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I've been looking at conditional sentences (conditional clauses).

Every example I've see is along the lines of, "if [x] then [y]."

I've seen alternatives/substitutes for the if part:

  • were I you (instead of "if I were you")
  • on condition that
  • unless
  • were

Yet, these still follow the same pattern: "condition [x] then [y]."

Is that the only way to have a conditional?
Is it not possible to invert/switch around the structure?
Would it still be a conditional clause (or conditional sentence) if I put the condition after the occurance?

  • If he eats that, he'll be sick.
  • He'll be sick if he eats that.
  • Unless you win this round, you are out.
  • You are out unless you win this round.

If those are not conditionals, what are they?
Would they be considered as "acceptable" if I were to be editing/rewriting something, or would it be seen as bad/improper/incorrect/having a sufficiently different implication?

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A conditional clause is still a conditional clause regardless of where you put it within the sentence, which is largely a stylistic choice. –  FumbleFingers Nov 18 '11 at 16:47
    
@FumbleFingers - So "He'll be sick if he eats that." is still conditional? Fantastic. Thank you very much. (What do I need to click on to approve/acknowledge the answer?) –  theclueless1 Nov 18 '11 at 17:14
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I agree with Fumble. Putting the condition after the main clause (protasis after apodosis) as in your examples is absolutely fine and normal. It is just a bit more difficult if the condition does not start with a conjunction: I would have asked her, had she been there: here I would prefer to either add if or put the condition first. // These here are not full answers, but just comments on your question; neither of us apparently has the courage to post a full answer. But don't worry, it will come. –  Cerberus Nov 18 '11 at 17:24
    
@theclueless1: The more you post here, the more reputation points you get, which incrementally increases your options. Being a new user, you maybe can't upvote comments yet, but hopefully that will come soon (when you can do this, hovering the mouse to the left of a comment shows an uparror you can click to show approval). But already you should be able to click the uparrow on Irene's actual answer saying the same thing, to show approval. And I know you can already click on the tick mark under it, to "accept" the answer. –  FumbleFingers Nov 18 '11 at 18:01
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@FumbleFingers: If you put it that way, I'll just assume that the answer section is accessed through revolving doors. Or a staircase. Or that this here is a puddle, and you, for lack of a coat to drop, went down on all fours so that she might walk over you. Wait, now I messed it up. At any rate, I plead laziness. –  Cerberus Nov 19 '11 at 1:35
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2 Answers

Just as Fumblefingers comments, as long as there is a conditional clause (ie a subject-verb combination beginning with if, unless, etc) in a sentence, whether it follows the main clause or precedes it, it is always a conditional sentence.

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Whether you put the condition before or after is a matter of style and emphasis. Typically a sentence builds up to some sort of conclusion, so we put the thing we want to emphasize last. This is especially true if you are trying to make a point.

Compare:

If he had the courage, Bob would have asked Sally on a date.

Bob would have asked Sally on a date ... if he had the courage.

The second is more emphatic. It leaves the reader wondering for just a fraction of a second why Bob didn't ask Sally, building up a little tension. The first sentence gives the reason away immediately and so does not build any tension. This kind of subtle difference in wording and emphasis can be the difference between a simple statement of fact and an hysterically funny joke.

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