Whether and If – interchangeable? Sometimes.

How do you choose between whether and if? And how often does it matter?

When to use whether and if.On the GMAT it doesn’t matter that often thankfully, but here are the highlights for times that may matter:

  • Use “whether,” not “if,” before infinitives.
    I can’t decide whether to cook dinner or order takeout.
  • Use “whether” in a two-part question with or.
    The Directors have not decided whether they will invite the paleontologists or add another archeologist to the expedition.
  • After prepositions, use only “whether.”
    There was a formal debate about whether paleontologists were qualified to complete the expedition.
  • Use “whether” after verbs that are more common in a formal style.
    The committee discussed whether the paleontologists should be invited to join the expedition.
  • You may use either “whether” or “if” to introduce indirect questions.
    The committee was not sure whether [if] the paleontologists will have helpful skills to contribute to the expedition.
  • Use “if” to introduce a condition that has to be satisfied before something occurs.
    The paleontologists will be included in the expedition if their department can contribute enough to cover their expenses.

Key words are highlighted. If you are more interested in exploring whether versus if for your writing, check out a general resource like this or this.


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