Difference between 'IF' and 'WHETHER'

Can someone explain the difference between the use of IF and WHETHER?



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Hi Clark,

Many thanks for your interesting question.

There are cases in which «whether» and «if» have the same meaning.

For example:

«I don’t know whether you’ve taken all of our English tests». or: «I don’t know if you’ve taken all our English tests».

Now, you can use whether when you want to list alternatives.

For example: «I don’t know whether I’ll go to the US to continue my studies or stay in Europe».[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, question-response: Do you know when Ms. Peabody will return?[YSaerTTEW443543]

brilliant stuff, thanks Torsten.

Thanks for that info but, I still need to understand he “difference” between the two? How do i explain them to a NON native English speaker?

Hi Will141414

There is a nice write-up here about if vs whether.
. Whether vs. If

Using Whether and If

1). After Prepositions , we use only whether.

  • I haven’t settled the question of whether I’ll go back home.
  • There was a big argument about whether we should move to a new house.

2). Whether, not if, is used before infinitives.

  • They can’t decide whether to get married now or wait.

3). When a question-word clause is a subject or complement, whether is preferred.

  • Whether we can stay with my mother is another matter. - (Subject)
  • The question is whether the man can be trusted. - (Complement)
  • The question is if the man can be trusted. - Correct but less preferred.

4). If an indirect question is fronted, whether is used.***

  • Whether I’ll have time I’m not sure at the moment.

5). Whether is generally preferred in a two-part question with or.

  • The Directors have not decided whether they will recommend a dividend or reinvest the profits.

6). After verbs that are more common in a formal style, whether is preferred.

  • We discussed whether we should close the shop.

7). Whether and if both can introduce indirect questions.

  • I’m not sure whether/ if I’ll have time.

8). Yes/ No questions are reported with if or whether.

  • I don’t know if/ whether I can help you.

Note - The word IF does not always signal a conditional sentence. In such cases, GMAT prefers “whether” instead of “if”

  • I don’t know if I will go to the dance. (Incorrect)
  • I don’t know whether I will go to the dance. (Correct)
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Thats perfect!!! exactly what i needed Amy!!

Thanks a million!!

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Headline on the front page of today’s (28/9/11) Daily Telegraph:
“Victims of crime to decide if police investigate”
The headline doesn’t state what the victims are to decide, if the police decide to investigate.
If the headline had used ‘whether’ then the meaning would have been clear.

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