2

I know that if and when are conditionals and you don't say "If I will" OR "when I will".You use present to talk about future:

When I become a millionaire, I will go to Paris

But what if I actually want to talk about the present

When I get money, I spend it instantly
Or
When I get tired, I become very ill-tempered

Are the above sentences correct? Do I have to use "whenever" in such scenario?

  • What makes you think that "when" is conditional? – BillJ Aug 9 '19 at 16:27
5

Using whenever in OP's examples always strongly implies that the "conditional / hypothetical" scenario referred to has happened more than once in the past (and could be expected to happen again in the future).

You can use plain when in the above context, but this version could also be used to refer to some expected future situation that's never happened before.

Using real-world pragmatics (which actual situations are more likely?) it would be easy to simply say that only when works with the "millionaire" example. But obviously there are at least some people (Donald Trump comes to mind) who have become millionaires more than once in their lives.


Note that to some extent, using a future tense after when implies the "hasn't happened before" context, so given the alternatives...

1: When I get money, I spend it instantly
2: When I get money, I will spend it instantly

...we naturally tend to interpret #1 as having the whenever sense (past and future), and #2 as referring to a single anticipated future event. But be aware that sometimes, perfectly competent native speakers will use #2 even if they intend the whenever sense (it's really just a relatively uncommon stylistic choice).

  • So "when" in "when i get money ,i spend it instantly" is as correct as "whenever" ,even in formal writing ? – Prof-Wiz Aug 10 '19 at 13:07
  • Absolutely - no native speaker would ever dispute that. The area where some native speakers might disagree is in contexts where it's not contextually obvious whether the "trigger event" is a single [future] event, or something that might have already occurred repeatedly, and speaker uses an explicit future tense to refer to the reaction to that trigger. Such as When he wins the jackpot at the local bingo hall, he will buy drinks all round. Some people will say that can only refer to a one-off future event, but other (perfectly competent) native speakers may disagree. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Aug 10 '19 at 13:28
2

When(ever) I get money, I spend it instantly.

When(ever) I get tired, I become very ill-tempered.

The -ever forms are preferable. They mark the phrases as being non-referential: there is no reference to any particular time.

Your examples can be glossed as "Every time I get money I spend it / "Every time I get tired, I become very ill-tempered.

The "every" interpretation expresses multiple situations.

1

Yes, they are correct. See the example sentence under definition 1c of when. Even if used as a conditional, you can use the present tense (see defintion 2, same link). Rather than focusing on "future or present", you should decide by whether the action is likely to happen repeatedly.

You are likely to receive money every month, and you are likely to get tired all the time, so you use the present tense in those sentences. However, you are unlikely to become a millionaire repeatedly, hence becoming a millionaire is a very specific and unique event for you (in the future apparently), and the future tense is the better choice.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.