Saturday, March 5, 2011

Song lesson - conditionals in If I were a Boy


One of the good things about blog stats is that you can see what search terms are being used by the people who land up on your blog. A couple of days ago, somebody from Winnipeg in Canada googled 'teaching conditionals using If I were a boy'. I had included a line from the song in an exercise about conditionals in songs, but thought that perhaps it was worth a closer look.
And it proved to be a very interesting song indeed from a grammatical viewpoint. So I've decided to have a go at doing a little lesson based on it.

Which conditional?

Ex 1. Select the correct answers.

The title 'If I were a boy' refers to:
a(n) situation   in time  
and so is the first part of a conditional.  
which is constructed with:
'if' +   in the 'if' clause , and   in the result clause.

Show suggested answer.

Verse 1 (Lines 1-8)

Ex 2. Choose verbs from the box to fill the gaps.

stick   ·   get   ·   throw   ·   go   ·   chase   ·   roll   ·   kick
1If I were a boy even just for a day
2I'd out of bed in the morning
3And on what I wanted
4And drink beer with the guys
 
5And after girls
6I'd it with who I wanted
7And I'd never confronted for it
8'Cause they'd up for me
Line 1 represents the if clause, and the rest of the verse (Lines 2-8) represents the result part, which is subdivided into three result clauses:
  • Lines 2 to 5
  • Line 6
  • Lines 7 and 8
This structure is repeated in the chorus and the second verse. The verbs that you entered are all in the form 'would' + 1st form, but with many of them the would is implied, as when we have a series of verbs, we don't have to include the auxiliary for each verb.
Note - on some lyrics sites Line 8 reads 'Cause they stick up for me . I find it impossible to tell whether Beyoncé is singing they or they'd, but I'm pretty sure that on their versions, BC Jean (co-writer of the song) and Reba McIntyre sing they'd. While they wouldn't be grammatically wrong, they'd makes more sense after I'd never ..., so I've adopted it.

Chorus (Lines 9-17)

Ex 3. What about the chorus? Fill in the verbs again.

know   ·   listen   ·   lose   ·   got   ·   feels   ·   be   ·   could   ·   taking
9If I were a boy
10I think I understand
11How it to love a girl
12I swear I'd a better man
 
13I'd to her
14'Cause I how it hurts
15When you the one you wanted
16'Cause he's you for granted
17And everything you had destroyed
Again the first line, Line 9, represents the if clause, and the rest of the chorus (Lines 10-17) represents the result part, which again is subdivided:
  • Lines 10 and 11
  • Line 12
  • Lines 13 to 17
Note - we have an interesting variation in Lines 10 and 12. The would verbs are 'delayed' by the verbs think and swear, but still keep the basic second conditional structure. This could only be done after a few verbs - think, imagine etc.

Verse 2 (Line 18-25)

Ex 4a. Choose verbs from the box to fill the gaps. One is used twice.

make   ·   turn   ·   know   ·   sleeping   ·   put   ·   come   ·   broken
18If I were a boy
19I would off my phone
20Tell everyone it's
21So they'd think that I was alone
 
22I'd myself first
23And the rules as I go
24'Cause I that she'd be faithful
25Waiting for me to home, to home
Line 18 represents the if clause, and the rest of the verse (Lines 19-25) represents the result part, also subdivided:
  • Lines 19 to 21
  • Line 22-25
Ex 4b And we have another interesting element - two subordinate clauses introduced with conjunctions.
One is to do with the result of something - Line  
and the other to do with the reason for something - Line   .
Notice that they also carry on the 'would' construction.

The chorus is repeated (Lines 26-34)

Bridge (Lines 35-39)

35.It's a little too late for you to come back
36Say it's just a mistake
37Think I'd forgive you like that
38If you thought I would wait for you
39You thought wrong
Ex 5 But we're not quite done with if structures yet, with one more on Lines   and  . The meaning is something like 'if it is the case that', and doesn't fit into the standard 1st, 2nd, 3rd pattern. See link to 'Random thoughts about If I were a boy, You've got another thing coming and if clauses' below.

Chorus reworded to reflect reality (Lines 40-50)

Ex 6a Choose verbs from the box to fill the gaps. Some are the same as before, but not all of them. One is used twice.

care   ·   listen   ·   don't   ·   wish   ·   feels   ·   got   ·   lose   ·   taking
40But you're just a boy
41You understand
42And you understand, oh
43How it to love a girl
44Someday you you were a better man
 
45You don't to her
46You don't how it hurts
47Until you the one you wanted
48'Cause you're her for granted
49And everything you had destroyed
50But you're just a boy
Ex 6b And finally we also have a future time construction (similar to a Zero or First Conditional, but using words other than if) on Lines   and  
Note - there's something a bit strange about Line 44. All the lyrics sites say Someday you understand, but this doesn't sound quite right. Does she mean Someday you'll ...? (On the original BC Jean version it sounds like you'll)

Final question - When does the song start to change from talking about a hypothetical situation to talking about the real situation? And how does the grammar help us see this?

Show suggested answer.

Answers - click on a relevant button and return to the exercise

If I were a boy was written by Toby Gad and BC Jean and copyright belongs to the writers. You can read more about it at Wikipedia

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