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In an email I received from my university, the following is stated:

Should you have decided to do the assignment, please send us an email.

My question is whether the inversion and usage of should is right here. To me, "If" instead of "should" would make more sense. In my research I've only found present tenses of the "should-inversion."

I understand the usage of "should" in this case is highly formal, yet the rest of the e-mail is very informal. The more I look at it, the more it seems normal to me.

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  • Have decided is a present tense (of a perfect construction). Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 9:27
  • Perhaps they feel that 'If' here is too familiar too soon, emphasises the 'you've no need to, though' overmuch (as would the present-for-future 'decide'), and smacks of unprofessionalism. Later, you're firm friends, will of course do the assignment, and know that the University are professional yet caring. // The grammar is fine (though logically it should be 'If you have already decided, or do decide over the next few days....'). Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 14:31
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    Do your assignment instead of wasting the time of this list trying to get ammunition to snipe at your university!
    – David
    Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 20:00
  • There is a brief discussion of this issue ("inversion in condition clauses") on Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… Commented May 11, 2022 at 2:13

2 Answers 2

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It has a different meaning with the perfect, so it is not a question of which is more common, but of which meaning is intended. "Should you decide..." means if you decide at some point in the future, let us know (then). "Should you have decided..." means if you already decided let us know (now).

As for the if/should question, they do have basically the same meaning. To my ear, should sounds like an official form where someone is saying "I am not allowed to put pressure on you either way, so please make up your own mind". Modern forms, where they try to make them sound less legalistic often use if and they make me cringe, but just because I am not used to it. It is valid English and means exactly the same thing. It does not favour either outcome. If you do want to favour one outcome, say "if you were to" which is a slight discouragement.

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To me, "If" instead of "should" would make more sense.

If is an option, but the original expresses the subjunctive: it is the equivalent of

If it be the case that you have (already) decided to do the assignment, ...

E.g. "If he were taller, the jacket would fit." -> "Were he taller, the jacket would fit."

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