Which sentence is correct ? 1) When there are no clouds, then there is no possibility to rain. 2) If there are no clouds, then there is no possibility to rain. Do these sentences have a difference in their meaning at all ? thanks in advandace

  • 1
    That is a philosophy question and it is probably the same in your language.
    – Lambie
    Apr 24, 2018 at 17:37
  • Both are almost same in usage, except for a slight but subtle difference of condition (if) and time (when). In both sentences the use of then seems to be redundant. Apr 24, 2018 at 17:51

3 Answers 3


These two have similar meanings, but there are subtle differences.

When there are no clouds...

implies that there will be (or have been) occasions when there are no clouds, at some time or other.

If there are no clouds...

does not imply that, and means only that there is the possibility of no clouds.

This is illustrated by the conversation cliche:

Alice: If I graduate from school....

Bob: You mean when you graduate from school...

The first implies an uncertainty as to whether the graduation will ever happen. The second implies confidence that it will happen sometime.

'When' also implies simultaneity, and would not be used when cause and effect are distant in time. You might say "If I get on the plane I will arrive in Europe" but not "When I get on the plane I will arrive in Europe."

Fundamentally 'when' is about time and 'if' is about condition. For practical purposes those are often the same, because the 'condition' is true at specific 'times'. If that is not the case then you need to distinguish between them.


In response to a comment as to whether 'if' or 'when' implies habit, neither does. However the use of the present continuous tense, e.g. "If I watch TV I eat popcorn" implies repeated occurrence. Substituting 'when' for 'if' does not change the meaning. If you changed the tense e.g. "If I watch TV I will eat popcorn", that would no longer imply repeated occurrence, but would talk only about an occasion in the future.

  • so if i say 1)If i watch tv, i eat popcorn is different than 2)When i watch tv , i eat popcorn. Dont these two sentences show habit ? (also both implying that i watch tv ).Why when is "better"? (also in first example is known that sometimes there are no clouds )Is because when means more often or something like this?
    – ado
    Apr 25, 2018 at 10:36
  • Those don't imply habit. "If my country is invaded then the army will respond" does not mean my country has a habit of being invaded. The two sentences you give are not different in meaning. As the answer says, 'when' implies something happens or will happen, and 'if' implies only that it might happen. Apr 25, 2018 at 13:38
  • yes but some if statements are general like if you dont exert forces in an object then it will stay at rest.That doesnt mean something about future but is a general truth right ?Then how i can seperate them ? or if you press the power button computer opens (or will opens).First doesnt specifies the time but just the condition ?
    – ado
    Apr 27, 2018 at 9:01
  • That's about right. For a general condition use the continuous present tense ("If you press the button the door opens."), and for statements about the future use the future tense ("If I press the button the door will open"). Apr 27, 2018 at 12:34

I would say: The "if" version is about what holds right now, or maybe at one particular time we are talking about.

The "when" version applies to all times: sometimes there are no clouds but but other times there are clouds; and at those times there are no clouds there is no possibility of rain.


"When" makes the sentence a statement of fact; whereas "If" creates a question. Regardless, a better sentence might be as follows: Without clouds rain in impossible.

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