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I've had a doubt about when I use if and whether. I saw an phrase using whether and now I'm thinking when really use it. The phrase:

I don't know "whether" it was the burden of having to raise a large family, or his natural confidence in dealing with people, but my dad became an immediate success in his newfound profession.

Can I replace whether for if? However, when I use whether?

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The if...or and whether...or constructions are very similar, and in most cases, can be used interchangeably.

The most significant difference, to my ear anyway as a native speaker of mid-Atlantic American English, is that "whether...or" more strongly suggests an exclusive list.

So if you were to say:

Ask him if he wants to eat or dance.

Ask him whether he wants to eat or dance.

This is technically an ambiguous statement; you might be asking, "Do you want to eat or do you want to dance," or you might be asking, "Do you want to eat and/or dance, or not?" In most cases, context will make it clear which one you're asking. However, "whether...or" tends to suggest an exclusive list more than "if...or" does. So you would be slightly more likely to say:

He wants to know if he needs to buy a wristband? Well, they'll be checking at the food tables and the dance floor. So ask him if he wants to eat or dance. If so, he'll need one.

and slightly more likely to say:

Should he show up at eight or at ten? Well, the caterers get here at eight and the band gets here at ten, so ask him whether he wants to eat or dance.

This is not a hard and fast rule, and it wouldn't sound too strange to use "if" or "whether" in either sentence. In formal writing, "whether...or" tends to be preferred for both cases. Regional dialect plays a role as well.

By the way, you can (and should, in formal writing) resolve this ambiguity by repeating "if" or "whether" before each option:

Ask him if he wants to eat or if he wants to dance.

Ask him whether he wants to eat or whether he wants to dance.

If you repeat the conjunction this way, it is a strong signal that your list is intended to be comprehensive and exclusive.

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