13

When I was at university, my English teacher used to insist a lot on the difference between these two expressions, telling us that even if was to be used when introducing a hypothetical situation (Even if I knew where John is, I wouldn't tell you), whereas even though was to be used as a concession or admission (Even though I know where John is, I won't tell you).

A few years have passed since my university days, and I'm under the impression that this kind of distinction is no longer made. Even if seems to be prevailing, and even though is less frequently found either in texts or in speech. Is my feeling correct? Has the difference between the two forms been cancelled?

  • Your feeling is not correct. Have you tried substituting even if into even though I know ... I wouldn't tell you? – Kaz Feb 2 '13 at 2:58
9

I think what your English teacher told you is right, as far as it goes; but there is a middle ground it does not address, where either may be used. I imagine that very often this is what you are hearing.

The even clause may be neither hypothetical nor concessive but 'occasional'—that is, it may refer to a condition which is sometimes true and sometimes not. In such a case you might use even if or even though, because both are contextually equivalent to even when:

You should eat breakfast every morning, even if/though/when you're hung over.
Even if/though/when he's sometimes over my head, I enjoy Prof. Sartorius' lectures.

In formal contexts you would probably adjust these sentences a little to fit the conjunction more precisely:

... even though you may be hung over
Even when he's over my head ...

But those are niceties which are not required in ordinary conversation.

1

I don't think the difference has been cancelled or the meaning of those expressions has changed: from a cursory search, both still hold their meaning (even if = whether or not - but not always, note a comment below / even though = despite).

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    It should be noted that "even if" and "whether or not" can be used quite differently. Examples of the difference: "Even if I knew where John is, I wouldn't tell you." and "Whether of not I know where John is doesn't change the fact that I wouldn't tell you." – GorrillaMcD Jan 24 '13 at 0:26
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    Even if I knew where John was ..., surely? – TRiG Feb 9 '13 at 1:24
  • Even if I had known where John was, I wouldn't have told you. – Mari-Lou A Jun 16 '13 at 21:43
0

To the best of my knowledge it is still used this way exclusively. I have not heard it used anyway other then this, nor can I find a reference to such usage.

  • I cannot quote anything specific, but I'm sure I've read sentences like "Even if I don't like it, I normally go to the cinema every Saturday night." According to my teacher and you, this is wrong and the sentence should be amended into "Even though I don't like it". – Paola Jan 24 '13 at 0:03
  • That usually used in a rhetorical sense, as in "even if I hate you, I won't kill you" where it implies obvious hatred. – Mark Robinson Jan 24 '13 at 0:56
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The Touchstone series English book, Level 3, that I have explains the two this way.

  1. "Even though" is similar to "but" or "despite the fact"; therefore, when using this term in a sentence one should be able to substitute the phrase "even though" for one of the alternate words, which means you may have to change the sentence structure. Example: "I know you don't like musicals but you may enjoy this one". The word "but" was substituted for "even though" (Even though I don't usually like musicals, I loved this one.)
  2. "Even if" means "whether or not". Example: "Even if you don't like musicals, you might enjoy this one." OR, "Whether or not you like musicals, you might enjoy this one."
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    Is this a direct quote? If so, you should add blockquote formatting. – Nathan Tuggy Jul 29 '15 at 19:27

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