Would you tell me if there is any difference in meaning between the present simple and the future simple in the context below?

If you don't pay up, I file a lawsuit.

If you don't pay up, I will file a lawsuit.

I hear both the present simple and future simple sentence in this type sentences very often. And to me, a non native speaker, both sentences mean the same. But, my gut feeling tells me there might me a difference in meaning.

I've refered to grammar books for an answer but couldn't find it for this specific context.

  • 1
    Imho, the stylistic choice to use Present tense in such contexts adds "immediacy" to the consequence clause. It also carries a stronger sense of inevitability - as if you're citing some kind of "natural law" along the lines of If you heat water to 100°C, it boils (which to my ear sounds far more "decisive" than ...it will boil). Compare with, for example, You snooze, you lose, where you'll virtually never encounters [If] you snooze, you will lose. Commented Jun 12, 2022 at 18:04

1 Answer 1


To me, the second (I will file) is natural, except that nearly any English speaker will say I'll file, unless they are stressing "will" (I will file).

The first (I file) seems odd to me, and I suspect that you are mishearing I'll file as I file. Some people might say I file - to me that sounds colloquial and rather American.

  • "When customers don't pay, I always file a lawsuit." I think the present tense can be used in the subordinate clause if the main clause begins with "when".
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 12, 2022 at 17:41
  • I agree that with OP's specific example, a Future tense "consequences" clause is probably more likely. But there's nothing wrong with Present tense, and to my mind it's actually better if you want that consequence to sound "threatening / inevitable" rather than just a description of how you expect to react if the specified condition arises. Commented Jun 12, 2022 at 18:10
  • @Mari-LouA: with always, it's not future anyway.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jun 12, 2022 at 20:38
  • @FumbleFingers: I agree that the present sounds more thratening. It sounds like an American gangster to me.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jun 12, 2022 at 20:39

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .