Quiet or you die! Hold still or I’ll kill you! – present vs. future tense?

What is the difference between the future and present tense in the following sentences? Which tense is more preferred?

Quiet or you die!

Quiet or you’ll die!


Hold still or I kill you!

Hold still or I’ll kill you!


As has often been pointed out on ELL, English only really has two tenses (past, and “not-past”), so there’s really no “grammatical rule” in play here. It’s more a matter of idiomatic preferences.

One alternative phrasing I didn’t give in the above link is “If you cancel, I go instead”. Without more context, that version might look slightly odd, but in some cases present tense is actually preferred for the “consequential/subsequent action”. Consider, for example,…

When you die you go to heaven (2370 hits in Google Books)
When you die you will go to heaven (1690 hits)

It’s not easy to identify general principles about when native speakers tend not to use the modal will to indicate “future tense” – but it’s certainly true that overall we do use it more often that not.

I think will is less likely to be used in contexts where the speaker wants to emphasise the equivalence of two actions (since the first one is invariably already expressed in present tense). Thus, for example,…

Blink and you lose (63 hits)
Blink and you will lose (0 hits)

It’s worth noting that will also suggests volition and/or inevitability. To some extent, my examples can be seen as “statements”. But OP’s examples are more likely to be uttered as “threats”, in which context will is much more likely to be included. In the final analysis though, it’s normally just a stylistic choice.

Source : Link , Question Author : stillenat , Answer Author : FumbleFingers

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