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Some say unless should fill the gap and others say even if should go there. How do I tell which one is correct?

I couldn't have got to the airport on time yesterday .......... I had found a taxi.

a. even if
b. whether or not
c. as long as
d. unless
e. providing that

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  • The meaning of "even if" is different from "unless": you'll find "even if" in good dictionaries dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/even-if
    – Stuart F
    Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 12:20
  • I'm still playing with (the acceptability of) 'I couldn't have got to the airport on time yesterday unless I had found a taxi.' I think I'd prefer 'I wouldn't have got ...' though I think this is a matter of idiomaticity, a grammatical grey area. Perhaps because the actuality is left unclear. // But 'even if' works (with a different meaning, of course). Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 12:28
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    I’m voting to close this question because both alternatives (unless, even if) are perfectly valid in the cited context, but they mean completely different things, as can easily be established using any online dictionary Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 12:43
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    @EdwinAshworth: I don't think it's the "acceptability" that's at issue here. It's just that the unless version is inherently ambiguous as regards whether I actually did get there or not (where the even if alternative implies I didn't). Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 12:48
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    (c) and (e) are wrong. The rest are grammatical, though they don't mean the same things. Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 20:24

1 Answer 1

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Either even if or unless work be correct depending on the meaning of the sentence.


I couldn't have got to the airport on time yesterday unless I had found a taxi.

This suggests that you are telling it as if finding a taxi would be the only way to reach the airport and it doesn't imply whether or not you actually did find a taxi.


I couldn't have got to the airport on time yesterday even if I had found a taxi.

This one quite strongly suggests that you didn't find a taxi. It also tells us that there was no way you could've reached the airport if you found a taxi or not.

These are the only two of the five options that make grammatical sense.



This answer is really just a mish-mash of the comments on this question, I found this to be the best explanation and thought it would be useful to have a proper answer to this.

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  • I agree with your inclusion of only the two options unless and even if in your answer. The OP offers other options, none of which would make much sense idiomatically.
    – RobJarvis
    Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 13:49
  • Yes, I may add that to the answer Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 13:52

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