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In my English examination there is a sentence :

'You must leave now ..... you will be late for school.

My teacher said that the answer is 'or', but I think the answer is 'unless', and she doesn't explain much. Therefore, I can't understand correctly. Would you mind explaining specifically for me.

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    It's 'or'. It talks about the condition. If you want to use the conjunction 'unless', it should be: You will be late for school unless you leave (for it) now.
    – Maulik V
    Commented May 5, 2016 at 10:11
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    @MaulikV - great comment, it illustrates the issue nicely. Commented May 5, 2016 at 10:11
  • This condition is special one, isn't it ? Commented May 5, 2016 at 10:16
  • No, not a special one! You must run or you'll be caught by the dog....
    – Maulik V
    Commented May 5, 2016 at 10:36
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    Roughly, 'or' would have the reason first and the result second in order. In 'unless', it'll be result first and reason at second place. You must leave now (reason) or you'll be late (result). But - You'll be late (result) unless (reason) you leave now.
    – Maulik V
    Commented May 5, 2016 at 10:39

2 Answers 2

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The sentence

You must leave now or you will be late for school.

means If you do not leave now, you will be late for school. Changing the order of the clauses gives You will be late for school if you do not leave now. If ... not can often be replaced by unless, so you get

You will be late for school unless you leave now.

In other words, in order to use unless you have to switch the order of the clauses.

Or functions here to introduce a consequence. It might be clearer to you if you think of it as being "or else".

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Unless you buy a ticket, you cannot enter the movie theater.

You cannot enter the movie theater unless you buy a ticket.

unless introduces a requirement, expressed as a clause with a tensed verb.

You can also express a requirement as a noun-phrase, using without.

Without a ticket, you cannot enter the movie theater.

You cannot enter the movie theater without a ticket.

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  • It doesn't explain why "or" is correct answer. Which it is.
    – InitK
    Commented May 5, 2016 at 14:54
  • It explains why "unless" is the wrong answer. Which it is. Feel free to write your own answer, if you're more interested in setting the OP clear on "or".
    – TimR
    Commented May 5, 2016 at 14:55

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