Is there a name for this usage of "will"?

cheshire

Senior Member
Catholic (Cat-holic, not Catholic)
I'll come at four, if it will suit you.
If it will make any difference, I'll gladly lend you some money.
If the play will be cancelled, let's not go.
These "will" are special in that they can appear in if-clause. Is there any grammatical term for such "will"?
 
  • ryuusaki

    Member
    English & Chinese
    I'll come at four, if it suits you.
    If it makes any difference, I'll gladly lend you some money.
    *As far as I know, will usually doesn't occur in both sentences in a if-clause sentence. I usually use present tense in the if-clause, and present/future tense in the outcome-clause.
    PS. If the 2 sentences will always be true, you use present tense in both.
    Eg. If I am happy, my mother feels happy.
    (Using present tense in both sentences indicates it is always true.)

    If the play will be cancelled, let's go.

    I am a little confused here. If the play will be cancelled, why would you still say "let's go"?
     

    Q-cumber

    Senior Member
    I'll come at four, if it will suit you.
    If it will make any difference, I'll gladly lend you some money.
    If the play will be cancelled, let's not go.
    These "will" are special in that they can appear in if-clause. Is there any grammatical term for such "will"?
    Normally in such phrases present tense verbs are used after connecting words "if" and "when", as sampled by ryuusaki
     

    cheshire

    Senior Member
    Catholic (Cat-holic, not Catholic)
    Thanks everyone!:)
    The link Joelline has given us explained it all!

    Conditional sentence: P if Q (chronologically, Q-->P )
    Reversed conditional sentence:p if Q (chronologically, P-->Q)

    The first and second sentence in #1 are exactly the latter (Reversed conditional).

    You shouldn't use "will" in if-clause (which is "Conditional sentence").

    Hats off to Joelline!:D

    About the 3rd sentence in #1, is it unnatural sentence?
     

    LouisaB

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    About the 3rd sentence in #1, is it unnatural sentence?
    It is to me, cheshire.

    I'd replace 'will' with 'going to' (as in the raining example in Joelline's link) -

    If the play is going to be cancelled, let's not go.

    Louisa
     

    dobes

    Senior Member
    US English(Boston/NY)
    Oh dear, oh dear. All those sentences are incorrect. Each of them is a conditional, and the 'will' must be separated from the 'if' clause:

    I'll come at 4, if it suits you; If it makes a difference, I'll gladly lend you some money; If the play is canceled, we won't go.

    The modal 'will' indicates willingness, as Joelline's link points out. But an 'it' -- a situation or a play -- cannot be willing to do something. The modal 'will' must be linked to a person!

    'If you'll wait, I'll get dressed as fast as I can' asks if 'you' are willing to wait for me, and so it's permissible. That is not the situation in the sentences you posted, and so they must be changed to the normal first conditional, with 'will' removed from the 'if' clause.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I'll come at four, if it will suit you.​
    If it will make any difference, I'll gladly lend you some money.​
    If the play will be cancelled, let's not go.​
    These "will" are special in that they can appear in if-clause. Is there any grammatical term for such "will"?
    These sentences all sound fine to me. Please help a poor native speaker out! I accept that in an if clause referring to the future the verb is usually in the present tense or present continuous. But are there any cases where you cannot use will? I can't think of any at the moment. As far as I can see you can generally put will in and, as usual, it adds a sense of probability - as Joelline says, it is a modal verb; and modal verbs can point to the present as much as to the future.
     

    dobes

    Senior Member
    US English(Boston/NY)
    If you want to speak grammatically, you cannot use will in these sentences. Even native speakers make lots of mistakes, and what's accepted in normal speech is often not grammatical!

    A modal verb is a modal verb because its meaning and grammar change with its function in the sentence. Will does not have any function in these sentences other than to point to the future, and in that function, its placement is absolutely incorrect. It does not indicate willingness in these sentences -- if it did, its placement in the conditional clause would be fine.
     

    LouisaB

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    I'm really confused, dobes.

    I absolutely understand 'will' used with the sense of willingness, and that this is an exception. But I have two questions:

    1. Why cannot the future tense be used in a conditional sentence? There is a clear difference in meaning between:
    'If it makes any difference' and
    'If it will make any difference'.
    Something may make no difference now, but could do so in the future.

    2. The same is true of the play. Suppose A says 'I hear a rumour the play's going to be cancelled tonight'. Why can't B answer 'Oh well, if it's going to be cancelled, let's not bother going'? The play hasn't been cancelled yet, but it might well be in the future.

    Yet I would instinctively use 'going to' rather than 'will' here. Why is 'going to' all right, when 'will' is not, since both indicate future? Is it because 'is going to' reflects a present state in which there is a future possibility, ie the sentence means 'If we are currently in a position where the play will be cancelled, then let's not go'?

    Does that work?

    Louisa
     

    dobes

    Senior Member
    US English(Boston/NY)
    In both cases you mention, LouisaB, I think what has happened is that people have forgotten that the 'if' in the first clause of conditional sentences, coupled with the 'will' in the second already indicates the future. "If something happens" means we don't yet know if it WILL happen, which means it is in the future. People forget that, and try to put 'will' in the wrong place.

    In the case of the play, you could use 'going to'. 'Going to' indicates an intention -- someone intends to close the play. You are saying that if someone intends to close the play and it's possible they will be successful, you will not bother going to find out. "Will" does not have that function.

    As far as "If it will make any difference," I'm not convinced it does. "I will lend you some money" is already in the future. That the difference the money-lending makes will also be in the future, and after the money is lent, is already understood. So where is the actual difference in meaning? Why not express this sentence the grammatical way?

    Again, there are many times when we have to decide if we want to speak the way everyone speaks, or we want to speak grammatically. And, things that were once considered ungrammatical (Can I leave the room? If I was him...) become accepted usage. But for now, if 'will' is used to indicate the future in a conditional sentence, it belongs in the outcome clause and not in the conditional clause.

    I know this is confusing, but the main point is that conditional sentences, predicated as they are on on 'if', on a possible event, are already firmly rooted in the future. Then, by using the present tense with the conditional word, and the future tense in the second clause, I say "IF X comes to pass -- IF X becomes reality -- this WILL be the outcome."
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Will does not have any function in these sentences other than to point to the future
    I disagree. I think that in Cheshire's examples will indicates probability.
    It it might / may help you out, I'll give you a fiver. - possibility
    If it will help you out, I'll give you a fiver - probability.
    I think that the extent to which will is a future tense is greatly exaggerated!
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    I disagree. I think that in Cheshire's examples will indicates probability.
    It it might / may help you out, I'll give you a fiver. - possibility
    If it will help you out, I'll give you a fiver - probability.
    I think that the extent to which will is a future tense is greatly exaggerated!
    The only one of Cheshire's examples I consider possible is the second one;
    "If it will make any difference, I'll gladly lend you some money."
    although I don't know what to call it. I don't think it's future conditional because "will" appears twice.
    Similarly only the second of your sentences is correct.
     

    dobes

    Senior Member
    US English(Boston/NY)
    But se16teddy, you are also giving 'will' another function here outside of the future. We know that if its function is 'willing' then it is OK in the conditional clause. It's POSSIBLE that it might also be acceptable in the conditional clause when its function is probability -- the indication of near-certainty.

    Then, the meaning would be, "If it is absolutely certain to make a difference, I will lend you the money" or "If the theater is certain to be closed, we won't go."

    As I've said before, when 'will' is used to indicate something other than the future, it is OK in the conditional part of the sentence. But although I'm sure it's fine to indicate willingness or refusal, "If you won't go, I won't go", I don't know if it's OK to indicate a nearly certain probability. Can you find some authority for that?

    And -- if we're absolutely certain, why are we using 'if'?
     

    dobes

    Senior Member
    US English(Boston/NY)
    Yes, Loob -- it gives the exception for when "will" means willing -- a well-known and absolutely accepted exception. The problem is that none of the original sentences involve that use of will.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hi again, dobes

    The link also gives a second use of "will" in conditional clauses, based on the order in which the actions will happen.

    This may be your "probability" argument expressed in a different way.

    Loob
     

    dobes

    Senior Member
    US English(Boston/NY)
    OK, I've reread it. First of all, it says very clearly that 'grammarians' would not agree with this usage! And, although I'm not a grammarian, I most emphatically don't. The passage postulates a case where we are thinking about umbrellas and rain. "If it rains, I'll take an umbrella." The author notes, correctly, that this postulates the rain coming first and the taking of the umbrella second. But what about the case where we must decide whether to take an umbrella BEFORE the rain makes it appearance?

    For this, the author suggests the use of 'will' in the if clause: If it will rain, I will take my umbrella.

    But I say, that's just the situation for which we have 'in case'! It's the very difference between conditional sentences and 'in case'. I would say, "I'll take my umbrella in case it rains" and be done with it. No reason to change the language for this situation at all.

    Similarly, in the second example "If it would make Bill happy, I would give him the money", the author stresses that this demonstrates a desire to see Bill happy AFTER receiving the money. But, as I mentioned before, that is implied in the original conditional, just as it is! "If it made Bill happy, I would give him the money". Again, no need to change the language.

    The author acknowledges more than once that this usage is not grammatically accepted, but believes that it is necessary. I agree that it is ungrammatical under current usage rules, and I don't agree that it's necessary.
     

    dobes

    Senior Member
    US English(Boston/NY)
    Here you go, Cheshire:

    "But the use of will in if clauses also raises a more fundamental issue. It is an interesting example of a mistake that grammarians often make. They confuse something that is common in life with the rules of language." (In other words, the rules of language as grammarians write them don't cover some situations that are "common in life".)


    "Because this second sort of situation is not common in real life, most grammarians have not thought of it when making up their rules for conditional sentences. This is a pity, because it tends to give the impression that languages are governed by arbitrary rules without any logical consistency."

    It's not a difference between British and American English. Although I speak American English, almost all textbooks for ESL students are written in British English, and I have been using them for years. These textbooks are published by Cambridge and Oxford Universities, and not one mentions the use of 'will' as suggested by this thread. All are in agreement that will is used in the if clause of a conditional sentence only when it expresses willingness or, occasionally, willfullness or stubbornness: "If he will keep the window open at night, I'll have to sleep somewhere else." That last, BTW, IS a BE/AE difference -- we seldom use 'will' to express stubbornness.
     

    cheshire

    Senior Member
    Catholic (Cat-holic, not Catholic)
    Thanks for the help! I greatly appreciate your help and kindness.

    I now understand that you're sure this is not a matter of AmEn or BrEn. But I can't resist such thought! As these four posters all seem to support such use of "will" in if-clause.

    se16teddy
    LouisaB
    liliput (only one of three sentences, though)
    Loob
     

    dobes

    Senior Member
    US English(Boston/NY)
    Because so many intelligent, well-spoken people are so supportive of this use, I suspect it is now in everyday use, perhaps particularly in BE. But that doesn't make it correct usage, and I think people should be aware of that. In AE, putting 'would' in the conditional clause of a third conditional is positively epidemic: "If I would have known what I know now, I wouldn't have gone". You can hear this construction on every television program, on the street, in songs, etc. The sentence should be: "If I had known what I know now, I wouldn't have gone", but the "would have known" is very commonly used now, and I suspect very many posters to this forum would recognize it. My point is that that only means it's in use -- it doesn't mean it's grammatically correct.
     

    cheshire

    Senior Member
    Catholic (Cat-holic, not Catholic)
    I see! I understand your concern deeper. By the way, "If ... would have..., ... would have..." is similar to German subjunctive construction. It's OK in German. I wonder AmEn is more conservative in preserving English...
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I don't know if it's OK to indicate a nearly certain probability. Can you find some authority for that?
    Will is commonly used to indicate a probability (not so sure about a nearly certain probability). For example 'They will be there by now' (which refers to the present). The Oxford English Dictionary refers to this meaning (meaning number 9 of will(verb1) as 'expressing potentiality, capacity, or sufficiency'. The dictionary gives this example from E Smith's Compleat Housewife: When the Oven is ready, pour in your Stuff... Half an hour will bake it'.

    Say we are planning to go to an outdoor theatre this evening. If it rains the performance will be cancelled. It looks like rain but we don't really know whether the performance will be cancelled. We have a long way to travel to get there so we have to decide now whether to go or not. So we are trying to decide how likely it is that the play will be cancelled. You say 'Look at the sky, I think it'll be cancelled'. I reply 'OK, well if the play'll be cancelled, let's not go', meaning 'If it seems so likely that the play will be cancelled, let's not go'. 'If the play is cancelled let's not go' doesn't make any sense here. The condition is not the cancellation of the play: the condition is the likelihood that the play will be cancelled.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    A thought:

    For this use of "if + will"

    Could we substitute "given (that) + will" or "if we accept + will"?

    Loob
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I'm amazed that I can write two coherent sentences in a row in English.

    I just read about "Modal Will" (sounds like a cartoon character in a western) in the link from post #3.

    I was never taught this, heard of this, read of this, considered this or needed this in order to write and use the word "will".

    How is it possible that I can use "will" comfortably without ever even knowing that there were "will rules"?

    Is there some "will-twilight zone"?
     

    Joelline

    Senior Member
    American English
    Hi Packard,

    One of the joys of this forum is learning about how others see and learn your native language. Another joy is learning how to talk about English like a non-native! If you missed this thread, you've got to take a look at it. It was a real eye-opener for most of us! It doesn't surprise me that it's been read almost 1,000 times!
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Hi Packard,

    One of the joys of this forum is learning about how others see and learn your native language. Another joy is learning how to talk about English like a non-native! If you missed this thread, you've got to take a look at it. It was a real eye-opener for most of us! It doesn't surprise me that it's been read almost 1,000 times!

    I just read it.

    I am a member of a photography forum, and a point I have made there is that you really don't know something until you are able to teach it. At that point you have verbalized and organized the thoughts to the point that you truly know the concept. That is what we, as contributors get from these forums.

    I am still amazed that there are rules governing "will".

    Well, God willing, I will, sometime in the near future, will myself to learn the rules of "will". Well, I will. Truly, I will.
     

    dobes

    Senior Member
    US English(Boston/NY)
    se16teddy, thanks, but of course I know that 'will' has the meaning of near-certain probability. What I was looking for was the authority that says it's OK to use it that way in the 'if' clause. I have looked for it, and haven't found it anywhere.

    When you talk about the theater, I have no doubt that will is in use that way: 'If the theater will be closed, let's not go.' But that doesn't mean it's grammatically correct, and I don't believe it is. For these situations, the conditional structure is simply not correct at all. Instead, you have an 'in case' situation: We shouldn't go, in case it rains, or a cause and effect: Let's not go, because it really might rain.

    I am actually close to believing this probability thing should be an exception to the if/will clause, like willingness, but I can't find any authority for it at all, and I do believe it's possible to say it in other grammatically correct ways. I also believe there are times that it's absolutely fine to forget the rules and use an ungrammatical structure that is in use and is widely understood -- but I think that ESL speakers in particular should know that that is what they are doing.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I'll come at four, if it will suit you.
    If it will make any difference, I'll gladly lend you some money.
    If the play will be cancelled, let's not go.
    These "will" are special in that they can appear in if-clause. Is there any grammatical term for such "will"?
    I am a more comfortable with "if it suits you" or else "if it will make you happy" in the first sentence, but the other two sound fine to me.

    I agree with the author of the link in post#3, except perhaps about the use of the word grammarians. To disallow the use of modal auxiliaries in all their richness (as he explains) would be doing a disservice to communication.

    I do, however, believe grammar rules have a place - well lots of places. Those learning English as non-natives do need us to formulate workable, if not inviolable, rules to help them to understand our conventions. Also those native speakers with experience in resolving ambiguities or facilitating the transfer of meaning, as well as those who make a living through the accurate and/or artful use of words, need to be able to share the rules they find helpful.

    One thing that may be confusing here is the issue of sequence of tenses. Taking a rather extreme example, if "will make", "will be", and so on are taken as a future tense that controls other verbs in the sentence differently than present tense, and if we think of future perfect as very different from simple future or present tense, we may head down the path of condemning a simple sentence like "After I get dressed, I will go to the store". My French teacher taught us that in French one has to use the equivalent of "After I shall have gotten dressed, I will go to the store." Nothing short of future perfect would do for the if clause.

    Well English is not French, and the long series of verbs in "shall have gotten dressed" adds an awkwardness that is not there, at least to such a degree, in the French and which destroys the would-be elegance of the Latin-like sequence of tenses.
     

    cheshire

    Senior Member
    Catholic (Cat-holic, not Catholic)
    dobes said:
    When you talk about the theater, I have no doubt that will is in use that way: 'If the theater will be closed, let's not go.' But that doesn't mean it's grammatically correct, and I don't believe it is. For these situations, the conditional structure is simply not correct at all. Instead, you have an 'in case' situation:
    We shouldn't go, in case it rains,
    or a cause and effect:
    Let's not go, because it really might rain.​


    The first example sentence of your post reminds me of Loob's one:
    Loob's post

    Loob said:
    :tick:I'll take an umbrella in case it rains (against the possibility that it may rain)
     
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