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Conjunctive Adverbs (#6), by Dennis Oliver

Conjunctive Adverbs (#6):
Joining Sentences with Unless
 

Conjunctive adverbs join sentences, not parts of sentences.
In choosing a conjunctive adverb, the relationship between
the sentences to be connected is very important.

The conjunctive adverb unless essentially means "if not";
it's used when the second sentence shows the result if the
first sentence doesn't happen:

 

1.  

You need to hurry. Otherwise we'll be late
for work.

You need to hurry; otherwise we'll be late
for work.

     
2.  

Be ready in five minutes. Otherwise I'll leave
without you.

Be ready in five minutes; otherwise I'll leave
without you.

     
3.  

I have a lot of work to do. Otherwise I'd go
to the movies with you.

I have a lot of work to do; otherwise I'd go
to the movies with you.

     
4.  

You have to have a Bachelor's degree and two
years' work experience. Otherwise you can't
be admitted to the MBA program.

You have to have a Bachelor's degree and two
years' work experience; otherwise you can't
be admitted to the MBA program.

     
5.  

Bob isn't having problems. Otherwise
he would've called us.

Bob isn't having problems; otherwise
he would've called us.

Notice that there is no comma after otherwise.

 

Special Note:

Sentences such as those above may also be joined with
if not and unless, but the punctuation is different:

1.  

If you don't hurry, we'll be late for work.

We'll be late for work if you don't hurry.

Unless you hurry, we'll be late for work.

We'll be late for work unless you hurry.

     
2.  

If you aren't ready in five minutes, I'll leave
without you.

I'll leave without you if you aren't ready
in five minutes,

Unless you're ready in five minutes, I'll leave
without you.

I'll leave without you unless you're ready
in five minutes.

     
3.  

If I don't have a lot of work to do, I'll go
to the movies with you.

I'll go to the movies with you if I don't have
a lot of work to do,

Unless I have a lot of work to do; I'll go
to the movies with you.

I'll go to the movies with you unless I have
a lot of work to do.

     
4.  

If you don't have a Bachelor's degree and two
years' work experience, you can't be admitted
to the MBA program.

You can't be admitted to the MBA program
if you don't have a Bachelor's degree and two
years' work experience,

Unless you have a Bachelor's degree and two
years' work experience, you can't be admitted
to the MBA program.

You can't be admitted to the MBA program
unless you have a Bachelor's degree and
two years' work experience.

     
5.  

If Bob isn't having problems, he won't call us.

Bob won't call us if he isn't having problems.

Unless Bob is having problems, he won't call us.

Bob won't call us unless he's having problems.

 

Notice that unless and if not use commas, not semicolons
or periods (full stops). Notice also that there is no comma
when unless and if not are in the middle of a sentence.

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