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imagine

English translation: "imagine if" emphasizes the impossibility of what is being imagined

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23:51 Jul 31, 2006
English to English translations [PRO]
Linguistics
English term or phrase: imagine
Let's imagine if we could travel through time.

Doing some proofreading. I've seen imagine followed by "if" in some contexts, but it sounds strange to me in this particular sentence. I would say "Let's imagine we could travel"
Any expert in English grammar could help me find a reason why? Seems redundant to me.
Lakasa Stnorden
Local time: 11:49
English translation:"imagine if" emphasizes the impossibility of what is being imagined
Explanation:
Mike :)

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Note added at 11 mins (2006-08-01 00:03:12 GMT)
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In this particular example, if we accept that we cannot travel through time, then there is no need for "if." However, look at the following example:

"Let's imagine we are eating in a French bistro." Now, let's compare this to "Let's imagine if we were eating in a French bistro." Note the use of this impossibility triggers the equivalency of the subjunctive in other languages, in this case the past tense. For whatever reason, when "if" is not included, as long as the past tense is not used in reference to a future event, then the implication is not that it is necessarily impossible to do, but rather it is simply not being done.

Here is another example.

Imagine you are able to travel with me to Europe next year.

By stating it this way, there is no implication of this being impossible.

Imagine you could travel with me to Europe next year.

By stating this in the past (could) in reference to the future, the meaning is the same as the sentence that follows. It is assumed impossible.

Imagine if you were to travel to Europe with me next year. Now we have two markers that are indeed redundant in reference to impossibility. However, with two, there is less chance of confusion for the listener.


Language is replete with redundancy.

Why do we have to say: There are two chairs, since "are" already shows plurality, as does the word "two" and final the plural suffix on "chair" becoming "chairs". This way, when listeners are not paying attention, they still pick up the meaning.

Selected response from:

Michael Powers (PhD)
United States
Local time: 10:49
Grading comment
Selected automatically based on peer agreement.
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer



Summary of answers provided
4 +6"imagine if" emphasizes the impossibility of what is being imagined
Michael Powers (PhD)
4 +4Conditional perhaps. I would leave it out as...Anna Maria Augustine at proZ.com
3grammatical analysis - nfg
Jeffrey Lewis


Discussion entries: 1





  

Answers


4 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +4
Conditional perhaps. I would leave it out as...


Explanation:
imagine is sufficient really.

Anna Maria Augustine at proZ.com
France
Local time: 16:49
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish, Native in FrenchFrench
PRO pts in category: 28

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Asghar Bhatti
32 mins

agree  Patricia Fierro, M. Sc.
47 mins

agree  Michael Powers (PhD): You are right, Anna Maria. It is sufficient without the use of "if". I may be overstretching to justify "if." If I am right (pun intended), it is not relevant to this example. - Mike ;)
53 mins

agree  Will Matter
1 hr

neutral  Refugio: You could leave it out, but that would be like pruning a tree out of season.
2 hrs

neutral  Caryl Swift: You can leave it out - but why? The sentence becomes more prosaic. :-)
7 hrs
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2 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +6
"imagine if" emphasizes the impossibility of what is being imagined


Explanation:
Mike :)

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 11 mins (2006-08-01 00:03:12 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

In this particular example, if we accept that we cannot travel through time, then there is no need for "if." However, look at the following example:

"Let's imagine we are eating in a French bistro." Now, let's compare this to "Let's imagine if we were eating in a French bistro." Note the use of this impossibility triggers the equivalency of the subjunctive in other languages, in this case the past tense. For whatever reason, when "if" is not included, as long as the past tense is not used in reference to a future event, then the implication is not that it is necessarily impossible to do, but rather it is simply not being done.

Here is another example.

Imagine you are able to travel with me to Europe next year.

By stating it this way, there is no implication of this being impossible.

Imagine you could travel with me to Europe next year.

By stating this in the past (could) in reference to the future, the meaning is the same as the sentence that follows. It is assumed impossible.

Imagine if you were to travel to Europe with me next year. Now we have two markers that are indeed redundant in reference to impossibility. However, with two, there is less chance of confusion for the listener.


Language is replete with redundancy.

Why do we have to say: There are two chairs, since "are" already shows plurality, as does the word "two" and final the plural suffix on "chair" becoming "chairs". This way, when listeners are not paying attention, they still pick up the meaning.



Michael Powers (PhD)
United States
Local time: 10:49
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 136
Grading comment
Selected automatically based on peer agreement.

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Will Matter: We can take it even farther and say "Just imagine if...", this almost seems to imply that what is being thought of is at the very edge of probability / likelihood BUT "Just imagine if....". Good answer, Mike.
1 hr
  -> Thank you, willmatter - Mike :)

agree  Refugio: Totally agree. The redundancy gives added emphasis as well.
2 hrs
  -> Thank you, Ruth - Mike :)

agree  xxxAlfa Trans
5 hrs
  -> Thank you, Marju - Mike :)

agree  Caryl Swift: With everything except'Let's imagine if'-that does sound a bit odd(as opposed to'Let's imagine what would happen if'-but'imagine if'-adds an extra dimension of fantasy!:-)
7 hrs
  -> Thank you, Caryl - Mike :)

agree  Alison Jenner
8 hrs
  -> Thank you, Alison - Mike :)

agree  Fan Gao
4 days
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19 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5
grammatical analysis - nfg


Explanation:
The sentence, "Let's imagine if we could travel through time" is simply ungrammatical, so the focus of analysis shifts to explaining how this particular locution came about.

It's not stated by the asker that the sentence was actually produced by a native speaker - although I don't at all doubt the possibility. Let's imagine that the sentence was naturally produced. What might its context be?

Well, it sounds like something a Mr. Wizard character would say on television in a show for children. "Let's" works to involve the audience. "imagine" is a suggestion. "if" is pulled out of the stock opening "What if...", which is the other main way to say, let's imagine. It's almost as if the speaker got caught between saying "Let's imagine (that) we could travel through time," and "What if we could travel through time?" The latter question, simply in terms of grammar, would normally need to be filled out in some such way as this: "What (do you think would happen) if we could travel through time?" But the phrase "what if" in English is so well associated with instances of imaginative thinking that it "triggers" the proper frame of mind all by itself. That is, instead of referring grammatically to a variant course of events, it moves us into the context of a possible world, in which everything operates differently - and that would be the case if we could travel through time!

Just for comparison: "let's suppose" as an opener keeps us in a context of linear or syntagmatic change. "Suppose he doesn't go through the door. What then?" What then, as distinguished from what if.

"Let's imagine we could/can travel through time." - correct.
"Let's imagine that we could/can travel through time." - correct.
"Just imagine if.." - incorrect.

In grammatical terms, "imagine" IS "if". The word if signals a condition. Since it isn't declarative, but likely counterfactual (the condition is not case), and since thinking itself depends on this ability (to reason counterfactually, or imaginatively), grammar has an elaborate system to handle things: the conditional tense.

But in semantic terms, "imagine" is a counterpart to "once upon a time". It has been shown that this latter phrase, the classic opening of a story, shapes the expectations of readers: it is the door to Faerie. Imagine, on the other hand, is the signal to let go of the way things work ordinarily. It is the opening, not of a story, but of a game, a language game in which things will not be driven along with the arrow of time in one direction only. We will be able to retrace our steps, so to speak.

Take the sentence (really an interjection): "Just imagine: what if he had not come to us!" It can be filled out and rewritten as a question, yes - but the point is that the use of the word "imagine" in effect trumps the mere counterfactual of "if", and instead of our being led along a narrow road, deducing as it were what might have happened had he not arrived, we are fascinated by an entire possible world of difference. If he had not come, everything would be different. And that is the difference between "imagine" and "if", and why we tend to reinforce "if" when we are not referring to a single set or strand of narrative implication, but to the imbrication and exfoliation of the different possible world that might have been, in his absence.

To return to the terms of the text: "imagine" says, prepare for something completely different; but "if" says, you will still need your thnking cap for this one. For in fact the hypothesis of time travel is not simply large, but infinite. It is really too big to imagine even in the possible-world attitude, and so strands of its difference will be offered to the young people, one at a time. "If X, then Y." This context of "if" is also in the penumbra. But "imagine" signals that this will not be a case in which the answer is supplied.

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Note added at 19 hrs (2006-08-01 19:39:55 GMT)
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I do my best with this squirrely font, but I see two typos: please read /the condition is not the case/ ("the" left out), and /thinking cap/ (misspelled).

Anyone ever cost out True Type?

Jeffrey Lewis
Local time: 10:49
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
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