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If or Unless


Use of if and unless

Some students are not sure whether to use if or unless. The difference is, however, straightforward. This page will try to provide an explanation of these two words and show how they are used in conditional sentences.

Meaning of if and unless

If

If means on (the) condition that, provided (that), providing (that), presuming (that), supposing (that), assuming (that), as long as...

Example:

If I am free this evening, I will watch the match.

Unless

Unless means except if.

Example:

You will feel cold unless you wear a warm jacket.

If and unless in conditional sentences

Both if and unless are used to introduce conditional sentences:

Conditional Sentence Type 1:

  • If we don't hurry, we will be late for the show.
  • Unless we hurry, we will be late for the show.

Conditional Sentence Type 2

  • If he had permission from his parents, he would travel alone.
  • Unless he had permission from his parents, he wouldn't travel alone.

Conditional Sentence Type 3

  • If you hadn't suggested it, I wouldn't have phoned him.
  • Unless you had suggested it, I wouldn't have phoned him.

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