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  1. If you ask without any background, many people are likely to assume you are just too lazy to do the work yourself.
  2. If you ask without any background, many people will likely assume you are just too lazy to do the work yourself.

Shouldn't (2) be better than (1)?

I searched for "future tense vs. present tense", but didn't find anything helpful in reference to the posed problem.

Furthermore, I found on grammar.ccc that an 'if + present tense' clause should be followed by a main clause of the form 'will + infinitive/present tense/imperative'; so, at least according to that reliable source, (1) would be wrong.

  • "Shouldn't 2 be better than 1?" Not really. Maybe because of the word "many," but not because of the verb tense. "People are likely to ..." and "many [people] will likely ..." are both perfectly acceptable. If anything, "people are likely to" (without the "many") sounds more natural. – Kevin Nov 19 '13 at 4:15
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    @Elberich, The website you link to in your edit gives examples in the 'first', 'second' and 'third' conditionals only. But as Swan in Practical English Usage (p246) states: Although these are useful structures to practise, it is important to realise that there are many different structures with if, and that they do not really divide into three main kinds. An example Swan lists of the present tense in both clauses is: If you want to learn an instrument, you have to practise. – Shoe Nov 19 '13 at 9:26
  • Both #1 and #2 versions are fine. (As to the "likely" issue: "If no one clapped last night, it is likely they didn't appreciate his performance." -- it talks about the past, not the future.) – F.E. Dec 19 '13 at 10:53
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If-clauses that predict the future are commonly followed by a main clause with will + infinitive:

If you ask without any background, many people will assume you are just too lazy ... .

What complicates the present example is the use of the word likely. This word already has a future implication so there is no need to use will too. For example:

He is likely to be late = It is probable that he will be late.

For this reason the first of the OP's sentence is perfectly acceptable.

  • Shoe, according to you, what's the reason why the answer doesn't have an upvote yet? – Elberich Schneider Nov 20 '13 at 20:34
  • @Elberich, Maybe readers of my answer did not feel that the discussion of likely in this context was helpful. Nevertheless, you might wish to know that the expression are likely to (your sentence 1) is much more common than will likely (sentence 2), as an nGram comparison shows. This could be considered supportive evidence for my contention that sentence 2 cannot be considered 'better'. Moving on from the discussion of likely, Sentence 1 uses the zero conditional (same tense in both clauses), which is a perfectly valid way of referring to inevitable consequences. – Shoe Nov 21 '13 at 6:25
  • nGram: is likely to, will likely (books.google.com/ngrams/…) – Shoe Nov 21 '13 at 6:26

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