... the ability to change someone's life, don't waste...

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boggiee

Senior Member
Turkish
Hello,

- You were born with the ability to change someone's life, don't waste it.

I have come across this sentence on the Internet. What does the sentence signify? Does it mean that ''if you were born with the ability to change someone's life, don't waste it''?

Thanks.
 
  • Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    It means that everyone was born with the ability to change someone's life (presumably for the better). Since this is true for you, don't waste the opportunity.
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    No, it means that everyone was born with the ability to change someone's life, and you should make sure you use your ability.
     

    boggiee

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    6. leaving out if: conversational (Michael Swan's Practical English Usage (p. 250)

    If
    is sometimes left out at the beggining of a sentence in a conversational style, especially when the speaker is making conditions or threats.

    - You want to get in, you pay like everbody else. (=If you want...)

    I feel confused when seeing the original sentence, which I asked you, because of the rule above that Michael Swan mentions. I would like to ask what the difference in style between Michael's sentence and the sentence I asked is. I also would like to ask how I can percaive the difference in meaning between the two.

    Thanks again.
     
    Last edited:

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    Please do not refer to this as a rule : it is an example of usage.

    The first thing to note is that your "missing if" usage is less common than the simple statement usage. The second thing to note is that in English, context is everything. I can't give you a general guide on how to interpret a particular pattern of words, because they are influenced by all the other words round about, as well as non-verbal comment and even prior knowledge and cultural awareness. The only "clue" I can give you in this particular case is that in this "missing if" usage, the subject of the two clauses is often (but not always) repeated :

    You want to get in, you pay
    He wants lunch, he can go and buy some.

    In your example, the second clause was an imperative, so it didn't fit this pattern. But let me repeat, this is an indication, not a definitive guide.
     

    Hildy1

    Senior Member
    English - US and Canada
    Without context, I tend to agree with Copyright and Glasguensis.

    Assuming that this is the right meaning, the sentence is badly punctuated. There should be a semicolon after "life", or else the sentence should be divided into two.
    - You were born with the ability to change someone's life; don't waste it.
    - You were born with the ability to change someone's life. Don't waste it.
     
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