When do we use 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)
- 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. 🙂