Don't touch it unless you are buying it.

Why not unless you buy it. I've seen that in an pottery shop.

Is it emphasize the idea that it is strictly forbidden to touch the goods

  • 1
    I think "buying" here means unless you intend to buy, or you are going to buy.
    – anouk
    Aug 15, 2019 at 16:08
  • English doesn't really have much of a "future" verb tense. In contexts like I will go if you go the highlighted words definitely refer to a possible future action, but native speakers routinely use Simple Present tense there (not that there's anything "wrong" with I will go if you will go, but in practice that apparently "logical" version is more likely to come from a non-native speaker). Aug 15, 2019 at 17:30

1 Answer 1


It's kind of a subtle way to imply someone is in the process of buying the item -- as if to say that if you do touch it, the storekeeper assumes that you intend to buy it.

It also implies a history where customers would pick up fragile pottery, break them, and then refuse to pay for them. The sign suggests that any physical contact with the item "seals the deal", requiring the customer to pay for the item. The shopkeeper can always allow the customer to put it back (to "let them off the hook") without paying, as long as there is no damage.

A common way to express the same idea is:

You break it, you buy it.

Side note: Naturally this "rule" is difficult to enforce, and is usually meant as a warning rather than as a threat. Actually getting the customer to pay for an item -- broken or not -- may require calling the police and subsequent legal action.

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