There are 2 main definitions of if in English:

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if 1

Pronunciation: /if/


1Introducing a conditional clause.
1.1On the condition or supposition that; in the event that: if you have a complaint, write to the director if you like, I’ll put in a word for you
More example sentences
  • If you like, I’ll come to Singapore with Sarah.
  • If you have a complaint against a lawyer licensed in another state, contact the lawyer regulatory agency in that state for information on making a complaint.
1.2(With past tense) introducing a hypothetical situation: if you had stayed, this would never have happened
More example sentences
  • Perhaps if you had stayed this would have become more apparent.
  • If we had finished it before we went on the tour, I think it would have been a much better record.
1.3Whenever; every time: if I go out, she gets nasty
More example sentences
  • If we go out she nearly always ends up in hospital.
2Despite the possibility that; no matter whether: if it takes me seven years, I shall do it
More example sentences
  • I'm gonna learn to dance if it takes me all night and day.
3(Often used in indirect questions) whether: he asked if we would like some coffee see if you can track it down
More example sentences
  • We were asked if we would like to sit at the bar.
  • See if you can track down their owners and ask for a tour.
4 [with modal] Expressing a polite request: if I could trouble you for your names? if you wouldn’t mind giving him a message?
More example sentences
  • If I could trouble you to try a little exercise, it will help to elucidate.
  • If you wouldn't mind giving me your email address, I will have her write to you to answer your questions and offer experienced advice.
5Expressing an opinion: that’s an awfully long walk, if you don’t mind my saying so if you ask me, he’s in love
More example sentences
  • If you don't mind my saying so, this conversation is getting a little strange.
  • If you ask me he's a person who doesn't have his priorities straight.
6Expressing surprise or regret: well, if it isn’t Frank! if I could just be left alone
More example sentences
  • Well, well, well, if it isn't a revision update.
  • Nothing like a friendly reminder at the end of the week that I would be very lucky if I could just be left alone to do my work.
7With implied reservation.
7.1And perhaps not: the new leaders have little if any control
More example sentences
  • Many libraries have little if any control over their patrons.
7.2Used to admit something as being possible but regarded as relatively insignificant: if there was any weakness, it was naiveté so what if he did?
More example sentences
  • If there was any weakness, it was in the print-quality of the imagery.
  • So what if he did - it's none of your business anyway.
7.3Despite being (used before an adjective or adverb to introduce a contrast): she was honest, if a little brutal
More example sentences
  • Domino is a well-paced action movie, if a little long, with an unusual feeling of surrealism behind the action.
although, albeit, but, yet, while;
even though, despite being;
chiefly British  whilst


A condition or supposition: there are so many ifs and buts in the policy
More example sentences
  • It said it would not cut people's working conditions: ‘no ifs, no buts, no maybes’; and so on.
  • But if - if - and these are giant ifs, put them in italics because it's great uncertainty.
  • There were no mights, no ifs, no buts, no doubts, no qualifications.
uncertainty, doubt;
condition, stipulation, provision, proviso, constraint, precondition, requirement, specification, restriction


If and whether are more or less interchangeable in sentences like I’ll see if he left an address and I’ll see whether he left an address, although whether is generally regarded as more formal and suitable for written use. But, although if and whether are often interchangeable, a distinction worth noting is that if is also used in conditional constructions and whether in expressing an alternative or possibility. Thus, tell me if you’re going to be in town next week could be strictly interpreted as ‘you need not reply if you are not going to be in town,’ whereas tell me whether you’re going to be in town next week clearly means ‘a reply is desired one way or the other.’.



if and only if

Used to introduce a condition that is necessary as well as sufficient: witches are real if and only if there are criteria for identifying witches
More example sentences
  • The problem is the formal definition of the logical constructs of if and only if, or sufficient and necessary conditions.
  • Preferences over probability gambles are rational, that is, satisfy the substitution and continuity conditions, if and only if they have the expected utility property.
  • We showed that in the absence of phase information, genotyping errors can be detected if and only if there is Mendelian inconsistency at one or more of the markers.

if and when

At a future time (should it arise): if and when the film gets the green light, be sure you’ve read the book first
More example sentences
  • I'm sure his name will be touted if and when the opportunity arises.
  • Naturally, this position would mean leaving London, but we'll talk about that more if and when it arises.
  • I've been going round the world looking at other things to see what might help me in the future if and when I do come back.

if anything

Used to suggest tentatively that something may be the case (often the opposite of something previously implied): I haven’t made much of this—if anything, I’ve played it down
More example sentences
  • My own experience suggests we are if anything already too generous on this point.
  • The trend under the previous administration was, if anything, the reverse of this.
  • We could have some tests to see what, if anything, is wrong, and see if anything can be done to fix it.

if I were you

Used to accompany a piece of advice: I would go to see him if I were you
More example sentences
  • For the rest, I could offer cautionary advice for a rental, but I'd just pass if I were you.
  • I wouldn't worry too much about that if I were you.
  • I'm not well versed in topics such as this, and everything I've said may be based on erroneous assumptions, so I wouldn't give it too much credit if I were you.

if not

Perhaps even (used to introduce a more extreme term than one first mentioned): hundreds if not thousands of germs
More example sentences
  • It looks like there has been a fair bit of work done and no doubt it cost a few hundred quid, if not over a thousand.
  • The vast number of papers which had all been piled up seemed to have hundreds if not thousands of pages.
  • From the US it must seem that much European comment is unsympathetic if not carping.

if only

1Even if for no other reason than: Willy would have to tell George more, if only to keep him from pestering
More example sentences
  • It has also prompted me to get Lucky Jim out of the library if only for the shallow reason that Larkin is the dedicatee.
  • This is one of those films that will be talked about for a long time so it should be seen if only for that reason.
  • I do have to say that I consider that last bit unlikely, if only for reasons of practicality.
2Used to express a wish, especially regretfully: if only I had listened to you
More example sentences
  • Most salmon anglers have a wish list of places they would love to fish if only they could afford it.
  • So could Arianna, if only she could hide her smarts and play the game of politics.
  • The views out over the river through the glass frontage would have been great, if only I could have seen them.

if so

If that is the case.
Example sentences
  • Do people agree with organizing alphabetically, and if so could they explain it in any meaningful way?
  • The question invited him to state whether he stood by his statement, and if so, why.
  • We shall report next week if there is sufficient demand and, if so, when the launch meeting will take place.


Old English gif, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch of and German ob.

Words that rhyme with if

biff, cliff, glyph, kif, miff, niff, quiff, riff, skew-whiff, skiff, sniff, spliff, stiff, tiff, whiff

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: if

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There are 2 main definitions of if in English:

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IF 2

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: IF

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