'Unless' and 'soon' in a third-conditional sentence

Dorpje

Member
Spanish Spain
Hi everyone,

I'm struggling to establish whether 'soon' and 'unless' work in a sentence in the third conditional:

-Unless the government had been able to stop the food crisis soon, riots would have spread to other cities.

-Unless the rain had stopped soon, the festivities would have been cancelled.

I have the feeling that 'unless' doesn't work if the past result is known.

If the above aren't common/correct, can someone suggest options for paraphrasing?

Thanks a lot
 
  • velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Instead of "unless", which doesn't work in those sentences, you can use "if...not":

    If the government had not been able to stop the food riots in time...
    If the rain had not stopped shortly afterwards...
    but this will depend on what exactly "soon" means in your sentence.
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Unless does not work for me.
    The simplest solution if to change it to an if ... not sentence:

    If the rain had not stopped soon, the festivities would have been cancelled.

    cross-posted
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    Although "unless" basically means "if not", it seems to me that in this case using "if" and "not" would make things easier to understand.
    The main sentences, in their use of "would have", tell us that the riots did not in fact spread and the festivities were not cancelled.
    So we must deduce that the government had in fact stopped the food crisis soon, and the rain had in fact stopped soon.

    The trouble with pairing "unless" with "soon" is that we tend to use it for future: Unless the rain stops soon, the game will have to be cancelled.
    It may be that the root of the problem is that "soon" is not a good word to use on its own like this, as it too suggests future, and it would be better to be more specific and say "as soon as it had", or to use one of veli's variants ("in time" etc).

    (multi-cross-posted)
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I have the feeling that 'unless' doesn't work if the past result is known.
    "Unless" does not work in these sentences. There is no problem with "If ... not"
    There are grammatical rules forbidding "unless" in a variety of conditional sentences. There are lots of previous threads if you look in the WordReference dictionary under "unless".
     

    Dorpje

    Member
    Spanish Spain
    Thank you all very much.
    I knew there was something going on with "unless" in those sentences; I just couldn't put my finger on it.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top