Sentence: Don't worry, I've bought an extra ticket for the show should you decide to come at the last minute.

In this sentence, is 'if you decided' also right (instead of 'should you decide', obviously)? Or do you have to use the inversion form with 'should'?


There are a few alternatives preferable to the unnecessarily awkward future-past tense of "if you decided":

  1. "in [the] case [that] you decide"
  2. "if you should decide" (a bit redundant, but still preferable)
  3. "if you were to decide"

The first (without the parentheticals) is by far the most natural expression in American English. Your original "should you decide" might be the most natural in British English.

  • Good answer. Conversationally, 'in case you decide ...' is far more common over here in the UK also. Perhaps you get a skewed sample of idiomatic BrE (a loose term) in the US. Jeeves is long gone. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 11 '15 at 13:15
  • Thanks. I can never be sure, hence the "might". I suppose that was just my way of saying I can only speak for American English. – Theresa Gray Apr 11 '15 at 13:20
  • 1
    Isn't if you decide ok here too? – Araucaria - Not here any more. Apr 11 '15 at 17:54
  • It's very informal because it's not quite correct. The word "if" is a subordinating or subordinate conjunction. Its use implies that the preceding clause is dependent on the "if" clause, i.e. I only bought an extra ticket if you decide to come. That doesn't make much sense because I already bought the ticket, and that is why we prefer "in case you decide" (though we can make sense of informalities fairly easily). Options 2 and 3 in my answer above are informal for that reason; they are however still preferable to the non-hypothetical use of the past tense ("decided"). – Theresa Gray Apr 11 '15 at 19:07
  • @Araucaria Yes, that does seem to be an interesting option too, with the meaning: if you decide (in the near future) to come, there is no need to worry because I have bought an extra ticket already. What do you think? :) – F.E. Apr 12 '15 at 3:36

"should you decide"

uses the putative should that much more than its "equivalents" accentuates the character of chance happening to a certain potential situation.

A good compact reference on "should"


You should learn it all, for it is a very special verb, with a variety of meanings.

And yes, beside the BrE, it was quite in fashion in AmE at the end of the 19C and beginning of the 20C, with great writers such as Edith Wharton and Henry James (the latter, American born, a Briton by adoption) writing about the high-society, which seemed to use then a language with a certain British bent, something that seems to have disappeared since.

Now, in terms of using backshift to the past with "if you decide" instead of the /subjunctive mood/conditional/ "should you decide," you should be aware that this is frowned at by some people for certain verbs, and my impression is that this is the case for "decide," (see the other answers :-)), even though there are plenty of examples

"if you decided" About 1,210,000 results

at Google Books, mainly applying to present/future time, say:

Bootstraps and Ladders: A Financial Outlook on Growth and ... - Page 16

Marcus Buford - 2012 If you decided to increase your saving practice to sixty dollars per month, in twelve months you would have $720 saved.

but also to past time, say:

The Anger Habit Workbook: Proven Principles to Calm the ... - Page 155 Carl Semmelroth - 2002

Perhaps at first, if you decided together to go to the movies, it felt as if both of you wanted to go. After a while you began to feel that ...

Thus, I'd check the verb in question first a bit as to the applicability of the backshift to the past to it.

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