Whether vs if

The words ‘if’ and ‘whether’ are sometimes interchangeable.  However, this is not always the case.

Whether and If

Whether and if can be used interchangeably in the following circumstances:

When reporting yes/no questions:

  • I am unsure whether I will be attending the meeting.
  • I am unsure if I will be attending the meeting.

In whether/if…or…constructions:

  • I would like to know whether it is a true story or fabricated.
  • I would like to know if it is a true story or fabricated.

Whether

In the following circumstances, ‘whether’ should be used:

To present two alternatives (neither of which is a condition):

  • Inform the clerk whether Mike needs a seat.

(In this example, the two alternatives are ‘Mike needs a seat’ and ‘Mike does not need a seat’. The clerk is to be informed in either case.).

  • Let Anna know whether the boss is able to go to London.

(In this example, the two alternatives are ‘going’ and ‘not going’. Anna needs to know the answer regardless of which is chosen.).

After prepositions:

  • I would like to talk about whether you are going to Florida.

(The word ‘about’ is a preposition.).

  • At this point, the flight attendant makes the decision on whether the passenger stays on the aircraft.

(The word ‘on’ is a preposition.).

Before infinitive verbs starting ‘to’:

  • They can’t decide whether to get married now or wait.

(‘To get married’ is an infinitive verb)

  • They can’t decide whether to get married now or wait.

When ‘whether’ starts a clause that is the sentence subject or complement:

  • Whether you sink or swim is not my concern.

(‘Whether you sink or swim’ is the subject of this sentence.)

  • I don’t care whether you sink or swim.

(‘Whether you sink or swim’ is the complement of the verb ‘to care’.)

In formal writing:

However, when if and whether are interchangeable, choose whether in formal writing

  • I doubt whether the team will succeed.
  • Please establish a committee to determine whether the proposed funding lines are appropriate.

If

Use ‘if’ to introduce a condition (i.e., in a conditional sentence).  In a conditional sentence, a condition has to be satisfied before something occurs.

  • If you sing, I’ll pay you 100 dollars.
  • Peter will catch you if you fall.

Reputation vs repute

Reputation is the opinion that people in general have about someone or something, or how much respect or admiration someone or something receives, based on past behaviour or character. It is the good name/high regard that someone or something gets for good quality work or good quality workmanship. Of course it can also be used negatively for bad work and workmanship although the positive use is more common.

Repute refers to the opinion that people hold – in other words what other people think of you. It is when someone or something has a bad/good, etc. reputation. It is if you like more abstract in meaning and is used in expressions like: of high repute/of low repute – people have a high or low opinion of something.