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Если уж ты заговорил о Бельгии, Швейцарии, то покажи мне хоть одного шотландца или ирландца, не владеющего английским.

I usually associate "уж" or "уже" with the temporal sense "already", but in this specific instance, it does not seem to fit.

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You can think of the combination если уж (=since) here as a result of a transformation from simply если (=if). While the meaning 'since' is clear enough from the context even without уж, the addition of it makes that sense clear even without the context. Technically, you can still consider уж a short version of '[if] it's already happened that...'.

There's an even stronger (but a bit more colloquial) Russian expression than если уж: раз (уж), which carries the meaning of since even in absence of уж, which just adds some emphasis.

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  • Hi. Thanks for mentioning "раз уж". You use "раз уж" like this, correct? : "It will be easy enough, (раз уж) since I've already been living here for five years." – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Feb 6 '18 at 10:38
  • And as for "если уж": "It will be easy enough, (если уж) if you've already been living here for five years." === "It will be easy enough, (если уж) since you've been living here for five years." – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Feb 6 '18 at 10:41
  • @alone-Zee если/раз уж is very seldom (or maybe never) used with adverbials of time, in your sample sentence Russian would require так как to mean since – Баян Купи-ка Feb 6 '18 at 16:24
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I usually associate "уж" or "уже" with the temporal sense "already", but in this specific instance, it does not seem to fit.

True. The most common setting to use this expression is something like

"Если уж он зашел в этот магазин, [то] он купит то-то и то-то."

"Если уж ты слил всю заварку чаю, [то] будь добр заварить свежую."

Here the addition of "уж" puts special emphasis on the "Если ... [то] " ("If ... then ...") pair. Depending on context/intonation it can be expression of annoyance, emphasis of necessity and other things. It also may imply that the condition (if ... part) is rare and if it happens at all, the conditioned part (to ... part) happens for sure.

In the particualr example in your question "уж" imply that Irish and Scottish people virtually always speak English, the speaker dares you to prove otherwise, and it has clear consequence for some situation with Belgium/Sweden.

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