A lot of phrases sound odd or like ellipsis (also pointed out here, as elision) when "it" or any subject is left out. Like:

  1. If wrong, correct it.
  2. If intelligent, hire her.
  3. If stolen, please report it to authorities.

But for some reason, "if necessary" doesn't sound odd. As in: "I'll help you if necessary". Is there a reason, or is this ellipsis too - just something we've grown used to?

closed as primarily opinion-based by FumbleFingers, TrevorD, Jason Bassford, tchrist Mar 24 at 16:04

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  • Recipes often contain things such as (add, sprinkle with,...) sugar if liked. It's just too much trouble to spell out if you like sugar - not to mention which the recipe writer doesn't want to get bogged down over whether what matters is the recipe-following cook's preferences, or those of his/her diners. – FumbleFingers Mar 21 at 16:09
  • "if necessary" is merely short for "if my helping you is necessary." There is elision. – Gustavson Mar 21 at 19:55
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    IMO, the only reason why reduced clauses like "if necessary" or "if applicable" are more usual than the ones you mentioned under 1 to 3 is that "it" refers to the whole situation, not to a specific subject as is the case with your examples. – Gustavson Mar 22 at 9:33
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    A similar phrase exists in German, falls nötig, akin to "if needed". Latin has si necesse est, "if need be" (or rather "if be needed"). So this might well be a set phrase. Latin categorically omits pronouns if the context is clear, so that might be the reason. You shouldn't add an indefinite pronoun, if the antecedent isn't in context, though that's subjective of course (I like to ask "what is it", and many a question on SE does, too). – vectory Mar 22 at 18:47
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    The only reason that if necessary might sound better than the other forms of elision is the simply reason that it's more commonly used. The more something is used, the more natural it sounds. Why it became more common, I have no idea. – Jason Bassford Mar 23 at 16:39

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