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In the past, some experts wondered if Tut died in a chariot crash.

Can I use whether to take the place of "if" in this sentence?

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    Yes, you can. It means the same thing.
    – Drew
    Feb 18, 2014 at 6:24
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    In you sentence, you can use either if or whether. Feb 18, 2014 at 6:31

2 Answers 2

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The replacement is always tricky! It depends on the context. The meaning may change entirely if we interchange if and whether in all cases. Here is the general rule -

Use whether to show that there are two possible alternatives and use if if you have a conditional sentence.

For example:

In the past, some experts wondered whether Tut died in a chariot crash or from food poisoning.

In that case, we use whether, because the sentences is discussing two alternatives. However, in your case, it's interchangeable.

Useful information here.

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If expects a yes/no answer and whether expects the answer to be one of two alternatives.

For example:

Experts want to know whether Tut died in a chariot crash or falling from his horse.

They know he died in one of these two ways, and they want to know which.

In other words, the options are

  • he died in a chariot crash, or
  • he died falling from his horse

Experts want to know if Tut died in a chariot crash or falling from his horse.

They want to know whether he died in one of these two ways (not caring which), or whether he died in some other unspecified way.

In other words, the options are

  • he died in either a chariot crash or falling from his horse, or
  • he neither died in a chariot crash nor falling from his horse

More examples:

I asked X if he had a cat or a dog and he told me he did.
I asked X whether he had a cat or a dog and he told me he had a cat.

In your sentence, because you have only one alternative, you can use either if or whether; they're interchangeable.

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