Presuppositions can give a person the illusion of choice whilst all outcomes are acceptable. In some cases they can be used to presuppose or imply something without giving the illusion of choice.

They are the linguistic equivalent of assumptions – an implicit assumption whose truth is taken for granted in communication. A presupposition must be mutually known or assumed by the speaker and listener for the statement to be considered appropriate in context.

Examples of presuppositions include:

  • Jane no longer writes fiction.
    • Presupposition: Jane once wrote fiction.
  • Have you stopped eating meat?
    • Presupposition: you had once eaten meat.
  • Have you talked to Hans?
    • Presupposition: Hans exists.
  • Will you be changing your attitude now or later today?
    • Presupposition: you will change your attitude — the only unknown is when.

An example presuppositions using ordinal numbers:

“It might not be until the second or third time you use this software until you realise just how powerful it is.”

Below are several language patterns that presuppose an outcome.

Subordinate Clauses of Time:
Where a presupposition (the statement that something is going to happen) is linked into time.

Before, after, while, during, as, since, prior, when, while, etc.

Example: “Do you want a cup of tea whilst we discuss the best package for your business?”
Example: “I’d like to go over things again before you complete the project.”

Ordinal Numerals:
Where the presupposition is linked into a numeric sequence.

First, second, firstly, secondly, etc.

Example: “You may wonder which side of your body is going to relax first.”
Example: “Firstly, before we start, lets look over last week’s minutes.”

Use of “Or”:
The word “or” can be used to presuppose that at least one of several alternatives will take place.

Example: “I don’t know if you will relax now or later.”
Example: “I want compensation in the form of a cash rebate or a credit note.”

Awareness Predicates:
These verbs which take a person’s awareness elsewhere whilst you presuppose the rest of the sentence. The only question is if the listener is aware of the point you are trying to make.

Notice, realise, become aware, find, know etc.

Example: “You will notice that your hands are getting more relaxed.”
Example: “You realise that your mind is drifting.”
Example: “Did you know that buying now is the best option for your business?”

Adverbs and Adjectives:
These types of words (describing words, for verbs and nouns respectively) can be used to presuppose a portion of a sentence. They can be used simply on their own, linked into time, or used to form a comment on a situation.

Simple Use of Adverbs and Adjectives:
Using words that describe to presuppose a portion of a sentence.

Easily, deeply, effortlessly, seamlessly, curious, etc.

Example: “How easily can you begin to relax?”
Example: “I can tell that you are thinking about your options deeply.”
Example: “Are you curious about which option is the best value for money?”

(This presupposes that both options are good value for money, that one option is the best value for money, and that you are curious about which option is the best value for money for you!)

Change of Time Verbs and Adverbs:
Using words that are linked into time (time passing, future time, etc) to presuppose a portion of a sentence.

Continue, previously, still, in the past, in future, etc

Example: “You can continue to relax.”
Example: “Are you still interested in making the right decision?”

Commentary Adjectives and Adverbs:
Use of words that offer comment on the thing that is being presupposed.

Fortunately, happily, luckily, innocently, necessarily, etc.

Example: “Fortunately, I have the solution for you.”
Example: “Luckily, you can take one away with you now as they’re in stock.”
Example: “Not necessarily, you can also pay in installments.”