By N Unnikrishnan


2015-04-21 23:50:56 8 Comments

Since "if P, Q" is grammatical, is it not the case that the "then" in "if P, then Q" is redundant?

Where P and Q are clauses.

For example, "if it rains today, the road shall be wet tomorrow" is grammatically impeccable. (Or is it not?)

Doesn't that mean that the "then" in "if it rains today, then the road shall be wet tomorrow" is redundant? I am referring to the logic that using a word would be redundant if the same meaning is conveyed without that word.

But I see that, when the antecedent clause gets too long, the occurrence of "then" serves to mark the distinction between the two clauses.

Except in that sense, can we not say that the usage "if ... then" is redundant in English, and should be replaced by "if ..." especially if the clauses are short enough?

Ah, except in programming languages, of course.

2 comments

@bcc32 2015-04-22 03:29:14

I would not consider it redundant to have if...then...

Leaving aside the point of using then to clearly mark where the consequent clause begins, the use of both if and then can serve to emphasize the causal nature of the antecedent, or to make it seem like an if and only if rather than just an if-then.

For example:

If it rains, we will stay inside.

merely provides the plan of action in the case that it rains, whereas:

If it rains, then we will stay inside.

seems to suggest that the staying inside will only happen if it rains (note the emphasis on then, which would be stressed in speech and italicized in writing).

@user143926 2015-10-22 15:53:55

bcc32's logic is fallacious. "If it rains, then we will stay inside" means that we will definitely stay inside if it rains, but rain is not a requirement for staying inside.

@Janus Bahs Jacquet 2015-10-22 16:21:47

That’s what “If it rains, we’ll stay inside” means. If you add and stress then, the meaning does it fact come closer to meaning “We will only stay inside if it rains, otherwise we will [do whatever it we’re doing] outside” as bcc32 says. This is contingent upon actually stressing the then, though, which bcc32’s answer does not mention except for italicising the word.

@Hot Licks 2015-10-22 17:56:02

The meaning is only changed if "then" is emphasized.

@bcc32 2015-10-25 21:10:56

Edited for clarity.

@Terence Kuch 2015-10-24 20:24:13

"If X, then Y" is ordinary English usage and, although slightly redundant, is unobjectionable. Two related points: (a) "If and only if X" ("iff"), beloved of philosophers, seems to me redundant for "Only if X", as well as being awkward to speak or write - or am I missing something? (b) Too often, I encounter "If then, ..." or "If, then, ... ." I know of no excuse for these. They seem to be awkward and confusing substitutions for "Then, if... ."

@Drew 2015-10-24 20:37:27

Nope. Only if is quite different from if and only if -- there is nothing redundant about the latter. P only if Q is typically translated in logic as Q implies P, not P is equivalent to Q (aka P if and only if Q, aka P implies Q and Q implies P). P only if Q is false only when Q is true and P is false. (This is the conventional interpretation for logic, but there are of course other interpretations. English is a natural language.)

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