Jump to content
Linguaholic

When to use whether and when to use if?


Recommended Posts

I am having trouble getting the correct one to use between whether and if. Often I interchange them as I believe that they are perfectly interchangeable. But later, I found out that they are not and there are cases to follow when to use which, which until now is not clear to me, yet. So, when to use whether, when not to use if and when to use if, when not to use whether.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

The easiest way I could explain this is that whether is used in sentences with two or more alternatives. In other words, a decision has to be made between two or more factors. For example, "I don't know whether I want to go." If would then be used for single circumstances.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Rosa is right. I will try to give a couple of more example for you.

Examples for when to use "Whether"

"I don't know whether to wear my shoes or my boots."

"Whether you like it or not, you have to go to school."

Examples for when to use "If"

"I am not sure if I can do that."

"If you go to the concert, you will have to take your little brother."

Link to post
Share on other sites

Rosa is right. I will try to give a couple of more example for you.

Examples for when to use "Whether"

"I don't know whether to wear my shoes or my boots."

"Whether you like it or not, you have to go to school."

Examples for when to use "If"

"I am not sure if I can do that."

"If you go to the concert, you will have to take your little brother."

Oh! That's a good simplified explanation. So that means I can't use if for two choices, am I right? So if I said : "I'm having a hard time thinking if I should wear shoes or sandals" that would be wrong. I should use whether in that situation, am I right?

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...

Thank you for refreshing my memory on this subject. I don't think that I make that mistake often, as to me it's all about sentences sounding right. But that obviously comes with years of experience. Even though I have spoken English for half of my life, I am still learning new things about this very useful language.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 months later...

Oh! That's a good simplified explanation. So that means I can't use if for two choices, am I right? So if I said : "I'm having a hard time thinking if I should wear shoes or sandals" that would be wrong. I should use whether in that situation, am I right?

That's right. Only use 'whether' when presented with two alternatives. Use "If" when presenting a conditional situation.

I'm attending the party whether you are going or not. (two options presented)

I'm coming to the party if you are going. (a specific condition is presented)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting. I never thought about the difference. It's one of those rules that native speakers just pick up naturally. Anyway, going through examples in my head now... whether is more often used with the word "or", basically in "whether or not" situations. Whether is more about a choice between two or more.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think whether is best used when you only have two choices, hence the phrase "whether or not", while if is used when you have multiple options of going about it. For example, if you choose to do this or this or this, then that or that would be the outcome. Also I think whether is a bit more formal, though not entirely so.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

I am having trouble getting the correct one to use between whether and if. Often I interchange them as I believe that they are perfectly interchangeable. But later, I found out that they are not and there are cases to follow when to use which, which until now is not clear to me, yet. So, when to use whether, when not to use if and when to use if, when not to use whether.

I would say that we use whether when we are not sure of the situation and we use if when we are sure that the situation does exist.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

The words whether and if are often interchangeable. However, in some cases, like a sentence that begins with "Whether or not," is used, there are the times in which the two words cannot be interchanged. Thankfully, it's usually easy to tell in which situation one or the other should be used.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 months later...

Here are some examples of interchangeable whether/if:

The yes-no clause is introduced by the subordintors whether or if:

Do you know whether/if the banks are open?

The subordinate alternative interrogative clauses are formed with the correlatives whether...or or if...or. The subordinator is repeated only if the second unit is a full clause:

I can't find out whether/if the fight has been delayed or whether/if it has been cancelled.

HOWEVER,

If is more limited that whether. There are three examples in particular when you can use whether and not if:

1. It cannot introduce a subject clause:

Whether she likes the present (*If she likes the present) is not clear to me.

2. It cannot introduce a to-infinitive clause:

I don't know whether to see my doctor today.

*I don't know if to see my doctortoday.

3. And it cannot be followed directly by or not:

He didn't say whether or not he'll be staying here.

*He didn't say if or not he'll be staying here.

But or not can be postposed:

He didn't say if he'll be staying here or not.

Hope this helps

Link to post
Share on other sites

People in here are pretty much correct. "Whether" is between two or more options and "if" is more conditional. However, I wouldn't worry too much about it in colloquial language because native speakers do use the two interchangeably.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
×
×
  • Create New...