Difference Between If and Whether

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: June 03, 2023


Difference Between If and Whether

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Sometimes if and whether are used interchangeably. It may sound correct, but it is not, as both words have different uses in different situations. Making their use in place of one another is not always right. According to grammar, the term "whether and "if" are conjunctions. They are the words used to connect two or more sentences or clauses. The other connectors in the English language are but, for, so, when, until, etc.

According to English grammar, the connectors "if" and "whether" are referred to as subordinate conjunctions. It means that these are elements used to form sentences called subordinate clauses.

Although if and whether have similar functions. This is the reason why people get confused when using if and whether in a sentence.

A lot of recognized grammarians have made various rules that say that whenever the words "if" and "whether" are used, they are used in various contexts. So they have distinct uses. The terms has its uses, although they are all interchangeable in different senses. The same goes with it, and that confusion will be solved by the various points we share in the article.

If vs. Whether

People generally fall into the trap of the misconception that they can use if and whether wherever they want in a sentence.  It is wrong to understand the difference between if and whether. They can be used in place of one another. Both words are conjunctions but have different meanings. The term "whether" is used in sentences to introduce a formal tone. Also used when alternatives are needed to be introduced. When we use "if," there are two or more chances of alternatives. To understand it better, we can use an example to say that if Sumit plays extraordinarily, his mother told him to give a cycle. In this sentence, "if" takes the position to show the context of the sentence. Another example is that he has no idea whether I should join him or not. Here, whether is used to depict that there are two choices available. That is either to join or not join. So by understanding this point, anyone can easily understand the difference between these two.

Difference between if and whether in tabular form

Parameters of comparisonIfWhether
MeaningThe meaning of "If" is provided that it explains the condition of if."Whether" It indicates and applies the given statement means that any case given is true.
ApplicationIt is used to express a conditional clause in any sentence.Whether is used to present some choice when two options are available
Position of "or not"In a sentence with "if," the position of "or not" lies at the end.The position of "or not" in a sentence can be either at the end of the sentence or immediately after the whether
Use of prepositions and infinitivesPrepositions and infinitives are not used in sentences with if.Prepositions and infinitives are used in sentences with whether.
To form a yes-or-no question.           To make an indirect question, we can use if in a sentence with one alternative.To form an indirect question, we can use whether with two alternatives.
Origin of "if" and "whether"The origin of "If" is brought from various combinations that include the English gif and also from the Germanic origin; it is related to the Dutch and Ob of German.The whether has also its origin derived from various areas that are the Old English hwæther, it is also related to the German‘ neither’ which leads to the formation of whether.
Conditional and sentenceWhen the sentence is conditional, "If" is used in the sentence.When a sentence involves a discussion and a choice, then it is used.
SoundIf we want to sound formal, then we use "if."           Whenever we have to introduce an alternative, we use it.
ExampleRohan will pick me up if Shubham also comes.I thought I would lose weight if I stopped consuming junk food.If you do not finish the task, the teacher will give you good marks.The professor will examine whether the students have finished their tasks.I have no idea whether she will attend the meeting or not.I have plans to get a new bike, whether you permit me or not.

What is the if and its uses?

When we introduce a condition, we always use 'if.' A situation must align for anything to occur. Hence, It is used in a conditional sentence. In addition to that, it may be used for indirect questions as well. As stated, the term "if" is interchangeable with the term "whether" in such cases. There can be multiple examples such as "If you call me, then I will help you." "If he had joined," this could have been saved.

Other examples of a conditional sentence can be

If it rains, I'll not go to school.

In this sentence, the "if it rains" part of the sentence is a condition. Such sentences are called conditional sentences.

Give me marks if I give you the right answer.

Here in this sentence, "If I give you the right answer" is a condition. This is one more example of such sentences.

As we know, we can use both "if" and whether to form indirect yes-or-no questions with the help of or. its use is also more common, then whether

Call the plumber of the town if you have to get your taps repaired.

A conditional clause forms a subordinate clause. Any sentence that defines the relationship between the cause of anything and its effect, or that makes any prediction or speculation about the uncertain environment to know what could happen,

 Any subordinate clause in a sentence that is not forming a sentence on its own can be said to be connected to the main clause, which indicates a complete sentence.

The if clause always shows what should occur before anything else, which is stated in the main clause. It can be at the beginning or end of a conditional sentence.

For example, If it doesn't work, we will change the plan, which means that we will change the plan.

One point is that a conditional sentence's main clause begins with an adverb. This situation usually happens in the context of science. mainly in logic, statements, or proofs. It is used to emphasize the relationship between cause and effect.

We often make errors when using if and whether in a sentence. Errors are:

We often use whether and not if before the to-infinitives:

He doesn't understand whether to select one shirt or two shirts. (This is correct.)

He says it as if he doesn't understand whether to select one shirt or two shirts. (This is wrong.)

Directly before or not, we use whether or not.

May I know whether or not you’re interested in the new internship? (This is correct.)

Saying "May I know whether or not you're interested in the new internship?" (This is wrong.)

After prepositions, we use whether or not.

What is "whether" and its use?

The term, according to the grammar, is a conjunction. It usually begins with a subordinate clause and represents an indirect question that includes two possibilities. Two alternatives are clear concepts to understand the meaning and use of the word "whether." Also, this is the only point from which the real confusion originates.

There is always a grammatical indication that shows the use of whether instead of if.

The term "whether" precedes the infinitive; it is one whether form. "To + simple verb," for instance, "I am thinking whether to make changes in our house." Here, whether is used to refer to the sense of making a choice. On the other hand, it states the condition.

All of us might have heard the phrase "whether or not." This indicates the meaning of "in any case" or whatever else is done. One more meaning that it indicates is "is the case." For instance, "He is planning whether or not he decides to come together." "Or not" is not required to immediately follow the term "whether." although it does often

No ifs, buts, ands, or whether and "if" are used interchangeably in a sentence. It is because the function word indicates indirect questions that involve implied or stated choices or alternatives, and they have different uses.

It would be the best option to use whether in place of if whenever we refer to alternatives or more choices.

Using whether after the preposition

Whenever we use the preposition We don't use if after it; we use whether instead.

Example -

We’re planning a meeting about whether the assignment should be outsourced.

Use whether before infinitives.

When we use infinitives (to + verb), only "will" is used.

Use whether as a complement or subject.

Whenever we introduce a subject or a complement in a sentence, which is preferred.

When we have to introduce a compliment or a subject in a sentence, either is preferred.

For example

The problem is whether it will work.

To explain uncertainty or doubt.

He is not sure whether to opt for the technical branch or the civil branch for his studies.

Difference between if and whether in points

  • When we have to use a conditional clause in any sentence, we have to use whether to indicate two different alternatives in the different given conditions.
  • If the meaning is that it explains a condition, The condition is explained with the help of it. On the other hand, whether it expresses and indicates the provided statement which indicates that any given case is given.
  • If and whether are used to indicate the conditional clause in any given sentence. whereas whether is in a sentence is used to explain some choice.
  • Whenever we use "if" and "whether" the position of "or not" is important. When a sentence is formed with the use of "if," then "or not" is used at the end. When a sentence is formed with "whether," the position of "or not" in the sentence is either at the end or immediately after the whether.
  • Sentences with whether are used with prepositions and infinitives. That's why it can be said that prepositions and infinitives are not used in sentences with "if." sentences with whether they are used with a preposition or an infinitive.
  • Whenever, in any sentence, we want to sound formal, we try to use "if." But when we form a sentence to introduce alternatives, then we often use whether in it.
  • A prominent significance and distinction between "whether" and "if" is that it can be used to form an indirect question. It can be used in a sentence that consists of one alternative. Any indirect question with two alternatives is correct to use with whether.
  • It is referred to the conditions of, in the case of, or in the case of being subject to. But in the case of whether It is used to explain possibilities showing up in various cases.


As we know, we are often confused when we use "if" and "whether" in a sentence because we think they can be used as convenience at any point. So it is difficult to remember the difference between these two. But to remember when to use "if" and whether we can remember that we have to use "if" in a sentence when we have to introduce a condition. But when we are talking about possibilities, we use whether instead of "if."

In this article, we have shared a lot of points to help you understand the difference between if and whether. These two words are conjunctions but have their uses. The similarities between the words make it difficult to understand and use properly in the sentence. We hope that this article will help you get a clear idea and comprehensive understanding of how these words have formed. We have also tried to explain the basic difference with the use of multiple examples of both terms. Various examples are covered under different conditions and based on that, the explanation is also given in the article.


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"Difference Between If and Whether." Diffzy.com, 2024. Thu. 29 Feb. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-if-and-whether>.

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