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I am trying to identify the subject and object in the following sentence:

Come to me, and I'll give you a fight you'll never forget

At first, it appeared as if whenever a conjunction appears after a clause, and there's a future tense verb in the following clause, then it's a conditional sentence. My major problem here is whether this is a valid conditional sentence. Here, the speaker is actually saying

I'm an interesting fighter

and not typically providing a condition for a result. I am trying to find out if there's any general rule for identifying a real conditional sentence. Could the rule that applies to this sentence be classified as one for identifying idioms? Thanks.

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The speaker may be saying I'm an interesting fighter, but it is clearly a conditional construction, and the actual meaning is obtained by interpreting it metaphorically. You are not going to find grammar rules that tell you when to interpret a sentence metaphorically. –  Peter Shor Feb 20 '13 at 21:20
    
There are three clauses in the sentence, and each one has a subject. Which one were you looking for? –  John Lawler Feb 21 '13 at 4:37
    
Exactly, @JohnLawler. My contention is that the above can be simplified to a single sentence with just a single subject and no object. –  Chibueze Opata Feb 21 '13 at 7:03
    
Then feel free to do so. –  John Lawler Feb 21 '13 at 15:56
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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

The first statement is conditional, and the second statement is not. The two sentences you have provided are not the same.

The first statement says, quite literally, that if you come, then I will give you a fight you will never forget. That is definitively conditional, as the speaker will only give the reader a "fight [he/she] will never forget" if the reader shows up.

The statement may imply that the speaker considers himself an interesting fighter, but that is a mere implication – it is not what the statement is literally saying. Conditional sentences are defined by their literal meaning and their structure, not by the implications behind the statements.

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Yh, I understand. But what information do you think your brain stores with such a statement. It's definitely not the literal meaning. I guess I agree with your last statement and also with @Peter Shor that there are no rules for this. Thanks. –  Chibueze Opata Feb 21 '13 at 7:16
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OP's sentence is perfectly normal English. You can read it as starting with [If you] come to me..., but I don't think it's necessarily helpful to assume that in all cases. Take, for example:

Come Christmas, the goose will have gotten fat.

...where the "conditionality" is significantly different (it means when Christmas comes, not if).


Obviously in OP's specific example, the "subject" is indeed an implied you. Equally obviously, OP is mistaken in supposing it implies I'm an interesting fighter. It implies I will beat you so severely you will never forget it - because it will be such a traumatic experience, and/or you will bear the scars for the rest of your life.

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I would argue the assertion that "Come Christmas" is not an "if" condition - "If it is Christmas, the goose will have gotten fat," or even "If Christmas has come, the goose will have gotten fat." "When" indicates that the writer knows with absolute certainty that the condition will be fulfilled, but it isn't necessary to add to the statement, grammatically speaking - all conditional statements (to my knowledge) can be rewritten with an "if". –  Cmillz Feb 20 '13 at 20:58
    
@Cmillz: That's why I put "conditionality" in quotes - to indicate that it's not a standard "conditional" in the sense of **if X is true. But it is "conditional" in the sense of condition X does not yet obtain, although it's certain to apply in the future. It gets a bit more convoluted with "Come rain or shine, I'll be there", since semantically there's absolutely no conditionality at all in such a statement. –  FumbleFingers Feb 20 '13 at 21:58
    
Eh, you're over implying things IMO. In your case, you think what makes a fight interesting is the brutality of the fight, but never forget IMO means remarkable or simply, interesting. Also, I'm confused whether you are validating my claim or the other way round. I'm trying to say that in that type of example, it can never really be a typical conditional statement. Both examples you gave for instance are metaphoric. –  Chibueze Opata Feb 20 '13 at 22:11
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@Chibueze: I'm a native speaker, and I'm guessing you're not. You should note that even when the "gift" isn't explicitly identified, I'll give you something you won't forget almost always means a beating or similar extreme punishment. Only one out of about 30 written instances there is "memorable" for some other reason. When the "gift" is explicitly named as "a fight", there can be no other feasible interpretation. –  FumbleFingers Feb 20 '13 at 22:20
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@Chibueze: There are several related idiomatic usages in this general area. Parent to bawling child: Stop that, or I'll give you something to cry about!, for example. And the standard threat: I'll give you what for!. –  FumbleFingers Feb 21 '13 at 16:35
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Come to me, and I'll give you a fight you'll never forget.

The subject of the example sentence above is you because a 2nd person command forms the conditional clause (subjects get dropped with commands). It's perfectly fine to use the imperative to form the condition, and identifying what the speaker might be implying does not change that (i.e., that he is an "interesting fighter").

You could also use the present indicative for the first clause:

If you come to me, I'll give you a good fight.

If is also a conjunction, so the conjunction does not have to follow the condition, and there are a variety of other verb tenses and moods that can be used in either clause. It is not one rule, but a system of rules in that determines the verb tense and mood. Following an imperative statement with the future tense is just one way of forming a conditional

You could also use the subjunctive followed by the conditional, though sometimes you wind up with a more poetic or slightly archaic sound:

If I were a fighter, I'd fight you.
If you were to come to me, I'd give you a fight that you'd never forget.

The subjunctive is falling out of favor in English though, so you might try the simple past tense for the condition:

If I fought you, I would put you in the hospital.

You can find many other examples off-site. You could try the Wikipedia article on conditional sentences in English or scan through university pages for examples, being careful to verify the source if you are concerned about having authoritative information: http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/conditional2.htm

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