40

I have the following sentence:

If T had still been alive, there is the great possibility that either T or C ...

My teacher says that the word "then" must appear after the comma, but I think that it's implied and unnecessary. Who is right?

  • 40
    I think your teacher was speaking of Visual Basic, not English :) – b.roth Dec 13 '10 at 16:17
  • 36
  • 3
    I was always told not to put in "then" when writing documentation as it made it look too much like the code. – Brian Hooper Dec 13 '10 at 17:38
  • 3
    You could start saying this instead: "If, parenthesis, T had still been alive, end parenthesis, curly brace, there is the great possibily that either T or C ..., end curly brace." Just to annoy your teacher [especially if he knows programming]. :) – Mateen Ulhaq Dec 18 '10 at 1:53
  • 2
    It would be interesting if an answer could explain when "then" is to be preferred and when it is not; there is more to it than "it is not required". – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Mar 11 '11 at 18:11
68

It is not necessary to use then to introduce the consequence of the if clause:

If you build it, they will come.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

If I give you five dollars a week, you'll have over $250 by the end of the year.

All those are grammatically correct and clear (even the one with ain't, which I threw in for a grin.).

| improve this answer | |
  • 38
    "If you think this answer is useful, please upvote it." :) – user730 Dec 13 '10 at 16:20
  • 2
    Robusto is correct. Frequently, at least in modern American usage, "then" is associated with someone is being serious or a little upset. e.g. "If you keep drinking, then I want you out of my house." or "If you ate the last banana, then you should have bought more!" – leoger Dec 13 '10 at 18:53
  • +1 Absolutely correct. The "then" is often implied in "if" clauses. – Satanicpuppy Dec 13 '10 at 21:38
  • 2
    @J.M. If not, then don't. ;) – Mateen Ulhaq Dec 18 '10 at 1:55
  • 1
    As said here @muntoo, the "then" can (usually) be removed with no loss of clarity: "If not, don't" ;D – user730 Dec 18 '10 at 2:16
10

You can easily answer this backwards.

Consider

I will go, if you go.

I can simply flip it and say

If you go, I will go

I don't see myself obligated to write "then" in the second sentence!
If that is true, then I should have "then" in the first sentence, too! Your teacher is probably trying to come up with a reason why he took points off.

| improve this answer | |
  • 3
    What a mean teacher. – Mateen Ulhaq Dec 18 '10 at 1:56
  • 1
    Do those sentences need commas (- especially the first one)? – WAF Feb 20 '11 at 14:48
  • 1
    @WAF The first sentence does not require a comma. – WendiKidd Jul 1 '12 at 18:17
9

You. He/she is just being pedantic.

| improve this answer | |
  • 6
    Isn't overly pedantic redundant? Wait, was that pedantic of me? – webbiedave Dec 13 '10 at 17:50
  • @webbiedave: possibly. :) – haylem Dec 13 '10 at 18:08
  • 3
    It does not seem to me that he/she is pedantic, but he/she is just wrong. – Tsuyoshi Ito Dec 17 '10 at 11:40
  • @TsuyoshiIto Thoug it seems that you can indeed use "then". See e.g. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conditional_sentence. It's just that the daily usage usually isn't like that. – xji Jul 24 '18 at 19:36

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.