Hello,
I have a question about some text that I've written, and after sending it to our oversees branch, it returned changed (by some native english speakers).

Every single phrase that looked like this:
This test checks if a function returns correct values.

was changed in this way:
This test checks whether or not a function returns correct values.
Can someone tell me, what is it all about? Is there some real difference between these two language constructions?
Best regards,
M. Jovanovic
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M.J. wrote on 13 Jul 2004:
Hello, I have a question about some text that I've written, and after sending it to our oversees

Probably just a typo, but "overseas"
branch, it returned changed (by some native english speakers). Every single phrase that looked like this: This test checks if ... values. Can someone tell me, what is it all about? Is there some real difference between these two language constructions?

There is a stylistic difference between them. Those changes reflect the overzealous pedantry of whoever made the changes.
I would also change the "if"s to "whether"s, but not to "whether or not"s; the "or not" is already quite clearly implied in both the "if" and the "whether".
"Whether" is formal and "if" is colloquial (ie, spoken English), which is why I would use it in this case.

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor.
For email, replace numbers with English alphabet.
Hello, I have a question about some text that I've written, and after sending itto our oversees branch, it returned ... correct values. Can someone tell me, what is it all about? Is there some real differencebetween these two language constructions?

I would have changed "if" to "whether" here too. I can't offhand state a rule as to why "whether" seems more natural in indirect questions. It's also more specific, since "if" in your version is actually ambiguous. The sentence could be reinterpreted as: "If the function returns correct values, this test checks (something)."

Alan Crozier
Lund
Sweden
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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?

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

Michael West
Melbourne, Australia
Alan Crozier wrote on 13 Jul 2004:

I can't agree with this analysis. Why would anyone reading such instructions want to reinterpret the sentence so that what is obviously not a precondition becomes an initial conditional clause? I agree that "if" should be changed to "whether".

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor.
For email, replace numbers with English alphabet.
Alan Crozier wrote on 13 Jul 2004:

I can't agree with this analysis. Why would anyone reading such instructions want to reinterpret the sentence so that what is obviously not a precondition becomes an initial conditional clause? I agree that "if" should be changed to "whether".

I agree that it's unlikely with this particular sentence, but you could easily think of sentences where the "if" is gneuinely ambiguous. My misinterpretation here was malicious.

Alan Crozier
Lund
Sweden
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Michael West wrote on 13 Jul 2004:
I have a question about some text that I've written, ... Is there some real difference between these two language constructions?

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.

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor.
For email, replace numbers with English alphabet.
Alan Crozier wrote on 13 Jul 2004:
Alan Crozier wrote on 13 Jul 2004: I can't agree ... clause? I agree that "if" should be changed to "whether".

I agree that it's unlikely with this particular sentence, but you could easily think of sentences where the "if" is gneuinely ambiguous.

Yes, it seems to me that this use of "if" falls into the same category as using "as" or "since” to mean “because”.
My misinterpretation here was malicious.

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor.
For email, replace numbers with English alphabet.
Now it is all much clearer to me. Thanks everyone for your replies. :-)

Yours sincerely,
M. Jovanovic
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