"I don't know when I am going to see him again."

Does saying "when" imply that you are certain (assuming) you will see him again, but don't know when?

I was told that it doesn't assume that, and saying it still leaves the possibility that it won't. However, I have trouble accepting that.

For example, if you just finish your first date,

you wouldn't ask:

"I don't know when our second date will be." to your friend if you're unsure if you're going to have one.

  • When and if can certainly be used to imply that distinction ('I don't know when, or even if, it will happen'), but I wouldn't say that using I don't know when definitely implies a conviction that something will happen. Aug 14, 2020 at 7:16
  • Both statements must be seen as expressing likelihoods. "I don't know when I am going to see him again" in what I'd consider its default, rather wistful, sense implies that it may [well] not be for quite some time, and perhaps never. "I don't know if I will see him again" is usually more clinical and rates the probability of never 'seeing him' again sonewhat higher. Sep 16, 2020 at 15:18

3 Answers 3


“If” implies that you’re not sure whether you will see him again.

“When” implies that you’re not sure at what time or date you will see him again.



I think you've been told correctly. "I don't know when" doesn't inherently imply that you expect something to happen eventually.

Often context will make it clear. That's what happens in your second example of ending the date -- it would be considered inappropriate to say it that way if you don't expect a second date (although maybe the speaker is trying not to hurt the date's feelings by telling them outright that they don't want a second date).

In other cases you would usually try to make the conditions clearer:

I'd like to see you again the next time I'm in town, but I don't know when that will be.


Perhaps, where and when are physical terms, of space and time, and, if is a logical, or abstract, mental term that may be applied to either of where and when.

Another distinction may be made, which I hadn't thought of, before. Namely, that not specifying the when, means that the where is specified, or assumed, and, versa. The word, if, is again the general case, whereby both the when, and the where, of something are unspecified but tied into some logical sequence of events.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.