"if" as afterthought

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TommyGun

Senior Member
Hi,

Can we use "if" to introduce an afterthought?

For example, I want to join a hiking group, which already is complete.
And I ask:
Would it be possible for me to join the group yet?
If somebody might have already given up..
 
  • TommyGun

    Senior Member
    I am sorry for the ambiguity, it all was a single-person cue.

    - Would it be possible for me to join the group? If somebody might/should have already given up..
    - You are welcome.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I am sorry for the ambiguity, it all was a single-person cue.

    - Would it be possible for me to join the group? If somebody might/should have already given up..
    - You are welcome.
    Are you asking whether you can break it up this way, beginning a second sentence with "If"?

    People often do this when speaking. It is very idiomatic to add a qualification to something we have said like this. We might include a comment to show that we are adding to what we just said. For example, adopting Copyright's suggestion:

    Would it be possible for me to join the group? I mean, if somebody has already given up their spot.

    However, I would not do that if I were writing something, unless it was in an informal letter, for instance, intended to imitate speech.
    In most writing, I would use something like the single sentence Copyright suggests.
     

    TommyGun

    Senior Member
    Copyright, Cagey, thank you!

    Is it possible for me to be more polite and tentative using should?
    Would it be possible for me to join the group if somebody should have given up their spot?
    or
    Would it be possible for me to join the group? I mean, if somebody should have already given up their spot.

    Actually, I hope here they will accept me even if there is already no vacant spot and I'd like to be more polite suggesting that it is very unlikely that somebody should have left this friendly group. Can I use should or might to express that?
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    I think we need to talk about context at this point. It sounds to me like you already know the group is full; otherwise, you wouldn't normally suggest any special circumstances, as you are right now.

    Normally, you would just ask to join the group:

    I would like to join your group.
    I'm sorry but we're full right now.
    Would it be possible to join if someone [leaves/drops out/gives up their spot]?


    If you know the group is full:

    I know your group is full, but I would really like to join. Would that be possible if someone [leaves/drops out/gives up their spot]?
     

    TommyGun

    Senior Member
    I think we need to talk about context at this point. It sounds to me like you already know the group is full; otherwise, you wouldn't normally suggest any special circumstances, as you are right now.
    Yes, I am almost sure that the group is full, or want to show that I am almost sure, or want to be polite and tentative a bit distancing with modal verbs.

    But the reluctance that you show in acceding to my variant renders me doubtful.

    if somebody should have already given up their spot.
    Does this clause point to the past or future? I meant the past as in "somebody has given up", but now I get thinking that should restrict this to only the future. Doesn't it?
     
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    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    if somebody should/were to have already given up their spot. a circumstance that might have occurred in the speaker's past and is presently continuing.if somebody should/were to give up their spot. a circumstance that might occur in the speaker's future
    if somebody gives up their spot. a circumstance that might occur in the speaker's future
     

    TommyGun

    Senior Member
    if somebody should/were to have already given up their spot. a circumstance that might have occurred in the speaker's past and is presently continuing.if somebody should/were to give up their spot. a circumstance that might occur in the speaker's future
    if somebody gives up their spot. a circumstance that might occur in the speaker's future
    Gosh, it is a subjunctive.

    Does should and were to are equivalents here? I think that should tends more expresses probability, whereas were to - counterfactuality.
    We can say "had already given up" instead of "were to have given up" with the same meaning, can we?

    And, of course, counterfactuality sounds strange, because I don't really know whether somebody has given up.
    So, if should is a counterfactual subjunctive here, can I replace it with might eliminate the subjunctive but keeping the low probability and maybe politeness?
    If somebody might have already given up their spot..
     
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    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Gosh, it is a subjunctive.

    Are should and were to are equivalents here? I think that should tends more expresses probability, whereas were to - counterfactuality.
    I'm not convinced:

    A: "I am considering whether or not to go to town."
    B: "Should you decide to go to town, would you buy some butter?"
    B(i): "Were you to decide to go to town, would you buy some butter?"

    I see little difference.
     

    Yondlivend

    Senior Member
    American English
    I interpret the difference as such:

    "Should you decide to go to town, would you buy me some butter?" - If you do decide to go to town, then I want you to buy some butter for me. The speaker is making a request in case that person does decide to go to town. This can also be phrased as "If you go to town, will/would you buy me some butter?" or, "If you go to town, get me some butter, will you?"

    "Were you to decide to go to town, would you buy me some butter?" - The speaker wants to know whether the person would be willing to do so under such circumstances (if that person went to town). That is to say, "If I asked you to buy me some butter when you go to town, would you?"

    Do you agree, PaulQ?
     
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    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    What is the difference?
    I'm not sure there is one.
    There is little difference = there is no real difference
    There is a little difference = there is a difference but it is small.

    I interpret the difference as such:

    would you buy me some butter?" - If you do decide to go to town, then I want you to get some butter for me. The speaker is making a request in case that person does decide to go to town. This can also be phrased as "If you go to town, will/would you buy me some butter?" or, "If you go to town, get me some butter, will you?"

    , would you buy me some butter?" - The speaker wants to know whether the person would be willing to do so under such circumstances (if that person went to town). That is to say, "If I asked you to buy me some butter when you go to town, would you?"

    Do you agree, PaulQ?
    As I said, there is only a small difference, if any difference at all.

    1. "Should you decide to go to town, beware of the robbers in the woods" - If it turns out/transpires to be the case that you decide to go to town, beware of the robbers in the woods"

    2. "Were you to decide to go to town, beware of the robbers in the woods." - "If you decide to go to town, beware of the robbers in the woods"

    Both seem to express/imply the "If it turns out/transpires to be the case" clause but the should version may (I repeat, may) be slightly stronger.
     

    Yondlivend

    Senior Member
    American English
    All right then. Admittedly, I'm much more likely to use "were to" than "should" but I have heard should before and for some reason in the sentences you gave earlier felt that the one with should was more probable. I'm not sure why. I didn't read your post carefully though, and read your comment as "I see a little difference." Looking at other examples, I don't really feel that there's much, if any, a difference between the two, as you said.

    I'll try to be more careful in the future, and think of other examples of usages such as should and were to before making such statements (to see if my views are consistent).
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Should you (= "if you should") and were you to (= "if you were to") are both ambiguous, but there is (at least) one meaning they both share.
    I interpret the difference as such:

    "Should you decide to go to town, would you buy me some butter?" - If you do decide to go to town, then I want you to buy some butter for me. The speaker is making a request in case that person does decide to go to town. This can also be phrased as "If you go to town, will/would you buy me some butter?" or, "If you go to town, get me some butter, will you?"

    "Were you to decide to go to town, would you buy me some butter?" - The speaker wants to know whether the person would be willing to do so under such circumstances (if that person went to town). That is to say, "If I asked you to buy me some butter when you go to town, would you?"
    I agree with this difference. There seems to be interplay between would, which is also ambiguous, and should you = "if you do" or were you to = "if you did".
    As I said, there is only a small difference, if any difference at all.

    1. "Should you decide to go to town, beware of the robbers in the woods" - If it turns out/transpires to be the case that you decide to go to town, beware of the robbers in the woods"

    2. "Were you to decide to go to town, beware of the robbers in the woods." - "If you decide to go to town, beware of the robbers in the woods"

    Both seem to express/imply the "If it turns out/transpires to be the case" clause but the should version may (I repeat, may) be slightly stronger.
    Sentence 1 makes sense to me, with should you = "if you do" with an imperative, but sentence 2 does not.
     

    TommyGun

    Senior Member
    if somebody should/were to have already given up their spot.
    B(i): "Were you to decide to go to town, would you buy some butter?"
    If we change were to to the past subjunctive, will the sense be changed? That is, are these pairs equal?

    if somebody were to have already given up their spot.
    if somebody had already given up their spot.

    Were you to decide to go to town, would you buy some butter?
    Did you decide to go to town, would you buy some butter?
     
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