident.

There is the possibility that an accident could happen, and Tom wants to be prepared, i.e take a precaution. Notice how this meaning differs from if

    Tom will wear his seat belt if he has an accident.

In this example, we can picture poor Tom trying to put his seat belt on after the accident has already begun to happen, a move with little chance of preventing him from becoming road pizza.

Next up... Special issues.


page last modified: February 3, 2015

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