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Replacing “if”, Omitting “if”, “if” vs “when”, “if" vs “in case”

02 Mar 2021

ifReplacing "if"

If can be replaced by words or expressions with a similar meaning. The most common are:

  • as long as
  • assuming (that)
  • on condition (that)
  • on the assumption (that)
  • provided (that)
  • supposing (that)
  • with the condition (that)

Examples:

We agree to the terms if you give us a 5% discount.

We agree to the terms on condition that you give us a 5% discount.

If they don't accept our offer, what shall we do?

Supposing they don't accept our offer, what shall we do?

If not can be replaced with:

  • unless

Example:

You'll forfeit your bonus if you don't hit your sales target.

You'll forfeit your bonus unless you hit your sales target.


Omitting "if"

We can omit if with certain auxiliary and modal verbs:

  • Had I known... (instead of: "If I had known...")
  • Were this my company,... (instead of: "If this was my company,...")
  • Should you need my advice,... (instead of: "If you should need my advice,...")

Examples:

If I had known about the incident, I would have taken action.

Had I known about the incident, I would have taken action.

If you should need any help, please call me.

Should you need any help, please call me.


"If" vs "when"

If and when are interchangeable when the statement of the conditional clause is a fact or a general issue (also known as zero conditional):

If you heat ice, it melts.

When you heat ice, it melts.

If is used for something that, according to the speaker, might happen:

We can meet this afternoon if you are not busy.

When is used for something that, according to the speaker, will happen.

I will send you my report when I'm back from my business trip.


"If" vs "in case"

In case of can be used to shorten an if-clause as shown below:

If there is a fire, leave the room.

In case of fire, leave the room.

While if expresses a condition (1), in case is used to express a possibility (2):

(1) I need painkillers if I'm in severe pain.

(2) I need painkillers in case I'm in severe pain.

The expression just in case is used pretty much the same way:

I made extra copies of the agenda just in case Keith and Penelope are able to attend. (I don't know whether Keith and Penelope are going to attend)

 

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