Whether or If

Introduction

Refs:
1. http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/if-versus-whether
2. http://www.grammar-monster.com/easily_confused/if_and_whether.htm
3. http://www.learn-english-today.com/lessons/lesson_contents/grammar/whether-if.html

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I was sitting at my desk and pondering whether or not I should write this article. After straddling the fence for a while, I suddenly thought, “What the heck! Why not!”

If you are wondering whether you should learn to use “whether” or not, the answer is definitely a resounding “yes”!

Sometimes “whether” and “if” can be used interchangeably. To clarify these situations, let’s apply the following formal rule:

Use “if” when you have a conditional sentence and “whether” when you are showing that two alternatives are possible.

“Whether” Can Be Used to Express

  • Indirect questions
  • Doubts
  • Two or more possibilities

Expressing Indirect Questions

  1. He was trying to decide whether he should agree or raise objections.
  2. He had the humility to consider whether any action he could take would make things better or worse.
  3. She wondered whether she should go or stay.
  4. I’m wondering whether to have the fish or the beef.
  5. She asked me whether (or if) I was interested in working for her.
  6. We need to consider whether (or if) the disadvantages of the plan outweigh the advantages.
  7. She asked the man whether (or if) he’d mind if she opened the window.

Expressing Doubt

  1. I wasn’t sure whether you’d like it.
  2. I doubt whether it’ll work.
  3. I was merely questioning whether we have the money to fund such a project.
  4. She doubts whether she’ll ever be able to fulfill her ambition.

Expressing Two or More Possibilities

  1. Her ex-husband was seated next to her–whether by accident or design, no one knew.
  2. Someone has to tell her, whether it’s you or me.
  3. Let’s face it – you’re going to be late whether you go by bus or train.

    (“or not” => opposite possibilities)

  4. I don’t know whether or not it’s true.
  5. Whether dead or not, he’s still a missing person. (whether or not => regardless)
  6. I’m going whether she likes it or not. (whether or not => regardless)

Use “Whether”

Before an infinitive:

  1. I was wondering whether to go for a swim.
  2. Some financial decisions, such as whether to move from your house, can be made late in life.

After prepositions:

  1. It all depends on whether or not she has the time.
  2. Regardless of whether it’s true or not, we have to act on this information.
  3. Were not interested in whether we get great jobs; we just want to have fun.

For indirect questions with two or more alternatives (“whether…or”):

  1. After the election, we asked whether the parties should change their leaders, their policies, or both.
  2. She wondered whether she should go or stay.

When “whether” clause is the subject or complement of a sentence:

  1. [Whether I go to the party or to the cinema] makes no difference to me.
  2. I don’t care [whether you sink or swim].

When followed immediately by “or not”:

  1. Can you tell me whether or not youre interested in the job?

Whether and If Are Interchangeable (“If” is more common)

For indirect yes/no questions:
(basically conditional statements expressing may or may not)

  1. Call the bakeries around town and find out if any of them sell raspberry pies.
  2. Call the bakeries around town and find out whether any of them sell raspberry pies.

Conditional statement with “or not” at the end of a sentence:

  1. Can you tell me whether youre interested in the job or not?
  2. Can you tell me if youre interested in the job or not?

“Or Not” – Optional or Required?

For yes/no alternatives, the “or not” is optional.
When “whether or not” means “regardless”, the “or not” is required.

  1. Can you tell me whether youre interested in the job (or not)? (optional)
  2. I don’t know whether (or not) it’s true. (optional)
  3. Whether or not he’s dead, he’s still a missing person. (regardless)
  4. I’m going whether she likes it or not. (regardless)

Self-Assessment

Instructions: Choose between ‘if’ or ‘whether’, based on this lesson.

  1. As to _____ he’ll come or not, he didn’t say.
  2. _____ Mr. Trump is elected president or Mrs. Clinton is, America is in for a rough ride for the next four years.
  3. I’ll do it _____ you say so.
  4. I asked _____ you had invited him or not.
  5. I can’t decide _____ he’s telling the truth or not.
  6. He’s pondering the decision of _____ to go or to stay.
  7. _____ it rains tomorrow or not, the picnic can be held because there is a covered pavilion nearby.
  8. Did you consider _____ this was a good idea?
  9. We have to decide _____ we should go together, go separately, or not go at all.
  10. I have doubts about _____ he can get his mom’s permission to come on our field trip.
  11. Is the “or not” in #5 optional or required?

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