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What is a counterfactual conditional relation?



A counterfactual conditional relation is a conditional relation in which the form of expression of the antecedent and consequent marks them as imagined, nonfactual states or events.


Comrie 1986:89–90 establishes that the putative English counterfactuals do not contain the nonfactuality of either the antecedent or the consequent as part of their inherent meaning. Thus, If you gave me a kiss, I’d buy you a beer does not express the impossibility of either the kiss or the beer. Additionally, in If the butler had done it, we would have found just the clues that we did in fact find, it is clear that the consequent is factual, and factuality of the antecedent is possible.

Example (English)
  • If we were angels, we wouldn’t need police.
  • Generic
      A counterfactual conditional relation is a kind of

    Beekman, Callow, and Kopesec 1981 104


    Longacre 1983 110


    Longacre 1985 245–246


    Comrie 1986 89–90


    Crystal 1985 79–80

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