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Nível Fluente › The "Write" to Scribble


"If" and "whether" are words that when used in informal speech and writing are often used interchangeably. However there are distinctions between the two. "If" is used to talk about an idea that is conditional, whereas "whether" is used to talk about an alternative or possibility.


1) IF
Dialog: "The quality of journalism in Brazil would suffer if the rules are changed."

  • If you plan on studying journalism I suggest you improve your writing skills first. (conditional: she must improve her writing skills in order to study journalism)
  • If you wish to work as a news correspondent you must not be partial when delivering the news. (the condition is that you must be impartial to be a news correspondent)


Dialog: "Now the Supreme Court is considering whether to strike out the law."

  • Mark can't decide whether he wants to study journalism or sociology. (he wants to study journalism but another alternative is sociology)
  • There is a debate about whether a person needs to have a specific degree to be a journalist. (the possibility of someone needing a specific degree)


Note these sentences where if and whether are interchangeable:

  • Let me know if Ken is arriving on Sunday.
  • Let me know whether Ken is arriving on Sunday.

In both sentences we don't know if Ken will arrive on Sunday.


Note the subtle difference between these two sentences:

  • Let me know whether Ken will be arriving on Sunday or Monday.
  • Let me know if Ken will be arriving on Sunday or Monday.

With the use of whether you know that there are two possibilities of when Ken will be arriving. With the use of if there is the added possibility of Ken not arriving at all.

Sobre esta aula

There are certain anachronisms leftover from the dictatorship in Brazil, a time which most Brazilians wish to forget. In today's podcast Ashley and Josh discuss the validity of a law that was passed in 1967 which the Supreme Court is considering eliminating...that is, if the journalists of this country don't raise a riot! Listen to this text taken from The Economist magazine and find out what this law is all about.

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