Using whether is far more common. It is certainly more formal.

I would like to know whether it is a true story or fabricated.

But we can use if as well in the same sentence.

I would like to know if it is a true story or fabricated.

So when do we use one or the other?

  • could it be as simple as, 'if' to introduce a condition, and in all other circumstances, use 'whether'?
    – Joe
    Commented Nov 12, 2013 at 9:56
  • I consider this question: Whether vs. If to be more pertinent. I think the top answer here answers quite nicely the OP's question.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Nov 12, 2013 at 10:24

2 Answers 2


If and whether are nowadays usually considered subordinators.

Though their usages overlap, they are not totally interchangeable:

Ask him whether/if I can come. ['if' more colloquial] ['or not' may be faintly implied]


If/*Whether he is really a policeman, I'm a Chinaman.

I will come if / * whether she is going to be there. [no 'or not' implied: no choice involved]


They talked about whether / *if United still had a chance of winning the league. ['or not' quite strongly implied: 'choice' of alternative possibilities]

I will come whether or not / *if or not she is going to be there. [not may be placed at the end of the sentence] ['choice' (ie alternatives) overtly stated]

See also


whether is a choice between alternatives, if is not.

The second sentence is not as clear as the first (maybe even syntactically incorrect) and should lose the "or fabricated"

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