According to OLAD, we can't use 'unless' in the third conditional, i.e. if we know that something hasn't happened or that something is not true, we should use 'if... not' instead.
What do you think?
I disagree with the first part of your post "We can't use 'unless' in the third conditional', but I completely agree that "We can't use 'unless' for things that we know to be true". In fact, some grammarians are against using 'unless' entirely in the second or the third conditional, but I am not from that school. I see that using 'unless' in the second or the third conditional is grammatically correct, but just seems very complicated. In fact, this takes me to one of my earlier posts here when I had a discussion with Amy about this particular point and this was her reply:
"I'd say it may well be more common to find 'unless' in a type 1 IF-sentence, but there is certainly is nothing that prevents the use of 'unless' in type 2 or type 3 conditionals."
Type 2: He wouldn't cancel such an important meeting unless he was sick.
Type 3: He wouldn't have fired Jim unless he'd had a very good reason.
I also still remember the following example in an old post:
- I wouldn't eat that food unless I was really hungry. (David and Okaasan assured that it is perfectly fine and very natural to say).
- Marin Hewings in 'Advanced Grammar in Use' says:
"However, we use 'if .....not', but not unless when the 'only if' implication doesn't apply: If it wasn't the best performance of Hamlet I've seen, it was certainly the strangest." And adds:
Hello again. What about the following sentence? I think that it is not correct, right?
- The sea will become polluted unless we stop dumping oil and rubbish into it.
Yes, I agree with you. Although I know that it is mentioned in one of our old exams, I see that it isn't well-written. It is quite clear from its meaning that we do throw rubbish into the sea, so, in my opinion, it should be like this:
- The sea will become more polluted if we don't stop dumping rubbish into it. (Meaning: It is one of the ways to stop its pollution).
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