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My grammar book says that I should use present tense forms in conditional clauses with words like "if" to talk about the future.

We won't be able to go out if it rains. (NOT will rain)

Now I wonder if I should use "present tense" when "if" means "whether", as well.

I wonder if she will come to my party this week.

I wonder if she comes to my party this week.

Which one is correct?

1 Answer 1

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For a single possible event or multiple possible events in the future, the modal construction is used:

  • I wonder if/whether she will come to the series of lectures on social distancing next year[?]
  • I doubt whether [/if, informally] they'll make it. [Free Dictionary, forum]

More informally, the present participle is often used after 'be':

  • I wonder if she is coming to my party this week[?]

But for a query or spoken internal question about the possibility of a habitual practice / occurrence / state, present simple is used:

  • I wonder if/whether it snows every year in Bavaria? [the question mark prompts for a response, coding for a slight emphasis on the last four words; the italics code for the usual expected emphasis, extra to this]
  • Mind you, I wonder if, at their age, they realise that kippers are smoked herrings. [Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English]

So here , 'will come' is required.

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  • When asking about whether there is a previous plan or arrangement for her to come to my party this week, can the speaker say, "I wonder if she comes to my party this week."?
    – listeneva
    Mar 14, 2023 at 1:48
  • ... Sounds highly unnatural to my UK ears. Either non-native or over-high-falutin. Mar 25, 2023 at 12:57
  • Is it because you can't think of a context where you're asking about a previous plan for her to come to my party this week? Or is it because you won't be saying that even in that kind of context? I do find it weird to say something like "I wonder if it rains next week", because there can't be any plan for it to rain next week.
    – listeneva
    Mar 30, 2023 at 3:43
  • "I wonder if she flies tomorrow./?" certainly sounds fine to me, and involves a possible existing planned course of action. "I wonder if it rains tomorrow" sounds ghastly. Mar 30, 2023 at 10:52
  • So it's the former reason. Thanks.
    – listeneva
    Mar 31, 2023 at 6:04

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