I should say in advance that my question is at least half answered here but not fully. (As I understand the answer here, 'it depends on if' is not good grammar. My question is if the same clause can work without the preposition.)

The question is whether the clause "it depends if" is correct or if it always needs to be "it depends [on] whether..."

I may have over-corrected the following (uncorrected) sentence in TEFL class today:

*It depends if my employers give me the day off.

My instinct was to correct to:

It depends on whether my employers give me the day off (or not)

In the meantime I have double checked with Micheal Swan Practical English Usage (11th ed.,p.456) which states:

If does not follow prepositions; we use whether instead.

But it also mentions that "[a]fter some very common words like tell, ask, depend, sure, idea, look, prepositions can be dropped before who, which, what and other question words".

This makes sense and I assume the following is correct.

It depends whether my employers give me the day off or not

But considering that the preposition has been dropped, I am now wondering if the "if" clause is also acceptable?

Are there clear rules here, or is it a matter of personal preference?


2 Answers 2


Apparently, from Google Books, this construction is not found much in the past; it appears to have become more acceptable since the 1980s, and this is possibly why it doesn't feel as if it really belonged to the language: Google Books — it depends if. It is found increasingly in the past twenty years.

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one-gram of the frequency of "it depends if"

There seems to be no rule, but I must say that, personally, I do not feel this construction with "depend" to be as idiomatic as "it depends on whether". (ref.)

  • 1
    The original construction is it depends on whether. But since whether and if can usually be swapped, and since transitivizing prepositions like on get dropped pretty often, this goes from three syllables to one, and a short one at that, so it's a very likely change in fast speech. Sep 24, 2021 at 16:08

Further to LPH's answer, a further problem with "It depends if my employers agree or not" is that "if (clause) or not" is not a grammatical way to express the desired meaning. The "if" has to be "whether", as noted elsewhere in this thread. Because of the "or not", this "whether" cannot be replaced by "if", whether the clause is the object of a preposition, or a noun phrase in any other role (e.g. a subject), or not.

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