what means "if" in Zero conditional sentence "If aspirins will cure it, I'll take a couple tonight"? can we replace "if" with "because" or "since" in the sentence?

  • 2
    No. if <> because. Consider. "I was walking in the woods and now have a rash from poison-ivy. If aspirin will cure it, I will take a couple tonight". Aspirin won't cure it. The speaker wonders about the possibility that aspirin might cure it. On the condition that aspirin would cure it, the speaker would take a couple aspirin.
    – TimR
    Aug 2, 2017 at 14:13
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo: If there's one thing I'm sure of, it's that when people say those first nine words they always intend them to be understood as meaning the speaker is 100% certain that the statement which follows is true. Aug 2, 2017 at 14:29
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    @FumbleFingers: First nine words? Are you thinking of If music be the food of love, play on?
    – TimR
    Aug 2, 2017 at 14:54
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo: I certainly used to often be thinking of those nine words! Until I discovered password management / auto-generation software, I often had Give me excess of it - or at least nine words to get me started as my "password hint" for what I thought of as the relatively unguessable/secure password IMBTFOLPO. With a nod to Lewis Carroll, my other hardy perennial was TBATSTDGAGITW. Aug 2, 2017 at 15:58
  • @FumbleFingers: Now you'd need to mix case, use least one number and a special character (though not one of the forbidden special characters). WSw3MA?!
    – TimR
    Aug 2, 2017 at 16:20

2 Answers 2


Although in my comment above I flatly rejected the notion that if means because, I do think it possible, in certain contexts, to understand if as "Since they say..." or "Since you say" or "Since it is said" or "Let's assume it's true".

That doesn't rise to equating if with because, but it does show a willingness on the part of the speaker to go along with an idea, to grant that something may be true.

I have such a hangover from the New Years party!
— Here, have some whisky. You know what they say, "Hair of the dog".
If whisky will cure this headache, sure, I'll have some.


Substituting "because" or "since" would alter the meaning.

The word "because" contains the word "cause" and identifies a cause. The information that aspirin cures what he is suffering from does not cause the speaker to take aspirin, instead he may choose to take aspirin. So saying "because" is a poor representation of the decision-making process.

The word "since" means "starting from". Used here metaphorically, it means that the speaker starts with a fact (aspirin cures his malady) and procedes to action (taking aspirin). This implies that he accepts the ability of aspirin to cure his malady as a fact.

Instead the speaker has used "if" because he does not yet fully accept that aspirin is a cure for his malady. He is saying what his course of action will be if he becomes convinced.

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