I'm a little intimidated asking this on this website, being an engineer, but I've wondered this often the past few months so I wanted to ask. It seems that whenever "if" is used, then it almost always turns the sentence into a conditional. Sometimes "then" is directly stated, other times it is implied. When can you use if and it not be conditional? While listening to a book on tape, I heard something like "Another benefit is that you will make forward progress, if languid." Here, if seemed to mean "despite being". Any other examples you can think of?

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    There exists what some call a "pseudo conditional": If you're thirsty, [then] there's beer in the fridge. Of course there's beer in the fridge whether you're thirsty or not. Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 3:50
  • "If" also occurs commonly as a subordinator in interrogatives, e.g. "He asked me if I was going to the concert" / "I wonder if he has read my report yet".
    – BillJ
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 6:25
  • This is an interesting question because of the fundamentally conditional nature of the word “if”. To all voters: consider keeping it open.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 6:27
  • I assumed from the question that the OP is familiar with the various ways if is used when a condition is involved and was interested in these other uses. Yes, if can be used as in If you're thirsty... (I'm supposing/offering -- I don't know) and also If/given that you're thirsty (you've made it clear)..
    – DjinTonic
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 12:55

1 Answer 1


Yes, if has other uses/meanings:

if (conjunction)

Asked if the mail had come
I doubt if I'll pass the course

Even though : although perhaps
An interesting if untenable argument

And perhaps not even
Few if any changes are expected
— Often used with not
Difficult if not impossible

If anything
On the contrary even : perhaps even
If anything, you ought to apologize m-w

If can also be a noun, as in There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it!

  • It might be useful to point out that your first two examples are interrogatives.
    – BillJ
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 6:28
  • He didn't know if the mail had come, for example, isn't a question; nor is I don't know if I'll pass the course.
    – DjinTonic
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 9:09
  • "If the mail had come" and "if I'll pass the course" are subordinate interrogative clauses (embedded questions).
    – BillJ
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 12:29
  • Why? The fact is that those "if" expressions are interrogatives, as I said. Do you disagree?
    – BillJ
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 12:57
  • The first has a sort of embedded question by virtue of the if, but there is no question mark at the end. The sentence itself isn't an interrogative. I doubt if I'll pass the course IMO isn't an embedded question. You could say I'm "questioning" myself, but it's not much different from I doubt that I'll pass the course.
    – DjinTonic
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 13:02

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