Let’s take up today the difference between the contrastive conjunctions “even though” and “even if,” which I know that not a few writers — even professional ones — tend to use interchangeably.
I’d like to emphasize at the very outset that as a rule, “even though” and “even if” are not interchangeable. They are vastly different. “Even though” is for expressing a fact or something that’s real or true, while “even if” is for expressing a supposition or for something imagined or unreal.
The sense of “even though” is the same as that of the expressions “despite the fact that” or “in spite of the fact that,” which is an emphatic way of saying “though” and “although.” This is the sense in the sentence “Even though medical researchers have been frenetically looking for a cure for Covid-19 for many weeks now, none has been found by far.” Here, the subordinate clause “medical researchers have been frenetically looking for a cure for Covid-19 for many weeks now” presents a contrastive factual premise to the outcome that “ none has been found by far.”
The sense of “even if” is, in contrast, “regardless of what the condition might be” or “whether or not a particular condition or situation applies.” This is the sense in “Even if a cure for Covid-19 is discovered right now or in a few days, medical experts say it would take at least several weeks or months to have it approved and manufactured to treat patients downed by the pandemic.” Here, the subordinate clause “Even if a cure for Covid-19 is discovered right now or in a few days” is a conjectural condition in opposition to the desired outcome of making it available right away “to treat patients downed by the pandemic.”
Depending on the speaker’s belief or frame of mind, however, there are possible borderline cases where both “even though” and “even if” will work. Take this question: “What makes you insist on ordering a withdrawal of the Covid-19 quarantine for your province even though you cite no experts agreeing with you that it will be safe for your constituents?” By using “even though,” the questioner is convinced or thinks that the person is unwise in insisting on the quarantine withdrawal despite the absence of expert advice on its safety.
In contrast, if the questioner intends to express doubt on the basis for the quarantine withdrawal, “even if” would also be appropriate if the question is framed this way: “What makes you insist on ordering a withdrawal of the Covid-19 quarantine for your province even if the medical experts disagree with you?”
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This interesting question on preposition usage was posted on my Facebook page sometime ago:
“Hi Joe! I heard a gentleman say ‘I’m satisfied of what I’ve done in boxing.’ It doesn’t sound right to me. ‘Satisfied of’ isn’t a common construction, but why is it wrong, if it is indeed wrong? The more I hear such constructions, the more they sound acceptable to me.”
I replied that the sentence “I’m satisfied of what I’ve done in boxing” doesn’t sound right to me either. The correct usage is “satisfied with”: “I’m satisfied with what I’ve done in boxing.” This doesn’t mean though that “satisfied of” is grammatically wrong; it just so happens that “satisfied with” is the widely accepted usage.
There’s really no inherent logic in using the preposition “with” rather than “of” after the adjective “satisfied. It just happens that educated native English speakers have grown accustomed to saying “satisfied with.” In fact, if you happen to be marooned in an island where the idiom is “satisfied of” among a population of, say, 100 English speakers, you’d probably find it acceptable and sounding right in perhaps less than a year.
Next week: Using the right tense for reported speech
Visit Jose Carillo’s English Forum at https://josecarilloforum.com and on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/jacarillo. Follow me at Twitter.com @J8Carillo. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.