I wrote this sentence. (excuse me for the repeated sentence)

However, if the user somehow could specify the context necessary to apply the rule (e.g. the page sidebar),then before removing such an element, context would be considered.

How can I say such phrases more formally, maybe:

if it was possible for the user to specify ....

  • 1
    There's no need for it; could implies possibility. Aug 25, 2015 at 19:56
  • @StoneyB yes, I thought of it too, but are there situation that a formal word is needed?
    – Ahmad
    Aug 25, 2015 at 19:59
  • 1
    And "if it were possible", in case it's mostly hypothetical. Aug 25, 2015 at 20:00
  • @VictorBazarov thanks, then it is "if it were..." that suits my need
    – Ahmad
    Aug 25, 2015 at 20:05
  • @VictorBazarov Possibly consider editing your answer to include all information you've given in the comments, to increase the chance of having an answer Ahmad can fully accept. :)
    – user20827
    Aug 25, 2015 at 21:16

3 Answers 3


Assuming that it is not possible for the user to "specify the context", talking about doing that is a contrafactual situation, which calls for the subjunctive.

  • If the user were {able/allowed) to specify the context. . .


However, should the user specify the context necessary to apply the rule before removing an element, that context would be considered.

  • 3
    This answer implies that there is a mechanism by which the user can perform the actions ("Specify the context..."). The original post proposes a situation in which there is no known way to perform the action, but that it might be desirable to do so.
    – Steve Ives
    Aug 26, 2015 at 10:39

I would say somehow is not needed here, depending on the context though.

By using somehow, the writer is indicating that the user might have a difficult time doing the requested action. Also I would switch the word order to be more natural (keeping the adverb next to the verb).

However, if the user could somehow specify the context necessary to apply the rule (e.g. the page sidebar), then before removing such an element, context would be considered.

You could use possible but I don't see any benefit. could/can seems better to me.

  • And that is my purpose, because the application doesn't let him do
    – Ahmad
    Aug 25, 2015 at 20:57
  • 1
    'Somehow could' is different to just 'could'. You can say to someone (filling out a form on screen for example) "If you could select 'Free delivery'" which is a polite way of requesting someone to perform an action. However, "If you could somehow select 'Free Delivery'" which implies that Free Delivery would be a desirable outcome, but that the mechanism to select it is not known and may not be available.
    – Steve Ives
    Aug 26, 2015 at 10:43

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