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WHETHER vs. IF (1)

21 / 10 / 2008

WHETHER vs. IF (1): meaning and examples

Good morning.

Today we are going to begin to answer a questions that one of our Daily Vitamin users asked us some time ago:

Dear Matthew. I hope you are very well. ¿Podrías explicar la diferencia que existe entre IF and WHETHER? Best regards. (Josep Ma. Terrer)

Here is a brief explanation of the difference between if and whether, based on the Oxford Dictionary of Usage and Style.

Use if for a conditional idea and whether for an alternative or possibility.

--> Let me know if you'll be coming to the party.
(This means that I want to hear from you only if you're coming.)

--> Let me know whether you'll be coming to the party.
(This means that I want to hear from you about your plans, whether you decide to come or not.)

Today and tomorrow we will give more details about the use of these words. We will start with the cases where if and whether are often interchangeable.

Following are cases where you can use whether or if.

1. Whether and if can both introduce indirect questions.

--> She's not sure whether / if she'll vote for Obama or McCain.

2. Whether and if can both be used to answer yes and no questions.

-->Can you help me, please?
-->I don't know if / whether I can help you. I'll let you know.

In cases where both whether and if can be used, whether is generally considered more formal, and in some cases more correct.

--> We discussed if we should open tomorrow. (correct, but informal)
--> We discussed whether we should open tomorrow. (more formal)

Tomorrow we will look at cases where only whether can be used.

If you have any questions about today's Daily Vitamin, please post them in the Daily Vitamin Plus! forum section on our website (

Enjoy the rest of your day!