The easy part
Use “if” in a conditional sentence and “whether” when you are offering options.
RIGHT: We’ll be able to make it to the football game if it stops raining by noon.
RIGHT: We’ll go to the football game whether it rains or not.
Now, the tricky part
Which word would you choose for these examples?
Example #1: She didn’t know if/whether her test scores were high enough in order to secure a scholarship.
Example #2: I couldn’t remember if/whether I paid the lawn service bill.
In both of these cases, either word is correct. “If” or “whether” can be applied interchangeably for indirect questions (example #1) or yes/no questions (example #2).
Finally, the grammar geek part
- After prepositions
- Before infinitives
- When the sentence contains a two-part option
- If the alternatives lead the sentence
EXAMPLE: Whether or not I’ve saved enough money, I’m going to Paris next spring.
If this helps, remember that using “if” introduces one condition and “whether” introduces alternative possibilities.
Have a grammar rule you’d like me to explore? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author Catherine Spicer is a manager of customer content services at PR Newswire.