In this lesson we’ll continue to explore the words used to introduce adverb clauses and how those clauses are commonly used in English. Specifically, we’ll be looking at clauses that express relationships of contrast and condition. Check out the previous blog if you’re not familiar with the basics of adverb clauses, and stay tuned for the next blog where we’ll deal with clauses that express time relationships.
Even though can be used to introduce adverb clauses when the outcome of a particular action or event is unexpected:
Even though the roads were covered in ice, I drove to work.
You might expect me to stay home when the roads are bad. In this instance, however, I decided to risk the icy roads and drive to work. Compare this with because from the last lesson, which expresses an expected result:
Because the roads were covered in ice, I didn’t drive to work.
Here I made the decision you would expect from someone who lives in a state that does not normally get much snow or ice. I decided going into work was not worth the risk of driving on ice covered roads.
While can be used in English to express a direct contrast. An adverb clause introduced by while is the same as saying “X is exactly the opposite of Y.” A while adverb clause can also mean “during that time.” We’ll get to that particular usage in the next lesson. For now, here are a few examples of while in its direct contrast role:
Brian is tall, while Jen is short.
Jen is short, while Brian is tall.
While Brian is tall, Jen is short.
While Jen is short, Brian is tall.
Note that all four of these examples have the exact same meaning. The nature of the contrasting relationship is the same. Also note that while clauses showing direct contrast usually include a comma, even when the while clause comes second.
Adverb Clauses of Condition
Adverb clauses of condition (often called if clauses) present possible conditions. The main clause expresses the result or results. The following words can be used to introduce adverb clauses of condition: if, even if, unless, whether or not, in case, and only if. Here is an example of each in action and an explanation of its specific connotations:
If it snows tomorrow, I will work from home.
If the condition of snowing falling occurs, the result will be that I will choose to work from home.
Even if it snows tomorrow, I will drive to work.
Whether or not it snows tomorrow, I will drive to work.
When you use these conditional clauses, you express the idea that the result does not depend on the condition. My decision to drive to work is independent of any possible chance of snowfall.
Unless it snows tomorrow, I will drive to work.
Adverb clauses introduced by unless are equivalent to saying “if it is not/does not.” Unless it snows = if it does not snow.
I will work from home tomorrow in case it snows.
In case expresses the idea that something probably will not happen but that there is still a possibility that it might. It essentially means “if by chance this should happen.” If you’re unsure about the certainty that something might happen, you can include should to emphasize that uncertainly: I will work from home tomorrow in case it should snow.
Class will be canceled only if it snows.
Only if implies that there is only one condition that will cause a particular result. Note that when only if begins a sentence, the subject and verb of the main clause are inverted. No commas are used when the only if clause comes before the main clause.
Only if it snows tomorrow will class be cancelled.
Shortened “if” Clauses
In situations where the meaning of an if clause can be understood from the context of the conversation, it is sometimes not necessarily to include the full clause. For example, you can use the shortened version of a clause when the sentence immediately before it refers to ideas that would be expressed in the full clause:
Are you an artist?
If so / If you are, admission is to the gallery is free.
If not / If you aren’t, admission to the gallery is $10.
If so and if you are have the same meaning as “if you are an artist.” If not and if you aren’t are the same as saying “if you are not an artist.”