Even Though vs. Even If

She’s determined to search every inch of that machine (even if/even though) it’s dangerous.

Which words complete the sentence? Both choices work, right? So then what’s the difference?

I recently discovered just how tricky it can be to distinguish between even though and even if. I’ve always seen the even though as a way to express a surprising contrast, and I’ve lumped even if together with conditional statements. However, one student suggested the difference is in the time frame, giving preference to even though for past events and even if for future events. While I do see a tendency to use even if in present and future contexts, I can easily come up with a past one: even if you had told me sooner, there was nothing I could have done. Likewise, I can think of an example with even though in future contexts: Even though I won’t always be by your side, I’ll be with you in spirit.

To help students choose more accurately, I’ve given other words similar in meaning.

  • Even though is similar in meaning to although and but. As mentioned, we use it to express a surprising contrast. So my example above can be rewritten as: I won’t always be by your side, but I’ll be with you in spirit. And in the case of the washing machine, choosing even though means the woman knows it’s dangerous, but surprisingly she’s going to search it anyway.
  • Even if is similar to saying no matter what. We use it to state that a certain condition can be true, but it won’t change the outcome. The corresponding example above can be rewritten as: Your telling me wouldn’t have changed anything. There’s nothing I could have done (no matter what). As for the washing machine example, by choosing even if, we’re saying that condition of it being dangerous doesn’t matter. Whether it’s dangerous or not, she’s going to search the machine.

If you’d like to give your learners some practice with this topic, please see my even-if-even-though_handout.

Photo credit: Laundry, Washing Machines, Housewife by Ryan McGuire. Retrieved from the Public Domain at https://pixabay.com/en/laundry-washing-machines-housewife-413688/

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