Saturday, May 5, 2012

Beyond 1,2,3 - Conditionals in The Little Prince

In a recent edition of GrammarGirl, the 1,2,3 system of looking at conditionals was criticised because it couldn't account for sentences like these:
  • If he died fighting, why didn’t they tell us about it?
  • If Squiggly knows the answer, he isn’t saying
These don't seem to me to be very common types of conditional, both of them meaning something like 'if it's the case that' and being examples of what I call Pseudo conditionals, where the result doesn't logically follow from the condition, which I've recently written about in - Beyond 1,2,3 - Conditionals that don't fit the system.
But it's impossible to know how common this type is unless you have access to the sort of data (and the skills to process it) that linguists have. So I thought it might be interesting to see how often these types might occur in a well known novel.
The Little Prince is known all over the world, is nice and short, and the text is available online for anyone to check that I've done this properly. I've taken every instance of sentences including if (there are about 70) and tried to categorise them.

The exercises

There are ten exercises, which all work exactly the same way. Look hard at each example and decide whether it includes a Zero, First, Second or a Third conditional. (There don't seem to be any Mixed conditionals). If it doesn't fit into any of these categories, select 'Other'. The 'correct' answers are my own interpretations, some of which are quite elastic. After each exercise you can click on 'Show my comments', to see my reasons and explanations.
I've removed twelve instances of as if constructions, such as:
  • "Oh, come, come!", as if he were speaking of something that was self-evident
as these don't work like conditionals: they don't have a condition clause and a result clause. But I've included everything else. The results are, I think, quite interesting.

Remember that a conditional statement has two clauses:

  • If you ask nicely, I'll give you a hand
  • The if clause - also known as the condition clause
    If you ask nicely,
  • The main clause - also known as the result clause.
    I'll give you a hand.

Conditional types

To be able to do the exercises, you need to know how the 0,1,2,3 system works. If you don't, click on Show how it works

Chapters 1-3

1.If all these reasons are not enough, I will dedicate the book to the child from whom this grown-up grew. (Dedication)
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
2.If one gets lost in the night, such knowledge is valuable.(Chapter 1)
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
3.If you please -- draw me a sheep! (Chapter 2)
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
4.And if you are good I will give you a string, too, so that you can tie him during the day, and a post to tie him to.(Chapter 3)
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
5."But if you don't tie him," I said, "he will wander off somewhere, and get lost" (Chapter 3)
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 

Chapter 4

1.If I have told you these details about the asteroid, and made a note of its number for you, it is on account of the grown-ups and their ways.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
2.If you were to say to the grown-ups: "I saw a beautiful house made of rosy brick, with geraniums in the windows and doves on the roof," they would not be able to get any idea of that house at all.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
3.The proof that the little prince existed is that he was charming, that he laughed, and that he was looking for a sheep. If anybody wants a sheep, that is a proof that he exists.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
4.But if you said to them: "The planet he came from is Asteroid B-612," then they would be convinced, and leave you in peace from their questions.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
5.If I try to describe him here, it is to make sure that I shall not forget him.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
6.And if I forget him, I may become like the grown-ups who are no longer interested in anything but figures...
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 

Chapter 5

1.... and that even if he took a whole herd of elephants away with him, the herd would not eat up one single baobab.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
2.If it is only a sprout of radish or the sprig of a rose-bush, one would let it grow wherever it might wish.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
3.A baobab is something you will never, never be able to get rid of if you attend to it too late.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
4.And if the planet is too small, and the baobabs are too many, they split it in pieces...
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
5.That would be very useful to them if they were to travel some day.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 

Chapters 6-7

1.If you could fly to France in one minute, you could go straight into the sunset, right from noon.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
2.A sheep-- if it eats little bushes, does it eat flowers, too?
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
3.If this bolt still won't turn, I am going to knock it out with the hammer.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
4.And if I know-- I, myself-- one flower which is unique in the world, which grows nowhere but on my planet, but which one little sheep can destroy in a single bite some morning, without even noticing what he is doing-- Oh! You think that is not important!
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
5.If some one loves a flower, of which just one single blossom grows in all the millions and millions of stars, it is enough to make him happy just to look at the stars. He can say to himself, 'Somewhere, my flower is there...'
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
6.But if the sheep eats the flower, in one moment all his stars will be darkened... And you think that is not important!
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 

Chapters 8-9

1.I think it is time for breakfast," she added an instant later. "If you would have the kindness to think of my needs.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
2.So, too, she began very quickly to torment him with her vanity-- which was, if the truth be known, a little difficult to deal with.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
3.So he cleaned out the extinct volcano, too. If they are well cleaned out, volcanoes burn slowly and steadily, without any eruptions.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
4.Well, I must endure the presence of two or three caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
5.And if not the butterflies-- and the caterpillars-- who will call upon me?
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 

Chapter 10

1....if I ordered a general to change himself into a sea bird, and if the general did not obey me, that would not be the fault of the general. It would be my fault.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
2.If he had been master of such complete authority, he would have been able to watch the sunset, not forty-four times in one day, but seventy-two, or even a hundred, or even two hundred times, without ever having to move his chair.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
3.If I ordered a general to fly from one flower to another like a butterfly, or to write a tragic drama, or to change himself into a sea bird, and if the general did not carry out the order that he had received, which one of us would be in the wrong?
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
4.If you ordered your people to go and throw themselves into the sea, they would rise up in revolution.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
5.If you succeed in judging yourself rightly, then you are indeed a man of true wisdom.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
6.If Your Majesty wishes to be promptly obeyed," he said, "he should be able to give me a reasonable order.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 

Chapters 13-17

1.It makes it possible for me to buy more stars, if any are ever discovered.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
2.If I owned a silk scarf," he said, "I could put it around my neck and take it away with me.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
3.If I owned a flower, I could pluck that flower and take it away with me.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
4.And if the recollections of any one among them seem interesting to him, the geographer orders an inquiry into that explorer's moral character.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
5.For example, if the discovery in question is that of a large mountain, one requires that large stones be brought back from it.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
6.If the two billion inhabitants who people its surface were all to stand upright and somewhat crowded together, as they do for some big public assembly, they could easily be put into one public square twenty miles long and twenty miles wide.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
7.I can help you, some day, if you grow too homesick for your own planet.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 

Chapters 20-21

1.She would be very much annoyed," he said to himself, "if she should see that..."
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
2.... for if I did not do that, to humble myself also, she would really allow herself to die...
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
3.But if you tame me, then we shall need each other.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
4.But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
5.If you want a friend, tame me...
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
6.But if you come at just any time, I shall never know at what hour my heart is to be ready to greet you...
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
7.But if the hunters danced at just any time, every day would be like every other day, and I should never have any vacation at all. (The Fox)
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 

Chapters 22-24

1.They are asleep in there, or if they are not asleep they are yawning.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
2.They waste their time over a rag doll and it becomes very important to them; and if anybody takes it away from them, they cry...
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
3....if I had fifty-three minutes to spend as I liked, I should walk at my leisure toward a spring of fresh water.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
4.I have nothing more to drink; and I, too, should be very happy if I could walk at my leisure toward a spring of fresh water!
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
5.It is a good thing to have had a friend, even if one is about to die.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 

Chapters 26-27

1.One runs the risk of weeping a little, if one lets himself be tamed...
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
2.If you love a flower that lives on a star, it is sweet to look at the sky at night.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
3.Here, then, is a great mystery. For you who also love the little prince, and for me, nothing in the universe can be the same if somewhere, we do not know where, a sheep that we never saw has-- yes or no?-- eaten a rose...
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
4.And, if you should come upon this spot, please do not hurry on. Wait for a time, exactly under the star.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
5.Then, if a little man appears who laughs, who has golden hair and who refuses to answer questions, you will know who he is.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 
6.If this should happen, please comfort me. Send me word that he has come back.
Zero    First    Second    Third    Other    
 

Results

Out of a total of 58 instances of if-constructions, I make 42 to be standard conditionals - about 70%. Of the sixteen others, two are polite requests and I would judge the rest to be pseudo conditionals, not true conditionals.
  • Zero - 9
  • First - 17
  • Second - 15
  • Third - 1
  • Other - 16 (two of which are polite requests
Remember that the whole point of the 0,1,2,3 system is to enable students to construct true conditional statements, not pseudo conditinals. So the fact we can't fit these pseudo conditionals into it is hardly a fair criticism; that's not what it's for.

Will and Won't in First Conditionals

We teach that will is not normally used in the if-clause in First conditionals, but there are some exceptions
  • If this bolt still won't turn, I am going to knock it out with the hammer.
    This is like saying 'If this bolt still refuses to turn'
  • If you will go out around in just a T-shirt in this weather, of course you're going to get cold.
    The use of will here is a comment (usually disapproving ) on somebody's habits
  • If you will follow me please, I'll take you to his office.
    A polite request
Notice these patterns in one or two of the pseudo conditionals.

If I do something it's because

  • If I have told you these details about the asteroid, and made a note of its number for you, it is on account of the grown-ups and their ways.
  • If I try to describe him here, it is to make sure that I shall not forget him.

If that's the case (or if that is true), then something is true

  • If all these reasons are not enough, I will dedicate the book to the child from whom this grown-up grew.
  • It makes it possible for me to buy more stars, if any are ever discovered.

Links

Answers

6 comments:

Mr Neu Teacher said...

Sorry, you are right! You're now credited on welearnhere blog. I would have given a link instead, but too many of my students here are just too lazy to take that one more step. Your material is excellent.

Warsaw Will said...

Thanks for that, I really appreciate it. And thanks for your kind remarks both here and on your blog.

Trang Minh said...

Dear Warsaw Will,
Thank you very much for excellent post.
If you wouldn’t mind, Could you please tell me your examples extracted from Katherine Woods' version or Richard Howard's version?

Warsaw Will said...

Good question. I've got several copies of it at home, but unfortunately, none in English. The website I got it from has closed down, but I've found the Katherine Woods version here, and all the quotes check out, so it looks like it's from the original 1943 translation.

Trang Minh said...

It's such a great website! Thank you so much!

Warsaw Will said...

My pleasure, which is literally true, as this is my hobby.