So recently I stumbled across a pair of sentences in an exercise which made me question the usage of "unless" when it is used at the beginning of the sentence.

In this post, I'd like to clarify which one of the below two sentences is grammatically correct, because the answers attached at the end of the exercise say that it is option (2):

(1): Unless Betty apologises to him, Larry will not forgive her for tearing his shirt.

(2): Unless Betty apologises to Larry for tearing his shirt, he will not forgive her.


  • 1
    Should the first say "Larry will not forgive her"? The difficulty with (1) is that you have used the pronoun before its referent, but I don't believe that's ungrammatical, merely more difficult to understand. – Andrew Leach Oct 24 '17 at 9:23
  • Both are fully grammatical, but as Andrew points out, the use of "forgive him" in the first makes its meaning quite unclear. If it's supposed to be "her" then the meaning is effectively the same (though this is not logically entailed, but only because of the real-world presumption that the act that A apologises for and the act that B forgives A for are likely to be the same). – Colin Fine Oct 24 '17 at 10:08
  • @AndrewLeach Yes, the first sentence should say "Larry will not forgive her". Thanks for the clarification! – Average Joe Oct 24 '17 at 11:05

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