We have a slightly unusual word choice post today, as we\u2019re looking at \u201cif\u201d and \u201cwhether.\u201d Although these words look and sound different, they overlap in meaning. And this means they\u2019re often misused. To help you avoid errors, then, check out our short guide to how they should be used below.\nYes\/No Questions (\u201cWhether\u201d or \u201cIf\u201d)\nA lot of the confusion arises because \u201cwhether\u201d and \u201cif\u201d both imply uncertainty. They can therefore be used interchangeably when referring to something that could be posed as a yes\/no question. For example:\nI\u2019m not sure if my grammar is correct. \u2713\nI\u2019m not sure whether my grammar is correct. \u2713\nThese sentences are not yes\/no questions, but they could be rephrased as one (i.e., \u201cIs my grammar correct?\u201d). As such, either term can be used here, although \u201cwhether\u201d is the more formal choice in cases like this.\nConditional Statements (\u201cIf\u201d Only)\nThe only time \u201cif\u201d must be used instead of \u201cwhether\u201d is in a conditional sentence (i.e., when setting out a condition for something else to occur):\nIf you make an error, I will correct it. \u2713\nWhether you make an error, I will correct it. \u2717\n\u201cWhether\u201d is wrong here because it implies more than one possibility. But, in this case, we\u2019re simply setting out a condition and a consequence.\nChoices (\u201cWhether\u201d Only)\nIn other situations, we typically use \u201cwhether\u201d instead of \u201cif.\u201d A common error is using \u201cif\u201d when referring to a choice between two or more options:\nI need to decide whether I\u2019m going to write a story or an essay. (Choice)\nI need to decide if I\u2019m going to write a story or an essay. (Conditional)\nThe \u201cwhether\u201d sentence is presenting a choice: writing a story or an essay. The \u201cif\u201d sentence is conditional:\u00a0 the speaker is deciding whether to write anything, not what to write. And while both sentences are grammatical, they differ in meaning, so the second one would be incorrect if describing a choice.\n\nThe same distinction applies even when the second option is only implied:\nLet the examiner know whether you need help. (Choice)\nLet the examiner know if you need help. (Conditional)\nIn the first sentence, we\u2019re told to inform someone whether or not we need help (i.e., a response is required either way). In the second, we\u2019re told to ask for help only if we need it. And the difference between these two is key!\n\n\u201cWhether\u201d is also preferred after prepositions and before infinitive verbs.\n\nAs a result, the best approach is typically to only use \u201cif\u201d for conditionals, as \u201cwhether\u201d is correct (or more formal) in more situations.\nSummary: Whether or If?\nWe have seen that \u201cif\u201d and \u201cwhether\u201d are interchangeable in some cases, which can make them confusing. But remember:\n\n \tUncertainty: You can use both \u201cif\u201d and \u201cwhether\u201d to express uncertainty.\n \tConditional Sentences: You should only use \u201cif\u201d for conditionals (i.e., when setting out a condition for something to occur or happen).\n \tChoices: Only use \u201cwhether\u201d for choices between two or more options.\n\nIn addition, \u201cwhether\u201d is more formal than \u201cif\u201d in most situations. As such, it is often the best term, except in conditional sentences (which always use "if"). And if you would like any more help with word choice in your writing, our proofreaders are always available to check your work.