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Consider:

If only it could snow in the town, my city would look amazing!

First, I would like to know is it "If only" or "only if"? which is more idiomatic? What about:

only it could snow in the town, my city ...

As another example:

only if I had that car, I would be in Hawaii now

if only I had that car, ....

Second I would like to know do I need "the" before "town"? because I've seen there is no "the" in phrases like "in town", is it a universal rule for any case?

marked as duplicate by SamBC, fred2, Hellion, Tim Pederick, choster Mar 26 at 19:38

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  • Your Hawaii example is ungrammatical. Only if... at the head of the sentence requires the tensed verb to come before the subject. It should be "...would I be..." – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 19 '16 at 14:03
  • @tromano could you please explain it more in answer and say how it differ from the first example? – Ahmad Dec 19 '16 at 14:08
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    In your first example, it would be very common to leave out any mention of the town, as we understand by "my city will look amazing" that you mean you want it to snow in that city: If only it would snow, my/the/this city would look amazing!. – 1006a Dec 19 '16 at 16:50
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Only if, only when...

are conditionals, and when they introduce the condition at the head of the sentence, subject-verb inversion occurs in the main clause, with the tensed verb coming before the subject:

Only if the light is green should you cross the street.

You should cross the street only if the light is green.

If only...

is a wish when looking forward in time (or a lament or a regret when looking backwards in time); it does not cause subject-verb inversion in the subsequent clause because the clause that follows is syntactically independent of the wish or the lament. They are logically related yet do not belong to the same syntactic structure.

If only I could scale that turret wall! I could be talking to Rapunzel.

If only I had bought the tickets sooner! We would not be sitting in the nose-bleed section of the stadium now.

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"If only .." expresses a desire for snow and the belief that adding snow would make the city look amazing. It does not prevent other events from making the city look amazing.

"Only if ..." suggests that there is no other way for the city to look amazing. However, changing the first two words of the sentence to "Only if" leave it poorly written and difficult to understand.

With regard to the "the" before town. In the sentence you give, the omission or inclusion makes no difference.

  • Thank you! Is it "in the town" or "over the town"? Also, wish you have said when "the" should be avoided before "town", and why it's not a case. – Ahmad Dec 19 '16 at 13:29
  • By the way I added another related question to my post – Ahmad Dec 19 '16 at 13:40
  • The Hawaii is the same. "Only if ..." means there is no other way to get there. "If only .." suggests a best or a desirable way. "If only I had that car I could be in Hawaii now, but my Ford Model T cannot drive on the ocean". Also, it is "in the town" because "over the town" suggests the town is completely covered, or possibly buried in snow. – AdrianHHH Dec 19 '16 at 14:18
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You can think of in town as a well-known phrase that means nearby around the current town or within the borders of the current town.

Whereas in the town refers to a possibly separate town you have mentioned and/or expect the listener/reader to know which one you mean. This can be different than the town you are currently in.

If only it could snow in the town, my city would look amazing!

So by adding the the here, you are emphasizing that the town in question is not your "current town" - perhaps the town is on the other side of where you are currently and if it snowed, it would make the city look amazing.

  • I thought "town" is central part of a city – Ahmad Dec 19 '16 at 14:29
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    @Ahmad The central part of a city might be known as the city or the town in some areas, but this is a somewhat informal usage, and can lead to confusion as to whether you are referring to a neighborhood or to the political entity or municipal corporation. City centre (BrE) or downtown (AmE) would be less ambiguous (and these are usually synonymous with central business district or CBD), but more preferable still would be the actual name of the district (e.g. Central in Hong Kong, the Loop in Chicago), as some cities have more than one center. – choster Dec 19 '16 at 16:48

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