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I have often come across this confusion when im using English. Which word ( if or whether) is to be used in what specific contexts?How do they differ in the contexts they are used in? Or are they just used interchangeably?

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They are not always interchangeable. If you are confused what to use where, here is a tip:

We generally prefer 'whether' after prepositions. Said that, don't use 'if' in such cases.

I asked my friend about if whether she had an affair.

I am only interested in if whether you are working on this project.

If there's more than one alternative, we use 'or' with 'whether'

Be specific; if whether you want to pain your house from inside or outside

While using 'if' or 'whether' take care if you are including 'or not' as another option. The 'or not' can go immediately after 'whether' or in the end, but in case of 'or not' following 'if', it is ungrammatical.

I asked Mike to find out whether or not she's coming to the party
I asked Mike to find out if she's coming to the party or not.
I asked Mike to find out whether she's coming to the party or not.

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    In American English one hears this usage frequently: I asked Mike to find out if she's coming to the party or not. "Ask him if he wants it or not."
    – TimR
    Apr 30, 2015 at 12:16
  • It's a subtle point, but in "if she's coming to the party or not", technically or not is still following if. What if we changed it to say "'or not' immediately following 'if'"? Or we could make it even simpler: "but 'if or not' is ungrammatical".
    – user230
    May 5, 2015 at 9:20
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"If" and "whether" are not always interchangeable. Use if to introduce a condition. In all other circumstances, use whether. That is the global idea, but this article goes into detail: http://www.grammar-monster.com/easily_confused/if_and_whether.htm

Use only if to introduce a condition. In all other cases use use either if or whether, that is they are interchangeable.

A condition is something that must be satisfied before something else occurs:

If it rains, bring in the tables. (If it rains = condition)

Add a point if I get the right answer. (if I get the right answer = condition)

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  • Your first sentence is correct, but reading the rest of your answer I just can't figure out when are they interchangeable. May 2, 2015 at 12:07
  • Hi @LucianSava , I quoted a short description to know when "if" and "wether" are interchangeable on my answer.
    – Josh
    May 5, 2015 at 9:02
  • Use only if to introduce a condition. In all other cases use use either if or whether, that is they are interchangeable. If you edit this way I can upvote your answer. May 5, 2015 at 10:47
  • @LucianSava Done. You are right, it sounds better.
    – Josh
    May 5, 2015 at 11:47

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