I'd like to know what feeling does this expression convey.

I'm surprised they've invited me to their wedding—it's not as if I know them well.
(OED Learner's|it's not as if)

Can you tell if the speaker is happy or unhappy for being invited to the ceremony from this sentence alone?

Does this assume any sarcastic tone if it's like this:

I'm surprised they've invited me to their wedding—it's not as if I knew them well.

Does the tone of blaming and/or surprise get stronger if it's:

I'm surprised they've invited me to their wedding—it's not as if I were their old friend.

I'm asking this question because the typical translation given for this phrase in my language has very much a nuance of sarcastic or looking down or chiding on the action or words that is remarked by this word.

Thank you! :)

  • Your first two examples remind me of, for example, When they asked his nationality he said he was British - where the speaker might use present tense, since obviously he's still British at time of utterance, but in practice we tend to switch to agreement with the tense of the primary verbs (asked, said). The third example is a subjunctive usage that's increasingly going out of style today (we'd normally just use simple past was, not were). This choice of verb form has nothing to do with conveying sarcasm, disdain, or reproach in English. Aug 2 '17 at 17:28
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers ...except insofar as a speaker who dares utter "I were" will experience sarcasm, disdain, or reproach... Aug 2 '17 at 21:37

"It's not as if A is B" is a kind of "set phrase" which you can memorize as a whole. The expression usually follows an unexpected or unusual result, because the ordinary conditions to create that situation don't exist.

I'm surprised to hear he became a doctor. It's not as if he was ever a very good student.

Mary couldn't believe someone gave her flowers, since it wasn't as if she ordinarily turned any heads..

In your example sentence, the speaker is at least mildly surprised, but otherwise there is no way to tell if it's a good or a bad surprise.


I would always say it this way:

"I'm surprised they've invited me to their wedding—it's not as if I knew them well."

I don't think it's correct English to use "know" in this situation. That doesn't mean that simple present indicative is always incorrect following "as if" or "as though", but in this case, I think it should be in the past subjunctive "knew" form.

I would also not listen to the other people above who are telling you not to use "were" there and instead use "was". If you should choose to use "was" there, you will sound uneducated and stupid. I would roll my eyes at you if you said "was" where they are saying it above just as I am rolling my eyes at them right now for even insinuating it. Yes, a lot of native speakers do use "was" in your situations, but it's incorrect grammar or, at the very least, informal.

There is no change in meaning above; all of those examples are pretty sarcastic since you're telling someone this anyway. It could be understood as not being sarcastic, but it would depend on context clues. I would read it as your being surprised and almost mocking the invitation, but you could just as well be stating a fact.

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