"if" - "will" clause

2

Hi,

I have writtent the following sentence:

"John has not yet decided if he will pay a visit to the UK"

 

I understand the the grammar in this sentence is correct. What I would like to understand is why the no will after if rule does not apply to this sentence.

If the rule was applied, the sentence would read:

"John has not yet decided if he pays a visit to the UK"

 

Thank you in advance.

asked Jan 20 '13 at 11:44 Sharon New member

3 answers


1

What an interesting question!  Let me try to clearly explain.

 

John has not yet decided if he will pay a visit to the UK is a grammatically-correct sentence, but you have heard a grammar rule that you are not supposed to use will after if.

 

That grammar rule, while somewhat useful, is not universal: it only applies to (certain) conditional sentences, in particular, (certain)  first conditional sentences, where the ìf-clause is in the simple present tense and the main clause uses the future tense (usually will).

 

CorrectIf you buy me dinner, I will give you a kiss.

Incorrect: If you will buy me dinner, I will give you a kiss.

 

If you buy me dinner, I will give you a kiss shows that my kiss is conditional upon you buying me dinner.

 

Exception: (which does not apply to your sentence)  will is used in a conditional if-clause when talking about possible future actions or results which are a condition of another action or event.  For example, it is correct to say We will go home now if it will make you feel better.  There are other exceptions too, related to indirect questions, polite requests and insistence, but since none of these applies to your question, I will not go into them.

 

However, your sentence is not a conditional sentence.  In your sentence, if means whether, and there is no condition expressed for any action.  Rather, if is a conjunction that simply means whether (or not).  It could be expressed using whether, alone, or using whether or not more formally.  Also, I should point out that whether (or not) is more formal and considered to be more correct that if in academic writing for this kind of non-conditional sentence.  As well, when using whether, the subject in the second clause can be deleted and replaced by an infintive verb.

 

John has not yet decided whether he will pay a visit to the UK.

or

John has not yet decided whether or not he will pay a visit to the UK.

or

John has not yet decided whether (or not) to pay a visit to the UK.

 

How to decide if a sentence using if is conditional or not

 

If you can replace if with whether (or not) in the sentence, the sentence is not conditional, and the "the no will after if rule" does not apply; if you can, it is conditional, and the "the no will after if rule" does apply, except for the contexts noted above.

 

I hope this helps.

link edited Jan 20 '13 at 12:32 Shawn Mooney Expert

Thank you very much for your very detailed answer, and the situation regarding my sentence is clear to me.
However, what I am finding difficult to understand now is the difference between the: "If you buy me dinner, I will give you a kiss" sentence and the "We will go home now if it will make you feel better" sentence.
What about: "If it will make you feel better, we will go home", is that correct?

So basically, now even more confused about the if-will rule...

Thanks again! :)

Sharon Jan 20 '13 at 13:48

Hi Sharon, you are welcome! "If it will make you feel better, we will go home"is also correct. What's important to grasp in understanding the difference between these two kinds of second conditional sentences is, when both the if-clause and the main clause use 'will', the action in the main clause causes the action of the if-clause. In the much-more-common first conditional sentence you and I studied in high school, where the verb is present-tense in the if-clause and future-tense inthe main clause, the (conditional) action of the if-clause causes the action in the main clause. The cause-and-effect relationship is reversed. Does this make sense?

Shawn MooneyJan 20 '13 at 20:41

I made a mistake in that last comment, in the second sentence: it should read FIRST CONDITIONAL,not second conditional. Sorry for the confusion.

Shawn MooneyJan 21 '13 at 03:18

So is "if you will buy me dinner, I will give you a kiss" is also correct?

Sharon Jan 21 '13 at 06:57

So is "if you will buy me dinner, I will give you a kiss" is also correct?

Sharon Jan 21 '13 at 07:01

Sharon, thanks for a great follow-up question! To be honest, it is really difficult to type a lengthy response in the "comment section" so please see my reply in the "answer" section, where I can more more easily format and edit it correctly. Please give me your feedback so I can eventually explain this grammar point clearly.

Shawn MooneyJan 21 '13 at 15:40

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Sharon, you have asked a great follow-up question!  I have thought a lot about your latest
question, and re-checked my grammar reference books, and so I will amend my previous
comments to make this unusual situation ('will' in both the if-clause and the main clause)  more grammatically clear:  in a first conditional sentence, the cause-and-effect relationship is ONLY
reversed when if is followed by a preparatory-it (please check the following website if you have no idea what I am talking about when I refer to the 'preparatory it': http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/learnit/learnitv182.shtml.) 
 

This means that because you didn't use the 'preparatory it,' your sentence "If you will buy me dinner, I will give you a kiss" is grammatically incorrect.  But if you say "If it will make you buy me dinner, I will give you a kiss," it is grammatically-correct, and the cause-and-effect relationship  is reversed compared to the usual first conditional sentence .  If you say "If you buy me dinner, I will give you a kiss,", the conditional "paid-for" dinner happens first, and the kiss happens next; however, if you say "If it will make you buy me dinner, I will give you a kiss,", the kiss happens first, and then, next, I will give you a kiss.   This unusual construction (with both the if-clause and the main clause using 'will') only seems to work with the "preparatory it" construction in the if-clause, which I had not understood before.  Now, does it make sense?  I hope to (eventually) be able to answer any and all questions that you might have.
 

Shawn

link comment answered Jan 21 '13 at 15:49 Shawn Mooney Expert
0

Hello,

 

One follow up question.

Let's say today is Monday. Our colleagues need to send us a report on Friday.

 

Is it correct to ask them:

 

Please let us know if you will not be able to send the report on Friday.

 

I want an answer only if there is a problem with the report...

 

Thanks, Greg

link comment answered Dec 02 '13 at 10:35 Grzegorz Mikulski New member

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