You may want to set out a few conditions. In this case, you can use the word 'if,' but you must know its rules and uses. In this lesson, we will learn more.

How to Use "If" in English?

'If' is both a conjnction and a noun. However, it mostly functions as a conjunction. In this lesson, we will discuss how to learn and use it.

Functions of 'If'

'If' as a Conjunction

'If' mainly functions as a conjunction in English. Below, we are going to learn about the different kinds of conjunctions it can be:


'If' as a Subordinating Conjunction

'If' is subordinating conjunction because it connects a dependent clause to an independent one. Below, we are going to learn all about it:

The baby will not be safe if you leave him with his aunt.

This is the first conditional.

Just tell me if you need money.

This is the zero conditional sentence.

If they hadn't worked that hard, they wouldn't have been so sad right now.

This is the mixed conditional.

If I hadn't found a job, my parents would have scolded me.

This is third conditional.

If I had your money, I wouldn't be living with my parents anymore.

This is the second conditional.

  • When we want to mention something that we are not certain about, we use 'if':

I don't know if I'm ever able to trust anyone again.

My mother doubts if I ever forgive her.

  • When we want to show our feelings for someone in a situation, we use 'if':

I won't continue if it makes you sad.

I'm sorry if I hurt you with my words.

  • When we want to show that what we have just said is even worse or better. Take a look:

She was making everything extremely difficult, if not impossible, between us.

Your father has changed a little, if at all, since I last saw him.

  • We can use 'if' to show that although something might/might not be true, it is not important. Look at the following examples:

My only weakness, if it is even considered a weakness, is caring for others.

Persephone's one and only flaw, if you can call it a flaw, is her love for the darkness.

If vs. Whether

Although 'if' and 'whether' can sometimes be used interchangeably, there are some cases in which they cannot. Look at the following list and its examples:

  • With the verb 'discuss':

We were discussing whether we could change the time of our class or not.

Probably he doesn't know whether to believe you or not.

Why don't you think about whether you like it or not?

Position in a Sentence

Since 'if' is a subordinating conjunction, it is only used to connect a dependent clause to an independent one. So, we can put it at the beginning of the dependent clause, or between the two clauses. Look:

If you are to be living here, where can I go then?

Here, 'if' is used at the beginning of the dependent clause.

Please do consider my offer if that's possible for you.


Please note that when we use 'if' at the beginning of the dependent clause, we must always have a comma before the independent clause begins. Take a look below:

If she dares challenge me, she will burn in the flames of hell.

You won't regret it later if you work hard for it right now.

'If' as a Noun


Sometimes 'if' can function as a noun. It is mostly used when we want to show that something may/may not happen. Take a look:

I wonder why I can raise many ifs and buts in your suggestion.

Angela said she could help me if I kept silent, and it's a big if.

Position in a sentence

Since 'if' here is a noun, it can come as the subject, the object of the verb, or the object of a preposition. Look at the following examples for more clarification:

I'm no more interested in hearing your ifs and buts in my opinion.

Here, 'if' has been used as the object of the verb.

Ifs and buts are for losers.

Here, 'if' has been used as the object of the sentence.

Spoken Uses of 'if'

There are occasions in which we can use 'if' differently in spoken English. Below we are going to learn all about them:

  • In order to make a polite request, we can use 'if'. Check out the examples:

I'd be glad if I could go on a date with you.

Do you mind if I close the door?

  • In order to change the subject or interrupt someone in the middle of a conversation, we use 'if'. Look:

If only I could provide more details on this sir, you would understand it better.

Idioms and Expressions with 'If'

We have many different types of idioms with 'if'. We will learn all about them below:

  • If necessary: When we want to state that an action must be done if necessary:

Text me if necessary.

Call an ambulance if necessary.

  • If only: This idiom is used to express a wish or regret and also to show that something must be done even if for no other reason that what was mentioned. Look:

If only I had listened to my friend when she warned me about this girl.

Here, it is used to express a regret about an action done in the past.

I would text her now, if only to make her stop.

  • Even if: This idiom means 'regardless'. Take a look below:

I would never betray myself, even if it means to lose you.

As you can see, the sentence indicates that regardless of the outcome, he/she shall stick to their belief.

He was willing to go to that extent, even if it meant nothing to you.


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