The words if and whether are conjunctions which can be used interchangeably while reporting yes/no questions. If is primarily used when we put a particular condition in a sentence. On the other hand, whether is applied when we talk about two alternatives or situations that may happen. Let’s take a look at the examples below to understand the difference:
- Jane will reach the station if Kate is coming by train.
- I don’t know whether Kate is coming by train or by car.
In these two sentences, you might have observed that the first one is conditional, which says that Jane will go to the station to receive Kate only when she is coming by train; otherwise, not. In our next example, the subject does not know the mode through which Kate is coming, i.e. she might be coming by train, car or flight.
Content: If Vs Whether
|Basis for Comparison
|The word 'if' is a conjunction which refers to 'provided that'.
|The term whether indicates that the given statement applies, if any of the case mentioned proves true.
|To institute a conditional clause in a sentence.
|To express a choice between two options.
|With "Prepositions and to-infinitives."
|It is not used.
|It is used.
|Position of "or not"
|In the end.
|Either immediately after whether or at the end of the sentence.
|Sherin will come to the party, if Carin also comes.
|I don't know whether she will come to the party or not.
|You will lose weight easily, if you stop eating junk food.
|I am going to buy new shoes, whether you allow me or not.
|If you do not complete your homework, teacher will punish you.
|The teacher will check whether the students had completed their homework.
Definition of If
‘If’ is a conjunction which means on the condition that, provided that, or subject to. It is mainly used to add a condition (which may be real or imaginary) and its consequences in a given statement. Let’s take a glance at the points provided below, which explain the uses of ‘if’:
- To indicate that an event is conditional upon another event becoming true:
- The laptop is going to shut down if you do not charge it.
- You will get good marks in your final exams if you study daily.
- Can you tell me if this route leads to Agra?
- You can take the keys if you want them.
- In place of whether to introduce two or more options or cases:
- I am unsure if she is angry or sad after listening to the news.
- To mean although:
- She also gets hurt by your actions, even if she doesn’t express it.
- To make a humble request:
- Would you mind if I went out with friends in the evening?
Definition of Whether
Whether is a conjunction which is used in indirect yes-no questions. It is applied when we have to choose one of the two alternatives, or with a single alternative wherein the other one is implied. Now let’s take a look at the points given below to understand its uses:
- To report questions:
- My parents asked me whether I got the job.
- They asked whether Maggie cooked food.
- It can also be used to enquire or investigate:
- The auditor will check whether the documents match the details in the financial statements.
- To indicate uncertainty or doubt:
- I don’t know whether to go to Delhi or Bengaluru for further studies.
- I doubt whether she will do the task timely and efficient.
- Peter could not decide whether to have continental or Italian food for lunch.
- To say it does not matter or regardless:
- Whether or not we pass the exams, we must struggle for jobs.
Key Differences Between If and Whether
The difference between if and whether can be drawn clearly on the following grounds:
- If refers to the condition that, in the case or subject to. On the other hand, whether is used to put forth the various possibilities if something is the case.
- If is used to add a conditional clause in a sentence, whereas we use whether to indicate two discrete alternatives in the given situation.
- When it comes to prepositions and to-infinitives, whether has to be used rather than if.
- When we use “or not” with ” if, ” the position of “or not” is at the end of the statement. As against, if we are using “whether..or not”, we either use or not immediately after whether or at the end of the statement.
- We would have attended the cultural programme if we’d reached there on time.
- If you buy a watch with pocket money, then you will not have enough money to buy a bag.
- Let me know if you are coming on Monday evening.
- It doesn’t matter whether she gets admission to the college or not.
- The doctors will be asked whether they would prescribe the medicine to their patients.
- After completion of the target, the team leaders were asked whether they wanted to change their team members or continue with the same team.
How to remember the difference
One basic tip to remember the difference between if and whether is that if you are introducing any condition, you have to use ‘if’ there, but when you are talking about two possibilities, out of which one or the other can take place, then you have to use whether there.