Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

In English grammar, the following pattern is regarded as a wrong pattern.

My parents will send me to a mental hospital if I will kill someone.

share|improve this question
2  
"My parents will send me to mental hospital if I kill someone" and "My parents will send me to mental hospital if I will kill someone" parse differently. The latter implies that you'd be sent to the mental hospital if you follow their wish to kill someone; the former says they'll send you there if they find out. –  user730 Dec 14 '10 at 8:12
2  
In this case, you could say "My parents will send me to a mental hospital if I want to kill someone." –  Eldroß Dec 14 '10 at 8:24
1  
See, the "will" implies determination. To use another example, there's a difference between "I will drown" and "I shall drown". Probably you want to use "shall" if no determination comes into play. –  user730 Dec 14 '10 at 8:31
1  
xport: as I said, look at the inverted form of the sentence. "If I kill..." versus "If I will kill..."; the latter has definite intent, while the former may or may not. –  user730 Dec 14 '10 at 8:33
1  
No, because "If I will..." and its variant "If I'll..." crop up somewhat frequently in usage. I don't know who wrote your TOEFL book... –  user730 Dec 14 '10 at 8:42

1 Answer 1

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The sentence "My parents will send me to a mental hospital if I will kill someone" is not grammatically wrong, but it sounds awkward and probably does not convey the meaning you have in mind. The meaning of "if I will kill someone" can vary with context:

  • "if it is true that I will kill someone"
  • "if I intend to kill someone"
  • "if I agree to kill someone"

None of these options works particularly well for the sentence in question. Compare with the following sentences, which (to my ears at least) sound perfectly normal:

  • "If you won't clean up your room, I won't let you have any dessert."
  • "If you'll be good, I'll give you a present."
  • "If the machine won't work, I won't waste my time trying to use it."
  • "If you'll just listen to what I have to say, I think you'll change your mind."

But I take it you mean "My parents will send me to a mental hospital if I kill someone", which can be re-worded as "In the event that I kill someone, my parents will send me to a mental hospital". This is known as "first conditional". Not all languages do this the same way. In Latin, for example, this is called "future more vivid" and takes the form "future + future" instead of English's "present + future".

share|improve this answer
2  
You've expressed it better than I seem to have. +1. –  user730 Dec 14 '10 at 9:05
    
Thank you @Mitch and @J.M. I get new useful info from both of you. –  xport Dec 14 '10 at 9:17
    
@Mitch - I bet my life you have kids. –  sje397 Dec 14 '10 at 11:24
1  
@sje397 Sorry to disappoint and cost you your life, but I actually don't have kids! But I can see why one would think so. :) @J. M. Are you Filipino? I'm half Filipino. Salamat! –  Mitch Schwartz Dec 14 '10 at 12:03
1  
The sentence, "If you'll be good, I'll give you a present." sounds wrong to me, but I'm not sure why. "If you're good..." sounds better. –  Steve Melnikoff Dec 14 '10 at 12:23

Your Answer

 
discard

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.