the difference between words: if and whether

Last week, one of my readers asked me to write about the difference between “if” and “whether”, so here it is.    🙂

We use “if” when we want to talk about imagining a certain situation. In these cases, “if” can be placed either at the beginning or in the middle of the sentence. For example:

If I won a lot of money in the lottery, I’d buy a big house and travel all over the world.

I’d buy a big house and travel all over the world if I won a lot of money in the lottery.

If I were you, I wouldn’t do that.

I wouldn’t do that if I were you.

If I decide to go out tonight, I’ll give you a call.

I’ll give you a call if I decide to go out tonight.

We can use both “if” and “whether” when we want to talk about the possibility of a certain condition being true or not. For example:

I need to find out if Ryan is coming to the party.

I need to find out whether Ryan is coming to the party.

I need to find out whether or not Ryan is coming to the party.

I need to find out whether Ryan is coming to the party or not.

Nancy didn’t tell me if she likes her new job.

Nancy didn’t tell me whether she likes her new job.

Nancy didn’t tell me whether or not she likes her new job.

Nancy didn’t tell me whether she likes her new job or not.

As you can see, we often use “or not” when we use the word “whether”. It’s not absolutely necessary for the sentence to make sense, but it’s a very natural way to speak. It can be placed after “whether” or at the end of the sentence.

Finally, we use “whether” when we want to talk about deciding between two or more options. It is possible to use “if” in these situations as well but, in my opinion, the word “whether” sounds more natural. For example:

Whether you go to university or not, I’ll always be proud of you.

If you go to university or not, I’ll always be proud of you.

I don’t know whether I should have the chocolate cake or the apple pie for dessert.

I don’t know if I should have the chocolate cake or the apple pie for dessert.

I hope that is clear to everyone and especially to my reader who requested it.

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2 Comments »

  1. tk Said:

    wow! Thank you!


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