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In Grammar Quizzes If/Whether, it says to use if to indicate one condition and whether for two conditions. I am satisfied with everything about the grammars of if/whether, except with this one.

Let me know if you get a cell phone reception. (one condition)

Let me know whether (or not) you can get a cell phone reception. (two conditions)

In the first sentence, just because there is not "can", that indicates it is only one condition. How is this true? There are two conditions, either you get a cell phone reception or you don't. Hence, why cannot I use "Whether"?

Why is it that the use or omission of "can" in that sentence will indicate either one condition or two?

I have stared at this for a long time and I still don't get the reason why in the first sentence we can't use "Whether".

Please tell me other one-condition sentences where you can only use "If" not "Whether".

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In the first example,

Let me know if you get a cell phone reception. (one condition)

the person isn't asking to be notified of a failed attempt at finding reception. They are only asking to be told of a successful attempt. Either way, only the person making or asking the statement or question is putting constraints upon the number of conditions.

The first statement could be rephrased

Let me know if you can get a cell phone reception.

and the person still only wants an answer if you are successful.

Sometimes whether and if can be interchanged. For example,

I was unsure of if it would rain or snow.

I was unsure of whether it would rain or snow.

Other times, the specific word you choose will be based upon the conditions of the statement surrounding that word.

From Grammar Girl the last two examples she gives are quite good.

Basically, use "if" when you want only ONE thing to happen/be answered/et cetera.

Use "whether" when you want MORE THAN ONE thing to happen/be answered/et cetera.

I hope that helps!

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  • Thank you for answering. But I think GrammarQuizzes states that in the sentence "let me know if you get a reception" can only mean one condition regardless of the sayer's intention. It depends on what is being said that determines either one condition or two. Sep 17 '15 at 7:29
  • Ask yourself a couple of questions before you use whither/if
    – mar29
    Sep 17 '15 at 7:33
  • What questions? Sep 17 '15 at 7:34
  • Sorry, I ran out of time... Ask yourself these two questions: 1. Is this a statement or question that is black and white? Yes or No? True or False? Use IF. 2. Is this a statement or question that the answer could be more than one thing? The answer doesn't matter? Use WHETHER. I went through the practice problems on Grammar-Quizzes and asked myself those questions each time and was able to get the correct answer.
    – mar29
    Sep 17 '15 at 7:43
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It is often not possible to tell whether a clause is interrogative (a question) or conditional.

The OP's first example is very ambiguous. The phrase "if you get reception" could be an interrogative clause, or it could be a conditional if-clause (a protasis). If it's an interrogative clause, then the sentence means:

  • Let me know: did you get reception?

If it's a conditional it means:

  • In the event that you get reception, let me know that you got reception.

This implies that the speaker does not want you to tell them if, in the end, you do not get reception.

Both of the Original Poster's examples probably involve interrogative clauses, not conditionals protases. For interrogative clauses, if and whether mean exactly the same thing. You do not need "two" of anything for an interrogative clause beginning with whether.

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