Tema 26- Expresión de la condicion y la hipótesis

Tema 26- Expresión de la condicion y la hipótesis

Conditional clauses:

1. The central uses of conditional clauses express a direct condition. They convey that the situation in the matrix clause is directly contingent on that of the conditional clause, that is to say, the truth of the proposition in the matrix clause is a consequence of the fulfilment of the condition in the conditional clause.

– If you put down the baby, she will scream.

The hearer also in practice infers the converse.

– If you don´t put down the baby, she won´t scream.

2. More peripheral uses of conditional clauses express an indirect condition. The condition is not related to the situation in the matrix clause.

– She is far too considerate, if I may say so.

In direct conditions, the if-clause is an adjunct, in indirect conditions it is a style disjunct.

Subordinators and structural types of clauses:

The 2 simple subordinators for conditional clauses are: if and unless. Other conditional subordinators are: as long as, assuming (that), given (that), in case, in the event that, just so (that), on condition (that), provided (that), providing (that), supposing (that).

General recurrent contingency is expressed by once, when, whenever, where and wherever.

Except that and conjunctive only combine exception with condition.

All these subordinators are used with finite clauses.

– If you want some more, you should ask me.

– Unless the strike has been called off, there will be no trains tomorrow.

– She may go as long as he goes with her.

– In case you want me, I´ll be in my office till lunch time.

Only if and unless introduce non-finite clauses (mainly –ed participle clauses) and verbless clauses.

– The grass will grow more quickly if watered regularly.

– It has little taste, unless hot.

Non-finite and verbless clauses with with or without as subordinator may express a conditional relationship.

– With them on your side, we are secure.

Direct condition:

A direct condition may be either an open condition or a hypothetical condition.

1. Open conditions: are neutral, they leave unresolved the question of the fulfilment or non-fulfilment of the condition, and also the truth of the proposition expressed by the matrix clause.

– If Colin is in London, he is undoubtedly staying at the Hilton.

The sentence eaves unresolved whether Colin is in London and so whether he is staying at the Hilton.

2. Hypothetical conditions on the other hand, convey the speaker´s belief that the condition will not be fulfilled, is not fulfilled or was not fulfilled and hence the probable certain falsity f the proposition expressed by the matrix clause.

– If he changed his opinions, he´d be a more likeable person. (but he very probably won´t change his opinions).

The distinction between open and hypothetical conditions is important grammatically because the verbs in hypothetical conditions are backshifted.

Verb forms in hypothetical conditions:


Conditional clause

Matrix clause

Present and future reference


If I were younger


I would study Greek

Past reference


If I had seen you


I would have invited you home

Conditional clauses (particularly those introduced by if, in case and in the event that) are like questions in that questions are generally either neutral in their expectations of an answer or biased toward a negative response. Therefore, like questions, they tend to admit non-assertive forms.

– If you ever touch me again, I´ll scream.

– She´s taking a stick with her in case she has any trouble on the way.

The rest of the clauses tend to contain assertive forms.

– I won´t phone you, unless something unforeseen happens.

The verb phrase in the conditional clause:

1. The present subjunctive is sometimes used for open conditions instead of the normal present tense. This use is very formal.

– If any vehicle be found on these premises without written permission, it shall be towed away at the expense of its owner.

2. In sentences referring to eternal truths, we use the simple present in both clauses.

– If you melt ice, it turns into water. (Whenever)

3. In polite requests, the present conditional or the future can be used can be used in both halves of the sentence.

– I will carry in the tea things if you will bring the teapot.

4. 2 ways of expressing future hypothetical conditions are occasionally used in formal contexts. They have overtones of tentativeness.

ü Was/Were to followed by the infinitive:

– If it was/were to rain, the ropes would snap.

ü Should followed by the infinitive:

– If a serious crisis should arise, the public would have to be informed of its full implications.

The idiom if I ….. you by convention usually contains the subjunctive were, though was also occurs frequently.

5. We may signal the conditional relationship without using a subordinator by subject-operator inversion. The most common use of this inversion in conditional clauses is with the operator had.

– Had I known it, I would have written before.

For the nagative, not is placed before the lexical verb, the enclitic “n´t” not being possible.

– Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I would not have believed it

Past conditionals can be avoided by using “but for”:

– But for my help, you would never have done it.

Inversion may also occur in a somewhat literary style with subjunctive were and tentative should:

– Were she in charge, she would do things differently.

– Should she be interested, I´ll phone her.

The infinitive can be used to replace one half of the conditional sentence

– I shouldn´t be surprised to see him.

Rhetorical conditional clauses:

They give the appearance of expressing an open condition but they actually make a strong assertion.

There are 2 types of rhetorical if-clauses, one in which the assertion is derived from the conditional clause and the other in which it is derived from the matrix clause.

1. If the proposition in the matrix clause is patently absurd, the proposition in the conditional clause is shown to be false.

– If they are Irish, I´m the Pope (Since I´m obviously not the Pope, they are not certainly Irish).

2. If the proposition in the conditional clause is patently true, the proposition in the matrix clause is shown to be true.

– The painting must be worth a thousand dollars, if it is worth a cent. (the painting must certainly be worth a thousand dollars).

Indirect condition:

They are open conditions that are dependent on an implicit speech act of the utterance and therefore style disjuncts.

They are mainly realized by if-clauses. We can distinguish several of style disjuncts:

1. The conditional clause is a conventional expression of politeness which makes the speaker´ s utterance seemingly dependent on the permission of the hearer.

– If I may be quite frank with you, I don´t approve of any concessions to ignorance.

2. The conditional clause is a metalinguistic comment which hedges the wording of the utterance, either suggesting that the wording is not quite precise or that it should not be misunderstood in some sense not intended by the speaker. It explicitly or implicitely call for the hearer´ s agreement.

– His style is florid, if that´ s the right word.

3. The conditional clause expresses uncertainty about the extralinguistic knowledge required for a correct interpretation of the utterance. The uncertainty may be the speaker´ s or the hearer´ s.

– I met your girlfriend Caroline last night, if Caroline is your girlfriend.

4. The conditional clause is expresses the condition under which the speaker makes the utterance.

– If you want to borrow a shoebrush, there is one in the bathroom.

For all 4 types the uncertainty of the condition provides a tentativeness which adds politeness to utterances.

The hypothetical past and past prefective:

The verbs in hypothetical conditional clauses are backshifted. The past tense form being used for present and future time reference and the past perfective form for past time reference. When these forms have such hypothetical implications we term them hypothetical past and hypothetical past perfective.


Conditional clause

Matrix clause

Present and future reference



Past reference



The modal most commonly used in the matrix clause is would. It is used to express the hypothetical implication without necessarily any other modal implications.

– If she tried/were to try harder next time, she would pass the examination.

(future reference: but I expect she won´t try harder).

– If they were alive, they would be moving around.

(present reference: but I assume they are not alive).

– If they had invited me to the conference, I would have attended.

(past reference: but they didn´t invite me).

As the bracketed implications indicate, the hypothetical meaning is more absolute in the past and amounts to an implied rejection of the condition, whereas with present and future reference the meaning may be merely one of negative expectation or assumption, the positive not being ruled out completely.

When modal auxiliaries are used in hypothetical conditional clauses, they combine with past and past perfective. In the matrix clause they replace would since 2 modal auxiliaries cannot cooccur. Modals in hypothetical conditionals, apart from hypothetical would are would in other uses, could, might and should.

– If you could type, you might save a lot of time.

– I might have married her, if she would have agreed.

1.Hypothetical past or past perfective are obligatory in certain other constructions that have hypothetical meaning.

– It´s (high/about) time you were in bed

– I wish this bus went to the university.

– If only I had listened to my parents.

2. They are optional with other constructions that also have hypothetical meaning:

– He acts as if he knew you.

– It´s not as though we were poor.

– Suppose we told her the truth.

– Imagine your child played truant.

– I´d rather we had dinner now.

Generally a negative inference can be drawn, which is more strongly negative with the hypothetical past perfective. Thus “If only I had listened to my parents” implies “ I didn´t listen to my parents”.