Sunday, March 6, 2011

Random thoughts about If I were a boy, You've got another thing coming and if clauses.


Since I wrote my last post I've been thinking about these lines from 'If I were a boy'
If you thought I would wait for you
You thought wrong
When I originally saw this, I was thinking 2nd Conditional, because I only paid attention to the first line. It was only later that I realised it didn't quite fit that pattern. In fact it's a good example of a another pattern that we sometimes use, especially when we think somebody is wrong in their opinions or thinking. This pattern is especially used with these verbs:

think, expect, believe, reckon, suppose, imagine

Here are a couple of exercises, involving some idiomatic expressions and phrasal verbs, to illustrate this pattern.


Click and drop Mouse over the relevant button for instructions.

waltz   ·   sail   ·   just   ·   believe   ·   treat   ·   what   ·   that   ·   give   ·   tidying   ·   falling

Ex 1 Fill the gaps using the words in the box above. Then

ex 1ex 2
1. If you think I'm up after you,
2. If she imagines she can just this house like a hotel,
3. If he supposes he can in here without so much as a phone call,
4. If you think I'm for that old trick,
5. If they are reckoning we'll just up without a fight,
6. If you expect me to that,
7. If 's what they're thinking is the problem,
8. If he reckoned he could through university without studying,
9. If she believes we'll give her everything she asks for,
10. If you're thinking I'm thinking,

Ex 2 Match the endings below to the beginnings above. And

Now let's look at some of those idiomatic expressions.

Ex 3 Match the idioms with their definitions. And

1. pull the other one (it's got bells on)!
2. waltz in/off, etc
3. fall for (something)
4. sail through (something)
5. bark up the wrong tree
6. have a dirty mind

Note You've got another think coming

Nowadays, this expression is often replaced by You've got another thing coming, presumably because they sound similar. This usage has no doubt increased since heavy metal band Judas Priest released 'You've got another thing coming' in 1982, but can be traced back as far as 1918. This graph shows the use (in books) of:
  • another think coming - blue
  • got another think coming - red
  • another thing coming - green
  • got another thing coming - yellow
Without wanting to fault this use with thing, the original with think, in my opinion, makes more sense as it often goes after an if clause with think, such as:
  • If you think that, you've another think coming.
  • If that's what you think, you've got another think coming.
The phrase another think coming refers back to the think in the if clause. In other words - you'll have to change your mind, because you're wrong. The expression another thing coming doesn't have this connection and so, for me at least, loses its meaning.
Moreover, when we talk of another think, we know what the "first think" was - the way you thought. But if we say another thing, we need to know what the "first thing" was for it to make sense.
Let's just look at one verse from the Judas Priest song.
  1. If you think I'll sit around as the world goes by
  2. You're thinkin' like a fool cause it's a case of do or die
  3. Out there is a fortune waitin' to be had
  4. You think I'll let it go you're mad
  5. You've got another thing comin'
In the first line we obviously have an if clause, and in fact the first two lines together make a sentence very like the ones we've just been looking at. The next three lines go together. But if we add 'If' to the beginning of Line 4, it could also stand alone as this type of sentence, with line 5 being a follow-on clause:
Out there is a fortune waitin' to be had. If you think I'll let it go, you're mad; you've got another thing comin'
My reaction is - what thing? But another think I could understand. You can read a discussion about this topic on WordReference forums. Pofessor Brians at Common Errors sees it as just that, a common error, and explains the original with think rather better than I've just done.

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