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This question already has an answer here:

As an Example, I want to refer to this Wikipedia article where there are many conditional sentences. Some of them drop the "then", some of them use it. When I change that (drop it where it was used or add it where it was dropped) then some still sound correct, but some sound a little odd, though all of them are still grammatically correct.

Originals:

  • If you heat water to 100 degrees, it boils.
  • If the sea is stormy, the waves are high.
  • If it's raining here now, then it was raining on the West Coast this morning.
  • If it's raining now, then your laundry is getting wet.
  • If it's raining now, there will be mushrooms to be picked next week.
  • If he locked the door, then Kitty is trapped inside.

Changed:

  • If you heat water to 100 degrees, then it boils.
  • If the sea is stormy, then the waves are high.
  • If it's raining here now, it was raining on the West Coast this morning.
  • If it's raining now, your laundry is getting wet.
  • If it's raining now, then there will be mushrooms to be picked next week.
  • If he locked the door, Kitty is trapped inside.

Questions:

  • Is there a term for dropping "then" in conditional sentences?
  • Are there any guidelines on when it can be dropped and when it must be retained?

EDIT:
There is an existing question ( Can I use an "if" clause without "then"? ) but that is more of an "YES/NO" type of question and it has been answered with "YES". Here, the question "When" in terms of guidelines : When it is useful to drop ; When it is useful to retain.

marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, Edwin Ashworth, Ellie Kesselman, Drew, Tushar Raj May 20 '15 at 19:07

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    I think it's a bit strong to speak of "dropping" the word then, since it's never really required in the first place (except to help parsing of complex constructions, or to add emphasis). – FumbleFingers May 19 '15 at 16:34
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    (a) one can say that the then is optional, or that it's deleted in some cases and not in others. It amounts to the same thing. (b) Not really guidelines; if it sounds right to them, native speakers will say it, and they all have slightly different vocabularies and grammars, because they've encountered different constructions in different contexts. This is part of why we can recognize people's styles and voices; we're all slightly different. So, if it sounds weird without then by all means include it; or if you want an extra syllable, or a few more milliseconds to figure our what to say. – John Lawler May 19 '15 at 16:35
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    There is a markedness, an instructionality, that is connoted by the then. Stressing the word (and the following statement) adds a 'You can take my word for it', whether this is to make a teaching point or to counter opposition. But stressing the statement can work equally well. – Edwin Ashworth May 19 '15 at 18:32
  • @EdwinAshworth , +1 , I think grammatically both are fine, both forms have a fair usage , Dropping or retaining is optional , but the point you make is one key Difference : "instructionality" or "stressing". – Prem May 19 '15 at 18:53
  • EdwinAshworth & JohnLawler , thanks for your comments. I have added an answer based on your comments. – Prem May 19 '15 at 19:10
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Discussing with @EdwinAshworth (and reading all other comments & references) , I suddenly got a good examples where not dropping the "then" is useful, because of the stress.

Consider :

Boy : Can I go and play ?
Mother : If you have completed your homework, then you may go.

Novice Monk : Can I get enlightenment within 1 year ?
Master Monk : If you can fit 10 years into 1 year, & grow 10 years older in 1 year, & perform 10 years worth meditation in 1 year, then you can easily get enlightenment within 1 year.

In all other cases, "then" is totally optional, with no change in meaning either way. Drop it , if that form sounds good; Use it , if that form sounds good. Both forms are grammatically correct and both forms are commonly used.

Occasionally we come across "then and only then", where the first "then" is still optional:

If you complete your homework, then and only then you can go play.
If you complete your homework, only then you can go play.
If you complete your homework, then you can go play.
If you complete your homework, you can go play.

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