Meaning of IF in English

IF

INDEX:

1. ways of saying 'if'

2. asking what the result will be if something happens

3. when something will happen if something else happens first

4. if something does not happen

5. why something must be true

6. when the situation would be different if something had not happened

RELATED WORDS

see also

↑ DEPEND/IT DEPENDS

↑ MAYBE

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1. ways of saying 'if'

▷ if /ɪf/ [conjunction]

▪ If you do that again I’ll hit you.

▪ Do you think I’d be here if I had a choice?

▪ I know I look tired. So would you if you had this house, a husband, and three children to look after.

if you like/want

▪ I have a drill. If you like, you can borrow it.

if so

formal if this is true

▪ I believe you sell video cameras. If so, please would you send me a price list?

if necessary/possible

if it is necessary or possible

▪ We’re prepared to work all through the night if necessary.

▪ Use live natural yoghurt, full-fat if possible.

if taken/used/needed etc

▪ If taken in small doses, the drug has no harmful effects.

▷ should /ʃʊd/ [modal verb] formal

use this when something might happen in the future but it is not likely :

▪ We’ve planned everything very carefully, but should there be any problems, contact me immediately.

▪ Should you ever find yourself in Oxford, I’m sure Uncle Eric would be glad to see you.

▷ had /hæd/ [modal verb] formal

use this when you are saying what the result would have been if things had happened differently in the past :

▪ Had I known earlier that you wanted to join the team, I’d have put your name on the list.

▪ My horse would have won had he not fallen at the final fence.

▷ even if /ˈiːv ə n ɪf/ [conjunction]

use this when something will still happen if a situation changes or if there is a problem :

▪ He’s going to buy the farm even if they raise the price.

▪ Even if the government survives this crisis, they still face enormous problems.

▪ You should always exercise -- even if it’s only 10 minutes a day.

▷ in case /ɪn ˈkeɪs/ [conjunction]

use this to say that something is done because something else might happen or be true :

▪ I’ll take an umbrella in case it rains.

▪ In case you missed the first episode, here is the story so far.

▪ In case you were thinking I’d lend you any money, I’ll tell you now -- I won’t!

just in case

▪ I’m sure they haven’t forgotten but let’s send them a reminder just in case.

▷ in the event of /ɪn ði ɪˈvent ɒv/ [preposition] formal

use this when you are saying what will be done if at any time there is a serious problem, an accident etc - used especially in official notices, plans, or instructions :

▪ Britain agreed to support the US in the event of war.

▪ The plan outlines emergency procedures in the event of a major accident.

in the unlikely event of

if something unlikely happens

▪ In the unlikely event of a burglar entering the building, the alarm system will be activated.

▷ in case of /ɪn ˈkeɪs ɒv/ [preposition] written

used especially in official notices and instructions to tell people what to do if something unpleasant or unexpected happens :

▪ In case of fire, leave the building by the nearest exit.

▪ It is illegal to park on the hard shoulder except in case of emergency.

2. asking what the result will be if something happens

▷ what if ...? /ˈwɒt ɪf/ [conjunction]

use this to ask someone what they will do if something in particular happens :

▪ What if your plan doesn’t work?

▪ I sat there till lunchtime thinking, ‘What if he doesn’t come back?’

▷ supposing/suppose/say /səˈpəʊzɪŋ, səˈpəʊz, seɪ/ [conjunction] spoken

use this when you are asking or imagining what the result will be if a particular thing happens :

▪ Supposing things change and the industry becomes more important. We might make a big profit.

▪ You don’t expect me to join the army, do you? Suppose I get killed?

▪ ‘I’m not a violent person.’ ‘No, but say someone attacked you. You wouldn’t just stand there, would you?’

3. when something will happen if something else happens first

▷ if /ɪf/ [conjunction]

▪ I’ll give you twenty pounds if you fix my computer for me.

▪ If she does well in her exams, she will be going to college in October.

▷ only if /ˈəʊnli ɪf/ [conjunction]

use this to emphasize that something will only happen if something else happens first, but will definitely not happen if the first thing does not :

▪ OK, I’ll tell you, but only if you promise not to tell anyone else.

▪ Seat belts are effective only if they are correctly adjusted.

▷ on condition (that) /ɒn kənˈdɪʃ ə n (ðət)/ [conjunction]

use this when you agree to do something only if someone first promises or agrees to do something else :

▪ I’ll lend you the money on condition you pay it back within three weeks.

▪ Many surgeons offer patients an operation only on condition that they stop smoking.

▷ as long as/provided (that)/providing (that) /əz; ˈlɒŋ əzǁ-ˈlɔːŋ, prəˈvaɪdə̇d (ðət), prəˈvaɪdɪŋ (ðət)/ [conjunction]

use this when something will be possible or satisfactory only if something else happens or is done :

▪ You’ll be quite safe as long as you follow my instructions.

▪ You can come and see the baby so long as you don’t make any noise.

▪ Provided we have your order by the end of March, the price will be £500.

▪ Of course we’ll look after your kids, providing you can drop them off at our house, that is.

▷ assuming (that) /əˈsjuːmɪŋ (ðət)ǁəˈsuː-/ [conjunction]

use this when something will happen or something is possible only if what you think might be true really is true :

▪ Assuming that this painting really is a Van Gogh, how much do you think it’s worth?

▪ All we have to do is to explain the problem to her, assuming of course that she’s prepared to listen.

4. if something does not happen

▷ if not /ɪf ˈnɒt/ [conjunction/adverb]

▪ Your car should be ready by 12 o'clock, but if not I’ll let you know.

▪ If you don’t leave now, I’ll call the police.

▪ Try these gloves on. If they’re not the right size I’ll take them back.

if not, why not?

spoken used to ask why something has not happened or why someone has not done something

▪ Have you done your homework yet? If not, why not?

▷ unless /ʌnˈles, ən-/ [conjunction]

use this to say that something will happen if something else does not change the situation :

▪ Unless the weather improves, we will have to cancel the game.

▪ You won’t pass your examinations unless you study hard.

▪ Milk quickly turns sour, unless it’s refrigerated.

▷ otherwise /ˈʌðəʳwaɪz/ [adverb]

use this when there will be a bad result if someone does not do something or if something does not happen :

▪ Stir the sauce until it cools, otherwise it will be lumpy.

▪ I’m glad you told me about the show being cancelled. Otherwise I’d have travelled all the way to Glasgow for nothing.

▷ or/or else /ɔːʳ, ɔːr ˈels/ [conjunction]

use this when you are warning someone what will happen if they do not do what you are telling them to do :

▪ Be careful or you’ll bump your head.

▪ Stop making so much noise or else the neighbours will start complaining.

▷ without /wɪðˈaʊtǁwɪðˈaʊt, wɪθˈaʊt/ [preposition]

use this when you cannot do something if you do not do something else first :

▪ No one can succeed in business without taking certain risks.

▪ How can you judge a book without reading it?

▷ barring /ˈbɑːrɪŋ/ [preposition]

use this when something will happen or continue in the way that you want, if something does not happen to prevent it :

▪ Barring unexpected delays, work on the tunnel should be completed by the end of next month.

▷ before /bɪˈfɔːʳ/ [conjunction]

use this when you are saying what someone must do if they want to stop something bad from happening :

▪ Put that money somewhere safe before it gets stolen.

▪ That dog ought to be destroyed before it attacks any more children.

▷ failing that /ˌfeɪlɪŋ ˈðæt/ [adverb]

use this when you are saying what you will do if the first thing you suggested is not possible :

▪ My mother wanted me to be a teacher or, failing that, a nurse.

▪ Dr Schwabe said he could find me a room either on the campus, or failing that, in a house nearby.

5. why something must be true

▷ unless /ʌnˈles, ən-/ [conjunction]

use this to say that you think something is true, because the only other possibility is very unlikely :

▪ He must have resigned, unless they fired him.

▪ Unless he’s a complete idiot, he’ll understand.

▷ otherwise /ˈʌðəʳwaɪz/ [adverb]

use this to say that something must be true, because if it is not true the situation would be different :

▪ She must have missed the train, otherwise she’d be here by now.

▪ It can’t have been anything important, otherwise she’d have called back.

▷ or else /ɔːr ˈels/ [adverb]

use this to say that something must be true, because if it is not, the situation would be different or something very unlikely would be true :

▪ They must have thought everything was safe, or else they would have warned us.

6. when the situation would be different if something had not happened

▷ but for somebody/something /ˈbʌt fəʳ somebody/something/ [preposition]

use this when a situation would be different if something was not happening now or had not happened in the past :

▪ I would have walked out of the job earlier but for the fact that I desperately needed the money.

▪ But for the actions of a brave fireman, I wouldn’t be alive now.

▪ Whole industries would have collapsed but for a massive injection of public funds.

▷ if it had not been for /ɪf ɪt ˈhæd nɒt biːn fɔːʳ/ [preposition]

use this when a situation would have been different if something had not happened or someone had not done something in the past :

▪ If it hadn’t been for the war, Larry would have stayed on the farm.

▪ If it hadn’t been for Christine, I would never have met Michael.

▷ if it wasn’t/weren’t for /ɪf ɪt ˈwɒz ə nt, ˈwɜːʳnt fɔːʳǁ-ˈwɑːz ə nt-/ [preposition]

use this when you would do something different if a particular situation did not exist now :

▪ He’d be playing in this afternoon’s game if it wasn’t for his injury.

▪ If it weren’t for the children, I’m sure she would leave her husband.

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