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Is the question mark misused in affirmative sentences?

Is it correct to use "if" in this way?

I want to know if I can borrow your car?

marked as duplicate by Matt E. Эллен, RegDwigнt Nov 20 '12 at 13:14

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    We are currently trying to raise enough support for a website for beginner question: English language learner's proposal. Please consider supporting this proposal. – Matt E. Эллен Nov 20 '12 at 12:17
  • @Matt,RegDwighт♦: Like Bill, I choose to interpret this question at face value - it asks about using the word "if", not about whether the question mark is "correct". And so far as I know there hasn't been a question about any possible difference between "if" and "whether" before on ELU. I therefore think this one was wrongly closed, and should be re-opened. – FumbleFingers Nov 20 '12 at 14:23
  • @FumbleFingers: When are “if” and “whether” equivalent? Though to me it doesn't look like this question here is asking about if vs. whether. In fact it is not clear to me what it is asking at all. I closed it as a duplicate as a courtesy to the OP; but in its current form it really is more of a NARQ. – RegDwigнt Nov 20 '12 at 14:42
  • Okay, thanks - I guess it's a moot point whether/if this question is clear or not, and what exactly it might be asking about. You've now found and posted a link there to an earlier question that does cover the same issue I see here, so let this closure stand. – FumbleFingers Nov 20 '12 at 14:51

Whether and if are normally synonymous in contexts similar to the one provided in your sentence. Which you choose is a style preference in this case. I always choose whether for formal writing.

[EDIT:] Tim has a good point. The direct answer to your question, then, is: Yes, it is correct to use "if" in this way. And as SF. points out, neither of your sentences is a question: both are declarative statements that take no question mark.

  • Quite true, but not what OP is asking. I want to know shouldn't (but often does) take a question mark, whether it is followed by whether, if, or something else. – TimLymington Nov 20 '12 at 12:19
  • I too would normally use whether in formal contexts - but I really couldn't say if many others make this distinction. – FumbleFingers Nov 20 '12 at 12:38
  • @FumbleFingers: I think not, but I have no proof, just prejudice. – user21497 Nov 20 '12 at 12:56
  • Google Books - formal: "I should like to know if":185,000 hits, "I should like to know whether":305,000. Informal "I'd like to know if":83,200 hits, "I'd like to know whether" 21,300. – FumbleFingers Nov 20 '12 at 14:16
  • ...so basically it looks as if a lot of other people share our "prejudice"! – FumbleFingers Nov 20 '12 at 14:17

That's a statement, not a direct question, though it could be used in function of a question:

I want to know if I can borrow your car.

This correctly states the intent and you could expect an answer, though it may sound rather harsh, a voice of annoyance/impatience.

I'd like to know if I could borrow your car.

This is stating it in a more polite manner. Note, how despite these functioning as questions/requests in the language, they are statements from grammar viewpoint so they end with a full stop.

  • Good observation. I missed that major point. – user21497 Nov 20 '12 at 15:06

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