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    #1

    whether vs. if

    Dera teacher,
    what is rigth, what is wrong?

    If I were late, he would have asked me what was (has/had been?) wrong.
    If I were late, he would have asked me if (whether?) anything was wrong.

    Thank you

  1. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: whether vs. if

    Quote Originally Posted by sbrodsky View Post
    Dear teacher,
    what is right, what is wrong?

    If I were late, he would have asked me what was (has/had been?) wrong.
    If I were late, he would have asked me if (whether?) anything was wrong.

    Thank you.
    If I were late, he would ask me what was wrong.
    If I had been late, he would have asked me what was wrong.

    If I were late, he would ask me if anything was wrong.
    If I had been late, he would have asked me if anything was wrong.

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    #3

    Re: whether vs. if

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    If I were late, he would ask me what was wrong.
    If I had been late, he would have asked me what was wrong.

    If I were late, he would ask me if anything was wrong.
    If I had been late, he would have asked me if anything was wrong.
    Dear teacher,
    thank you for your reply.
    But there is something that I still don't understand about the sentence
    "If I were late, he would ask me if anything was wrong".
    Does it mean that he would ask me ONLY if anything was wrong?
    If I don't mean that, don't I have so say
    "If I were late, he would ask me whether anything was wrong"?

    Thank you

  2. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: whether vs. if

    Quote Originally Posted by sbrodsky View Post
    Dear teacher,
    thank you for your reply.
    But there is something that I still don't understand about the sentence
    "If I were late, he would ask me if anything was wrong".
    Does it mean that he would ask me ONLY if anything was wrong?
    If I don't mean that, don't I have so say
    "If I were late, he would ask me whether anything was wrong"?

    Thank you
    "Whether" usually refers to a choice between two things, so theoretically it would have to read "...would ask me whether anything was wrong or not".

    Saying "if" doesn't mean that's the only question he asks.

  3. Raymott's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: whether vs. if

    Also, 'if' in " ... he would ask me if anything was wrong" has to mean 'whether'.
    It can't mean, "If anything was wrong, he would ask me. If nothing was wrong, he wouldn't." The reason for this should be obvious.


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    #6

    Re: whether vs. if

    I think the second 'if' in the sentence is equivalent to 'whether'

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    #7

    Re: whether vs. if

    Quote Originally Posted by shoaib 1 View Post
    I think the second 'if' in the sentence is equivalent to 'whether'
    That's what I was trying to say.

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    #8

    Re: whether vs. if

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    Also, 'if' in " ... he would ask me if anything was wrong" has to mean 'whether'.
    It can't mean, "If anything was wrong, he would ask me. If nothing was wrong, he wouldn't." The reason for this should be obvious.
    Has to mean whether? Why?
    How about this?

    He didn't ask me about money.
    He would ask me if anything was wrong.

    Here "if" means "only if". If you mean "whether", just use "whether" to avoid confusion.
    I always thought that using "if" instead of "whether" is just kind of jargon.
    Is it?

    Thank you.

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    #9

    Re: whether vs. if

    Quote Originally Posted by sbrodsky View Post
    Has to mean whether? Why?
    Because it can only mean "if" or "whether" and I've shown how it can't have the primary denotation of "if".

    How about this?

    He didn't ask me about money.
    He would ask me if anything was wrong.
    Yes, that's a different scenario. We have to assume that he is in a position to know if something is wrong. He is actually going to ask something else if something is wrong. He's not going to ask whether something is wrong.

    Here "if" means "only if". If you mean "whether", just use "whether" to avoid confusion.
    I always thought that using "if" instead of "whether" is just kind of jargon.
    Is it?
    No, "if" is often used for "whether" and it's standard. If it were not, we would have these absurd conversations:

    A: Can you tell me if my horse won?
    B: OK.
    A: [waits] ... Well did he?
    B: No.
    A: Well, why didn't you just say that??
    B: I thought you only wanted to know if he won. He didn't win, so I assumed you didn't want me to tell you.

    Thank you.
    I thought the reason should be obvious, but I'll explain it.
    The original example is quite different from above:
    "If I were late, he would ask me if anything was wrong".
    We are postulating that something might be wrong, leading me to being late, and that he would ask me about it.
    However, he doesn't know if anything is wrong. And he can't ask me [if 'if' means if and not whether], since the only condition under which he can ask me, is if something is wrong - which he cannot know without asking.
    This is a logical impossibility; it's a "Catch 22."
    So, it has to mean, "
    "If I were late, he would ask me whether anything was wrong".
    Last edited by Raymott; 02-Aug-2010 at 05:27.

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    #10

    Re: whether vs. if

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    I thought the reason should be obvious, but I'll explain it.
    The original example is quite different from above:
    "If I were late, he would ask me if anything was wrong".
    We are postulating that something might be wrong, leading me to being late, and that he would ask me about it.
    However, he doesn't know if anything is wrong. And he can't ask me [if 'if' means if and not wether], since the only condition under which he can ask me, is if something is wrong - which he cannot know without asking.
    This is a logical impossibility; it's a "Catch 22."
    So, it has to mean, "
    "If I were late, he would ask me whether anything was wrong".
    So your point is: if it does not lead to confusion, we can (have to) use "if" instead of "whether".
    Then I have one remark and one question.
    A remark. Even with my example ("If I were late, he would ask me if anything was wrong") I can build a situation when it causes confusion. (But I don't want to give you this example because it is too complicated.) That is why I never use "if" instead of "whether" because it is hard to say whether it could lead to confusion or not.
    A question. If I never use "if" instead of "whether", could it sometimes sound weird. Could you please give me an example when using "if" instead of "whether" is definitely a better choice.
    Thank you

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