English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

For example:

Since it's raining, wouldn't it be a good idea to bring an umbrella?

That sounds OK, but I'm not sure if it is.

What about these alternatives?

Since it's raining, isn't it a good idea to bring an umbrella?

I thought that this might be grammatically correct because "is" is on both sides of the sentence. It doesn't sound right though. Why?

Since it's raining, won't it be a good idea to bring an umbrella?

For some reason this doesn't sound right either, but I don't know why. It sounds better than the second example, but not as good as the first example.

share|improve this question
The first is the one that sounds right and would be used most often, but I'm not sure of the grammatical rules which make it right. – neil Apr 13 '11 at 9:02
up vote 4 down vote accepted

There is absolutely nothing wrong with

Since it's raining, wouldn't it be a good idea to bring an umbrella?

Look at a few other constructions to see how natural it is:

Since you're going to the store anyway, wouldn't you like to pick us up some ice cream?

Since our success is uncertain, wouldn't we be well advised to consider how to minimize our risks in case of a downturn?

The first clause assumes a fact, and the second balances it with a speculative counterpoint. That is grammatical, unexceptionable and, incidentally, one way to make a sentence interesting.

share|improve this answer
How about "Since you got good grades, wouldn't that mean I'm a good teacher?" – language hacker Apr 13 '11 at 10:56
@language hacker: Grammatically that works, although logically it is a case of post hoc ergo propter hoc ... Still, in that case I would prefer "if" to "since"; not sure why. – Robusto Apr 13 '11 at 11:00
I agree that "if" is better... perhaps it's because the words "since" and "mean" here both express the concept of causality, so using both is saying the same thing twice? – psmears Apr 13 '11 at 18:32

"Since it's raining" is a clause, which means the sentence should be grammatically correct without its presence (even if it might not hold much meaning). Since you can say "Wouldn't it be a good idea to bring an umbrella?" on its own, adding the clause would not make the sentence incorrect unless the clause itself was badly formed.

share|improve this answer
The conclusion is correct, but the argument is not. In general, there is a required relationship between the tenses in the main and subordinate clauses. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sequence_of_tenses#English. However, in this case, "wouldn't it" isn't really functioning as a tense, but as a polite softening of the suggestion. – Colin Fine Apr 13 '11 at 14:20

Since it's raining, isn't it a good idea to bring an umbrella?

is correct

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.