I've read this topic about if-clause and it seems sanely to ask what is the point of if-clause + present continuous. I interest in the following case:

When they are speaking, they do something.


If they are speaking, they do something.

Does the latter sentence make a sense at all? If it is true, what are the differences between these sentences?

  • 1
    I don't understand what you are asking. The present continuous construction doesn't 'mean' anything different in a when clause or an if clause than it does anywhere else: it marks the action as continuous through the time spoken of. Jun 30, 2014 at 18:45
  • The lack of logical causation between speaking and doing something makes these sentences a bit nonsensical; they seem perfectly fine to me, they just don't really mean anything.
    – Pockets
    Jun 30, 2014 at 23:01

1 Answer 1


There's no real semantic difference that an everyday speaker would pick up on.

Both sentences make sense, but because you've used the pro-verb do in them, it will probably sound weird to most readers.

When I open my mouth, a fool starts to speak
If I open my mouth, a fool starts to speak

I'm sure that a semantician can do a better job of eliciting differences, but for the purposes of conversation, you can consider these equivalent and sensical.

The difference becomes clearer if you use then as a conjunction, since it becomes a temporal and logical relationship, respectively. However that's a tangent to your question.

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