whether: ✓ whether ✗ if

By | December 1, 2016
My husband and I are either going to buy a dog or have a child. We can’t decide whether to ruin our carpet or ruin our lives.
Mio marito ed io o compreremo un cane o faremo un figlio. Non riusciamo a decidere se rovinare la moquette o rovinarci le vite.
- Rita Rudner
✓ I don’t know whether to tell her.
✗ I don’t know *if to tell* her.
Non so se dirglielo.
We can’t use an infinitive verb after if. We use whether before an infinitive verb.
✓ I can’t decide whether to accept or reject their offer.
✗ I can’t decide *if to accept* or reject their offer.
Non riesco a decidere se accettare o rifiutare la loro offerta.
We say whether (…) or not. We don’t say *if (…) or not*. For example:
✓ You have to tell her, whether you want to or not.
✗ You have to tell her, *if* you want to or not.
Dovrai dirglielo, che tu voglia o meno.
✓ I don’t know whether or not he realised.
✗ I don’t know *if or not* he realised.
Non so se si è accorto o meno.
Finally, we use whether, not if, after prepositions. For example:
✓ We have to talk about whether we’re going to increase prices.
✗ We have to talk *about if* we’re going to increase prices.
Of course we use if in regular conditional sentences.
✓ What will you do if she doesn’t come?
Cosa farai se non viene?

Now try the quiz below! There are TEN answers. The pass mark is 90% (9 out of 10). Click on the blue arrows to go to the next or previous question. You can check your answers immediately or when you've finished the quiz.

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