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I went through a nice tutorial if and whether: indirect questions on Cambridge grammar just now.

Here is one of the rules in that tutorial.

We use whether, not if, directly before or not.

where "directly" is used to indicate the position of the word "whether".

Does it mean the same if I substitute "immediately" for "directly"? In other words, do the following sentence and the quotation above mean the same?

We use whether, not if, immediately before or not.

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Yes, in this case, using "immediately" instead of "directly" would not change the meaning of the sentence. This is because, despite there being nuanced differences between the words, here, their meanings overlap.

"Immediately" describes:

  1. Something happening instantly (in terms of time).

    • Example: "My wish was immediately granted." Meaning that NO TIME passed between the cause (my wish) and the outcome (it being granted).
  2. Two or more things being connected without any barrier or degree of separation (physically or conceptually).

    • Example 1: "Take the hand of the person immediately to your right." In this case, the speaker is referring to someone who is right next to you, meaning that there is literally nothing between you.
    • Example 2: "James is immediately related to the murder." Here, James is described as having a direct relationship with the murder.

"Directly" describes:

  1. There being a straight path (physically or conceptually).

    • Example: "This road will take you directly to my house." Meaning that if you remain on this road, you will follow one straight route to my house.
  2. Two or more things being connected without any barrier or degree of separation (physically or conceptually). This is a use that is shared with "immediately".

    • Example 1: "Take the hand of the person directly to your right." The meaning has not changed from the original example.
    • Example 2: "James is directly related to the murder." Again, the meaning of this example has not changed.
  3. Something happening either instantly or soon (in terms of time). There is an important distinction between "immediately" and "directly" when used to describe when something happens. "Immediately" means that something happens INSTANTLY- literally that very second. Whereas "directly" can mean something happens instantly, but it can also mean something just happens 'soon'. Basically, "directly" has a bit of a looser definition.

    • Example: "I'm leaving directly." Here, I'm saying that I'll be leaving soon, but I'm not literally walking out the door as I say this.

For your example, the thing to note is that in terms of spacial or conceptual relationships, "immediately" and "directly" mean the same thing.

Sources:

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  • Thanks for your comprehensive explanation. The position of a word relative to another is a spacial relationship, right? – WXJ96163 Mar 15 '20 at 1:18
  • No problem! I'm happy to help. Yes, that's right. – CAL Mar 15 '20 at 1:37

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