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Hello, I have a question about some text that I've written, and after sending it to our oversees branch, it ... me, what is it all about? Is there some real difference between these two language constructions? Best regards, M. Jovanovic

"if" is more appropriately used in an if/then construct.

"If the function returns an incorrect value, then an error counter is incremented."
In this case the "then" could be omitted and still be understood, but the construct remains the same.
"if the function returns an incorrect value, an error counter is incremented."
Michael West wrote on 13 Jul 2004:

You bet there is, M.J. "This test checks if" is ambiguous. They were right. Thank them, and get it right next time.

I don't see the ambiguity here, Michael. They were only half right, anyway. "Whether" is sufficient" and "whether or not" is verbose.

Verbose? I'd use either "whether" or "whether or not" and not worry about being verbose if I chose the latter. True, "verbose" is "wordy", but "verbose" also means "impaired by wordiness". The "or not" does not impair the meaning.
"Verbose" is used when the statement is unnecessarily wordy and the unnecessary words don't add to the meaning. The "or not" adds to the meaning even though the addition is an understood-by-default addition.

If you want to use "verbose" to mean just "unnecessarily wordy", you became verbose when you added "'whether or not' is verbose" because you had already stated that "whether" is sufficient.
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Hello, I have a question about some text that I've written, and after sending it to our oversees branch, it ... values. Can someone tell me, what is it all about? Is there some real difference between these two language constructions?

Depends what the test does. If it only* checks if a function returns correct values, you're fine. If it checks if a function returns correct values AND it checks if a function *doesn't return correct values then I'd favour "whether", though I wouldn't insist on "whether or not".
John Dean
Oxford
You bet there is, M.J. "This test checks if" is ambiguous.

I don't see the ambiguity here, Michael. They were only half right, anyway.

I can see the ambiguity, for a brief instant: "This test checks if" may lead you to believe that the test checks only if...certain condition is met. The clarity of style is more accomplished with "whether" than with "if".
"Whether" is sufficient" and "whether or not" is verbose.

I agree that "or not" is redundant.In an essay of literary criticism.

But in a set of instructions, just two words of emphasis may make a big difference in comprehending the procedure.
Tony Cooper wrote on 13 Jul 2004:
(Cooper's verbosities deleted)

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor.
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Arcadian Rises wrote on 13 Jul 2004:
I can see the ambiguity, for a brief instant: "This test checks if" may lead you to believe that the test checks only if...certain condition is met. The clarity of style is more accomplished with "whether" than with "if".

If "the test checks" were a viable clause, I might agree with you. It's not, though, so I don't.
"Whether" is sufficient" and "whether or not" is verbose.

I agree that "or not" is redundant. In an essay of literary criticism. But in a set of instructions, just two words of emphasis may make a big difference in comprehending the procedure.

I guess I give the target audience a bit more credit for understanding what is intended by "whether". Maybe I shouldn't.

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor.
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On 13 Jul 2004 14:29:55 GMT, CyberCypher
Tony Cooper wrote on 13 Jul 2004: (Cooper's verbosities deleted)

It's a usage group, Franke. If you can't discuss word usage, definitions, connotations, and nuances of application, what are you here for?
Had I challenged anyone else in the use of "verbose" in that application, it might have resulted in an interesting discussion.

You teach English to people who are not native English speakers. One would assume, then, that you'd be more aware of the connotation of words than the average speaker. Yet, you range from being rigidly prescriptive in some usages to wild hyperbole in others. When challenged, you make lame excuses about being "metaphorical" or retire in a snit.
In the post in question, you are teaching a non-native English speaker that adding a clarifying phrase ("or not") is unnecessarily wordy or impaired by wordiness. The OP, if he accepts your advice, now thinks of "verbose" as a term that describes something that may or may not be needed or desired and not of something that is patently in excess of what is required.
Unfortunately, by that argument, the corrected version could be read as "Whether or not the function returns correct values, the test checks (something)". This ambiguity goes away if you just use "whether".

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Michael West wrote on 13 Jul 2004:

You bet there is, M.J. "This test checks if" is ambiguous. They were right. Thank them, and get it right next time.

I don't see the ambiguity here, Michael. They were only half right, anyway. "Whether" is sufficient" and "whether or not" is verbose.

Would you agree that "test if" and "check if" are
less idiomatic, anyhow?
The "or not" can be omitted with no loss of clarity.

"This checks a function for correct returned values" works too, if it is clear that a test or routine is the precedent of "this".

Michael West
Melbourne, Australia
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