Difference Between IF And WHETHER!


When do we use IF and WHETHER?

Difference Between IF And WHETHER!

🙂 When to use IF and WHETHER 🙂

1.IF and WHETHER can be used interchangeably when

a) reporting yes/no questions

  • Will you help me do the shopping? (yes/no question)
  • I am not sure if I have time for this.
  • I am not sure whether I have time for this.

b) expressing alternatives using OR

  • We don’t know if he called Jenny or Lucy.
  • We don’t know whether he called Jenny or Lucy.

NOTE: WHETHER is preferred in indirect questions with OR when there is more than one alternative.

  • They were not sure whether they should go to Italy, France or Germany for the holidays.

2. We use WHETHER (and not IF):

a) with infinitive

  • She doesn’t know whether to go to work or not.
  • We don’t know whether to help them or not.

b) after preposition

  • It depends on whether I get there on time or not.
  • He was interested in whether there were any other people at the party.

c) when WHETHER begins a clause which is a subject of a sentence

  • Whether she calls me back or not makes no difference.
  • Whether I go back home or not doesn’t matter.

d) when WHETHER is followed by OR NOT

  • I don’t care whether or not I go to the party.
  • He’ll be sad whether or not he stays at home.

e) in formal writing (even though whether and if might be interchangeable, always choose whether in formal writing)

  • Please, ask the general manager whether your idea is appropriate.
  • We ask you to establish whether the president is present.

3. We use IF (and not WHETHER)

a) in conditional sentences

  • If you jump high, I’ll give you five dollars.
  • He will help you if you promise to take care of his dog.

b) with fixed expressions : if possible, if necessary

  • Please, call grandma and ask her to help you with your homework if possible. (or if it’s possible, if that’s possible)
  • If necessary, take the money out of my wallet.

c) with even if (when talking about surprising or extreme situations)

For example,

  • He’s still going to lose even if he practices every day.
  • You’re still going to be warm even if you drink cold water.

d) with if not, if so

  • You should all have received your grades in your e-mails. If not, please call the school office.
  • Are you interested in working for us? If so, email your CV and your motivation letter.

e) with only if to express a strong condition

  • She will come to the party with me only if I promise to pick her up.
  • I will help you do the shopping only if you walk the dog today.

f) to express a polite request ( if is usually followed by modal verbs will/would and can /could)

  • If you would follow me, please?
  • If you will tell her that he’s here?

I hope it’s clear now when to use IF and WHETHER. 🙂

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