1

Does the meaning of the sentences change/ is one of the versions incorrect?

  • I am wondering if you are looking for a car

or

  • I am wondering if you look for a car
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  • The second one is missing the "a" in front of car. If it had the "a" it'd be grammatical, and mean the same as the first, but would still sound a little off to me. Oct 21, 2016 at 18:00
  • The missing a was a typo, sorry. So the second version wouldn't be grammatically wrong? Just sound weird?
    – Michael
    Oct 21, 2016 at 18:01
  • This is very simple: there are two progressive sentences because look for a car is not a general proposition: I look for cars on Saturdays. He looks for cars when he feels good. The second sentence is incorrect. The present simple is only used for a general idea: I speak French but am not speaking French now. A basic rule in English verbs.
    – Lambie
    Oct 21, 2016 at 19:38

2 Answers 2

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You might find these examples illustrative:

"If you look for a car, you'll probably find one."
"If you're looking for a car, I can help you."

In the phrase "if you look", the word "look" is referring to something that would be happening in the future.

In the phrase "if you're looking", the word "looking" is something that is happening right now.

"I'm wondering if you plan to look for a car, soon."
"I'm wondering if you're looking for a car right now."

It doesn't make sense to say "I'm wondering if you look for a car." I don't believe that is grammatically correct.

Incorrect: "I wonder if you bat a duck."
Correct: "I wonder if you bat ducks."
(This means "I wonder if you're a person who bats ducks.")

Incorrect: "I wonder if you look for a car."
Correct: "I wonder if you look for cars."
(That means "I wonder if you're a person who looks for cars.")

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I would definitely write "I am wondering whether you are looking for a car".

The fact that "I am wondering" should not alter the fact that "you are looking" (which also requires time).

I prefer using "whether", because it is more explicit than "if".

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  • What do you mean by " more explicit" ? Nov 5, 2016 at 18:54
  • In fact, both are acceptable. I mean that "if" has a wider range of meanings, while "whether" is specifically adapted for that use case. Hence when hearing "whether" the interlocutor/reader knows instantly (or gets confirmation of) that it is an alternative. But this is my personal opinion and "whether" might be considered too formal.
    – fralau
    Nov 5, 2016 at 19:29

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