Whether vs If - Common Errors In English

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In this lesson we will learn how to use the words ‘whether’ and ‘if’ without any errors.


‘Whether’ is used to talk about a choice between two or more possibilities. In some contexts, it can be used in the same way as ‘if’. But ‘if’ also has other functions. It can mean a condition that can be real or hypothetical. It is also used to talk about something that might happen or be true.

Kate: Hi, everyone. Today we’ll discuss ‘if’ and ‘whether’. ‘Whether’ describes a choice of possibilities. For example: I don’t know whether or not to eat something before dinner.

Jim: So, I can also say, for example, that someone has to cook dinner, whether it’s mom or dad depends on who arrives home first.

Kate: Good example, Jim. ‘If’ can also refer to something that might happen or be true. For example, what will we do if neither mom nor dad wants to cook tonight?

Jim: Well, ‘if’ also conveys the idea of a condition. So, if they don’t want to cook, we’ll order a pizza. That’s a real possibility.

Kate: In that case, I hope they don’t feel like cooking. If I had money, I would order a pizza before they got home. That’s a hypothetical condition, I have no money.

Jim: That’s too bad. Hey, if I get a job as a pizza delivery guy, we can eat all the pizza we want.

Kate: Come on, Jim. Get real. Whether you get the job or not, you’ll only eat pizza when mom says it’s Ok. That means weekends only.

Jim: I guess you’re right. Well, anyway, let’s take a look at some people using ‘if’ and ‘whether’ in conversations.

Kate: Good idea, Jim. At least it’ll keep our minds away from pizza.

Conversation: #1

Stan: Eric, I need a plastic bag if you have one.

Eric: I am not sure whether I do or not. If I have any, they’re in this backpack.

Stan: I think we should take some extra clothes. What if it rains?

Eric: Good idea. Whether it rains or not, it’ll be cold at night.

Stan: There are plenty of beautiful beaches there. If it doesn’t rain, we can go to a different one each day if it’s warm enough.

Eric: If you can’t find the bags in that backpack, try the kitchen pantry.

Conversation: #2

Jim: Kate. What would you do if you met an alien?

Kate: Alien? I don’t know whether they exist or not.

Jim: What if they exist and you meet them?

Kate: I will probably try to run away.

Jim: Won’t you try to communicate?

Kate: Well, I may if they don’t attack me.

Conversation: #3

Eric: Stan, I would like to talk about whether you would like to go to the concert.

Stan: Sure I would, but only if Kyle comes with us.

Eric: So you won’t go if he doesn’t?

Stan: I am not sure whether I can afford to go or not.

Eric: All right. Let’s talk to Kyle and see if he wants to come.

Stan: He just got a raise. I’m sure he’ll lend me the money if I ask.

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