whether / if

Is there any slight difference between 'whether' and 'if'?

When I'd like to use these words in reporting questions and expressing doubts, do I have to choose 'whether / if' properly depending on the situation? [:^)]

Many many thanks for your help in advance.


.......Ah........should I have said 'depending on the situationS' ?....... Thanks again for your help....!
If and whether, of course, always imply uncertainty. You can generally use if or whether when you are reporting yes/no questions. It doesn't matter which you choose:

"Can you take care of Tommy for me?
~ I don't know yet whether / if I shall be able to look after Tommy during the Easter holidays or not."

"Is James still around?
I wondered whether / if James had left the country as I hadn't seen him for some time."

However, after prepositions, before to-infintives, in 'whether…or…' constructions and whenever we start a sentence with the conjuntion, we HAVE to use whether:

"Whether I'll get there in time for Sarah's lecture, I don't know."

"I can't make up my mind whether to buy some new clothes now or wait until the sales.. "

"There was a lot of discussion about whether Ian should have his tongue pierced or not."

"Whether we go by bus or by train doesn't really matter. It's bound to be a slow journey."

"I'm going to spend all of granny's money on a new kitchen whether you like it or not!"


1. When both choices are given, we generally use whether rather than if:

I don't know whether she's coming or not.
(It would be possible to use if here, but less common.)

2. Before an infinitive with 'to' we use whether:

I don't know whether to accept their offer or not.
(If would not be used here.)

3. We use whether after a preposition:

It's a question of whether we can agree on everything.
(If would not be used here.)

4. Both whether and if can be used in indirect speech to introduce a yes\no question:

Did they say whether\if they were going to be late?

5. After some verbs, we use whether:

I doubt whether they'll make it.
We discussed whether it was the correct decision.

Many thanks for your great help Emotion: smile
May I ask a few more questions?
4. Both whether and if can be used in indirect speech to introduce a yes\no question:
Did they say whether\if they were going to be late?

If I use 'whether' in indirect speech, does it sound a little bit more formal than using 'if'?

5. After some verbs, we use whether:
I doubt whether they'll make it.
We discussed whether it was the correct decision.

Do you mean it sounds natural using 'whether' after these verbs?
Or should I always use 'whether' afther them?

Some verbs....'doubt,' 'discuss,' ......are there any other verbs that follow this rule? Emotion: rolleyes

Thank you. Emotion: smile

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Hello Candy

Richard summarized the differences between "if" and "whether" in an excellent way.
I'd like to add three things more to his summaries.
[1] "Whether" clauses can follow "a question" as an appositive clause
EX-1 Candy raised a question whether there is any difference between if and whether.
[2] "Whether" clauses can be used as an indirect question for asking listener's choice beside an Yes/No answer.
EX-2 She asked him whether it was his turn or hers.
[3] We can use "whether" in a indirect question that directly leads "or not".
EX-3 I wonder whether or not my ex-wife is still alive.
Beside these special characteristics (including what Richard already explained about), "if" clauses and "whether" clauses are almost inter-exchangeable though the latter is high in the degree of formality.

The verbs that people use more often with "whether" than "if" are "inspect", "discuss", "ponder", "argue" and "inquire". Please refer the Google survey results below given.

verbs more often combine with
suspect if/whether 105,000/5,090 ; think if/whether 2,410,000/74,600 ; see if/whether 36,300,000/3,650,000 ;
hear if/whether 292,000/84,000 ; know if/whether 24,600,000/6,170,000 ; wonder if/whether 8,720,000/1,510,000;
ask if/whether 3,690,000/1,600,000 ; query if/whether 147,000/45,200 ; study if/whether 555,400/216,000 ;
doubt if/whether 886,000/697,000

verbs more often combine with
investigate if/whether 208,000/1,050,000 ; discuss if/whether 85,500/544,000 ; ponder if/whether 22,000/40,100
argue if/whether 43,500/64,700; inquire if/whether 141,000/177,000

Hello Paco,

Many thanks for answering my questions.
(Many, many thanks for showing the survey results on google, too Emotion: smile )

Natural use of if/whether was difficult for me to understand, but I think it's getting a little clearer.......! I think I need to read rwiles and your postings carefully(again and again!) to understand how to use 'whether/if' properly.
Thanks again. Emotion: smile

BTW.........Paco, you're from Japan, aren't you? Me too.....!
I've read many of your posting on EF, and I always wish I could write/understand English like you!
I take my hat off to you!! Emotion: wink
Hello Candy

Yes, I am from Japan. I have learned English for decades but still am very poor at English. I believe you will get much more proficient in English in a few years as long as you continute the study as you are doing now.

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Hello there!

My name´s Tiago from Brazil!!!

Paco, you´ve really helped with informations!!! Understanding how to use whether and is used to be a hard work to me but now you opened up my mind!!!!!

Thank you so much for your great job!

Kind Regards from Brazil!!!!
tnx Emotion: smile)