So I've heard some (I don't know what to call) non-conditional Ifs, and I've been trying to figure it out how they work. It's not like the first time I get troubles with conditional sentences, I always kept thinking about them time and time, but I couldn't find any answer for some of them, some like when you need to (let me clarify with an example) :

I came there to see if you're okay.

As you clearly know, there's no such a grammatical sentence out there at least as far as I know. To my knowledge there are 4 of them and the one I just took an example of, is way different from the four.

The main question of mine is to get to know if there's any other kind of if or if-like sentences (in everyday English) ?!

  • The if in your example applies to you're ok - they may be ok, or they may be not ok. That's still conditional.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 11:28
  • according to the four conditional sentences, it should have been something like "I came there to see if you'd be okay" ? or what ? I can't get it. @Lawrence Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 11:32
  • Please add a link to the 4 conditionals and ping me again to take a look at them.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 11:35
  • Those are clear, aren't they? They're zero, first, second and third conditionals. Which one do you think my example is closer to ? @Lawrence Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 11:37
  • 2
    If the if could me replaced with whether... or not, it could be considered as non-conditional, e.g. I went there to see whether you are okay or not. I am not sure if you understand me = I am not sure whether you understand me or not. But remember, grammar books all differ in what to call each conditional.
    – user140086
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 11:40

3 Answers 3


What you seem to be talking about here is the so called "biscuit conditional", from J.L. Austin's famous example "There are biscuits on the sideboard if you want them"

There is an important difference between a BC and 'normal' conditional. If we look a 'normal' conditional such as the barbecue will be cancelled if it rains, the barbecue being cancelled becomes true only if the condition of "it rains" becomes true. This is what makes it conditional.

In a BC such as there is beer in the fridge if you want some, assuming that the speaker spoke truly there is beer in fridge if you want it, and there is still beer in the fridge if you don't want it. In other words, the beer in the fridge is always true. It is not linked to a condition, so a BC is not conditional.

So why do BCs exist, if all they do make an assertion? Why not just say *there is beer in the fridge"? The usual answer is that it is a hedge against being irrelevant or inappropriate, effectively: "I don't know if you want beer of not, but if you do it is in the fridge".

There are some arguments against this explanation though, so it is not cut and dried yet.

  • Nice links. Conditionals are my favourite topic! (But Devin's sentence is just an example of a subordinate interrogative clause functioning as the Complement of see - where if is an interrogative word, not a conditional one). Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 19:46
  • A true programmer puts two glasses on his night stand - a full one in case he wants to drink when he wakes up and an empty one in case he doesn't.
    – A.S.
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 20:06
  • I consider the BC a thing of logic alone and nothing about grammar at all. See also: BlessedGeek on this page.
    – Kris
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 9:56

There are two types of if in English. The first is if one found in conditional sentences. This is not the same if as we find in the Original Poster's sentence.

There is a second, very important if, which has nothing to do with conditionals at all. It is an interrogative word, a question word, which we use in subordinate interrogative clauses. We use it to introduce embedded yes/no questions. There is a second, similar word to if, the word whether. The Original Poster's example is not a biscuit conditional or a relevance conditional - it is not a conditional at all. It is a sentence with an embedded question inside it. We could use the word whether instead in this example:

  • I came here to see whether you are OK.

This sentence means

  • I came here to see: Are you OK?

So, in short, in English we have a conditional if and an interrogative if. The Original Poster's sentence uses an interrogative-if (question-if).

Hope that's helpful!

  • Please see my comment at RoaringFish
    – Kris
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 9:56
  • @Kris Hmm, what does that have to do with embedded questions? Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 12:04
  • There are two types of 'if' according to Austin, and that is what is usually taught to students, but there are other points of view. Here, for example, they propose three types of 'if' covering nine functions. (aclweb.org/anthology/E85-1032.pdf) Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 15:24

All "if" predicates are conditional. Calling one of them non-conditional-if is rather oxymoronic.

The question has its answer in information science, particularly logic in linguistics.

The difference between the two is the placement of the conditional-test in the sequence of events.

  1. -

    if (event A) 
    then {action B}
    else {action C}
  2. -

    function isEvent(B)
      action A { discover the event }
      if (event is B)
        return true
        return false

In 2nd case, an action is executed to find out what event happened, and if the event that happened is as expected, and to report the truth of the expectation to the decision maker.

The decision maker had deployed the function isEvent(expectedEvent) to report the conditional truth of the matter.

  • It's now even worse, I'm not here to make it more complicated that's what you did. Could you just make it simpler by some examples ? -I'm kinda poor at programming, you know- Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 12:23
  • This is not "programming". This human decision logic, panned out into its detailed micro-decisions. Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 12:25
  • No, not all "if" statements are conditional. If you say "there is beer in the fridge if you want it", there is beer in the fridge. It is not conditional on anything. Assuming, if course, that the utterer wasn't lying. Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 12:28

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