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Writing hypotheses

A hypothesis is an idea or suggestion put forward as a starting point for
reasoning commonly found in argumentative (also known as discursive)
writing. When you write argumentative essays, you will sometimes need to
discuss something or describe a situation which is different from reality.
These are statements expressing hypotheses. Note the structures used to
express hypothetical meaning and compare that with those used to express
factual meaning or future events that are reasonably likely.

A fact (or factual meaning) is usually expressed by a finite verb clause:
       If inflation rises, the value of people's savings goes down.

A future event which is reasonably likely is usually expressed by will + bare
(Ø) infinitive in the main clause and the present simple tense in the dependent
        If interest rates rise, consumer spending will fall.

A hypothesis (or hypothetical meaning) is usually expressed by the past
tense in the dependent clause and by would + infinitive in the main clause:
       If there was unlimited supply of land, the prices of flats would go down.
       (It is also possible to use might and could instead of would)

There are other ways to express hypothetical:

   The were subjunctive
       If there were unlimited supply of land, the prices of flats might go down.

   Should + infinitive
        If the dollar should depreciate, the government would have to take

For a quick revision of statements expressing facts and hypotheses, read
p.140 - 142 in:

Leech, G. & J. Svartvik, 1994, Communicative Grammar of English,

(There are copies of this book in the Reserve Collection of the Library.)

Statements expressing factual meaning or future events can be modified by
the use of modals and adverbs to indicate various degrees of likelihood.
If you think you can benefit from a quick review of the use of modal verbs, do
some of the exercises taken from the following books.

   Speculating about the present, the future and the past (Duckworth P. 106-
   Expressing certainty and possibility (Alexander P. 162-163)

Duckworth, Michael, 1995, Grammar and Practice, Oxford Business
English, OUP. (with answer key)

Alexander, L. G., 1992, Longman English Grammar Practice for
Intermediate Students, Longman. (with answer key)

There are multiple student copies in the Student and Staff Resources Centre

Task    Read the following statements and decide which express facts (or factual
        meaning) [F] and which express hypotheses (or hypothetical meaning) [H].

        1. Hong Kong's position in the world economy will be jeopardised if
           she is unable to play a full role in the international debate on
           competition and trade policy now taking place.

        2. If the survey results were reliable, the authority should take
           immediate action to review the situation and take every possible
           measure to stop it from further deterioration.

        3. If entrepreneurial qualities are considered important, it might be
           beneficial to include relevant approaches to help learners
           assimilate an entrepreneurial spirit or skills.

        4. The findings are not conclusive. For example, if the occupation of
           the victim of privacy invasion is someone other than a teacher, the
           response may be different because the teacher occupies a special
           place in Chinese society.

        5. If our labour costs were lower, we could produce cheaper goods.