written by: Larry Gordon
• edited by: Rebecca Scudder
• updated: 9/11/2012
Rudyard Kipling is probably the culprit in his poem IF for letting this little word have full reign. The word has been run into the ground. There seem to be innumerable hypothetical possibilities
in the world that warrant its overuse. It could use a nice holiday once in a while. A vacation maybe?
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If And the Hypothetical Statement
"OK, smart guy," you say, “what are the other alternatives instead of if ? How can I state a hypothetical statement without using if? In today’s world it is more difficult. Many of the other forms are not taught in school, or are simply touched upon. If seems to do it all, but only if you are unaware of other ways of expressing the hypothetical statement. Oops! Caught in my own trap!
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Expediency in Expression
In the past, the English language in terms of personal expression was in many ways richer than it is today. People read more and had more time to study the English language and push its limits. Writers still do this today, but we do most everything in terms of expediency. The passive voice, for instance, used to be used as much as active voice. Today, the passive voice is all but relegated to technical writing when the action is more important than the person doing the action. No wonder if reigns almost supreme in expressing the hypothetical statement. It's a two letter word that carries clout.
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Example # 1
Let’s look at the following example: If you had known about the party, would you have gone? Here is a possibility for expressing the hypothetical that most people have forgotten: Had you known about the party, would you have gone? The example is totally correct, and keeps the writer from hammering if into oblivion.
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Example # 2
Most people like to give their opinions and what they would do if they were that other person in a hypothetical situation: If I were you, I would go to the party. It is possible to say: Were I you, I would go to the party.
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Example # 3
There is also this example: If I (should) go to the party, people will notice my new suit. It is just as valid to say: Should I go to the party, people will notice my new suit.
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Try The Alternatives
Play with the hypothetical alternatives above. See how you can fit them into your writing. If will appreciate it. So will your readers. They might even WOW you.