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I'm trying to understand the use of the Present Future, and The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (CGEL) has this example:

  • If he doesn't help me, I'm finished.

I understand that "am" is the future, but what about "doesn't help"? Is it also the future? Is "won't help me" an acceptable alternative?

Other examples from the same page:

  • If he doesn't help me, I'm finished.
  • If you don't do better next month you are fired.
  • Either he plays according to the rules or he doesn't play at all.
  • If I get it for less, do I keep the change?
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    @Lambie From CGEL. – userr2684291 Apr 14 '17 at 15:02
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    I find this "past tense used as future" usage just a little bit "casual". Compare, for example, If he insults me I'm gone, and If he insults me I'm going. The former definitely sounds rather more slangy, informal to me. – FumbleFingers Apr 14 '17 at 15:13
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    @Alexey: Your suggested if he won't help me is perfectly valid, but doesn't mean exactly the same thing. The original simply refers to the possibility that he might not help me for any reason (or feasibly for no reason at all), but if you use won't = will not this unavoidably implies that he's consciously / deliberately choosing not to help (i.e. - if he refuses to help me). – FumbleFingers Apr 14 '17 at 15:21
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    @Lambie It's more English than what you expect it is. – user178049 Apr 14 '17 at 15:22
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    They are all examples of main clauses used to refer to future time situations. "I am finished" is present tense form, but the embedded conditional clause makes it clear that the situation in the main clause has a futurate interpretation. – BillJ Apr 14 '17 at 18:23
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As BillJ points out the key is the conditional "if". Since the event hasn't happened yet, it must point to a potential future outcome. Other examples:

If I don't get that dress, there's no way I'm going to the party.

If he doesn't close that big sale, our company is bankrupt.

In both cases either the event hasn't happened, or I don't yet know the outcome of the event -- but nevertheless when it does happen (or I do find out) there will be consequences.

This construction implies the strong possibility that the desired outcome will not happen, but it may not be the fault of the person responsible. Compare these:

If Ron doesn't pick up some milk, I can't make your birthday cake.
if Ron won't pick up some milk, I can't make your birthday cake.

The first implies that Ron is expected to buy milk, but for any number of reasons, he might not. The second implies he might not do it because he doesn't want to do it.

Note also that the nuance can vary with context. For example, "If I don't get that dress" implies variously that I might not be able to afford the dress, or that it won't be available in time, or that someone else might buy it before me.

Alternate phrasing for these examples:

Either I get that dress, or I'm not going to the party.

Either he closes that big sale or our company is bankrupt.

Either Ron picks up some milk, or I can't make your birthday cake.

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