Main definitions of if in English

: if1IF2



  • 1(introducing a conditional clause) on 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’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘If you like, I’ll come to Singapore with Sarah.’
    on condition that, provided, provided that, providing, providing that, presuming, presuming that, supposing, supposing that, assuming, assuming that, on the assumption that, allowing, allowing that, as long as, given that, with the provision that, with the proviso that, on the understanding that, with the understanding that, if and only if, contingent on, in the event that
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 (with past tense) introducing a hypothetical situation.
      ‘if you had stayed, this would never have happened’
      • ‘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.’
    2. 1.2 Whenever; every time.
      ‘if I go out she gets nasty’
      • ‘If we go out she nearly always ends up in hospital.’
      whenever, every time
      View synonyms
  • 2Despite the possibility that; no matter whether.

    ‘if it takes me seven years, I shall do it’
    • ‘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’
    ‘I wonder if she noticed’
    • ‘See if you can track down their owners and ask for a tour.’
    • ‘We were asked if we would like to sit at the bar.’
    whether, whether or not
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  • 4with modal Expressing a polite request.

    ‘if I could just use the phone, I'll get a taxi’
    ‘if you wouldn't mind giving him a message?’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘If I could trouble you to try a little exercise, it will help to elucidate.’
  • 5Expressing an opinion.

    ‘that's a jolly long walk, if you don't mind my saying so’
    ‘if you ask me, he's in love’
    • ‘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!’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Well, well, well, if it isn't a revision update.’
  • 7(with implied reservation) and perhaps not.

    ‘the new leaders have little if any control’
    • ‘Many libraries have little if any control over their patrons.’
    1. 7.1 Used to admit something as being possible but relatively insignificant.
      ‘if there was any weakness, it was naivety’
      ‘‘We both saw him.’ ‘So what if you did?’’
      • ‘So what if he did - it's none of your business anyway.’
      • ‘If there was any weakness, it was in the print-quality of the imagery.’
    2. 7.2 Despite being (used before an adjective or adverb to introduce a contrast)
      ‘she was honest, if a little brutal’
      • ‘Domino is a well-paced action movie, if a little long, with an unusual feeling of surrealism behind the action.’
      although, albeit, but, even though, even if, despite being, in spite of being, yet, whilst
      View synonyms


  • A condition or supposition.

    ‘there are so many ifs and buts in the policy’
    • ‘When a great new revolutionary idea hits the public, there are always doubters, raising niggling ifs and buts.’
    • ‘However there are always ifs and buts, and if anyone supposes I am trying to diminish Malcolm's win by making excuses, they are wrong.’
    • ‘No ifs or buts about it, victory over the hour went to the better side.’
    • ‘But frankly, that is more ifs than can be found in a Kipling poem.’
    • ‘Well, what are the buts, ifs and shoulds of this game in which Skellig Rangers were coasting with 11 minutes left?’
    • ‘Good days probably weren't on Lawler's mind as he sat out the dying minutes of the Westmeath game but for him the ifs and buts are always there.’
    • ‘It allows one to put out misleading simplifications as long as the caveats, ifs and buts are buried somewhere in the detailed material.’
    • ‘What the Security Council absolutely should not do is pass some resolution that can then be picked apart by ifs and buts and caveats.’
    • ‘But if - if - and these are giant ifs, put them in italics because it's great uncertainty.’
    • ‘Yet another may allow that torture is justified for another set of ifs.’
    • ‘And Graham had no ifs, ands or buts about what he thought, and that's what I was hoping Kerry would speak to.’
    • ‘It said it would not cut people's working conditions: ‘no ifs, no buts, no maybes’; and so on.’
    • ‘What science will hazard instead of conclusions is a series of ifs.’
    • ‘These are big ifs and you don't have to believe in chaos theory to see that the economic consequences of what happened yesterday could be severe.’
    • ‘It's all about standards and looking back with no ifs or buts.’
    • ‘With ifs and buts about almost everything else in the race Castleruanna is the ideal start to your betting weekend.’
    • ‘That might be too many ifs in the three years left until 2004, when the first major payout of over Rp 50 trillion falls due.’
    • ‘No ifs or buts about the merits of the Dubs victory, although the margin of it, nine points, scarcely did justice to Waterford's brave effort.’
    • ‘There were no mights, no ifs, no buts, no doubts, no qualifications.’
    • ‘No ifs, no buts, no questions - they're sending me to Cambridge for the nine-month Masters program.’
    uncertainty, doubt, lack of certainty, hesitation, vagueness
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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


  • if and only if

    • Used to introduce a condition which is necessary as well as sufficient.

      ‘Alice will come if and only if Charles and Edward are both going to be there’
      • ‘The venue is not very far from Shanghai downtown - if and only if you have a car.’
      • ‘Note that it terminates with a random allocation that satisfies quota if and only if there exists an allocation that both satisfies quota and obeys the lower bound.’
      • ‘I realized it's OK to make mistakes if and only if you take them and turn them around to be positive situations.’
      • ‘Which is good, since I plan to further my studies, if and only if possible.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘But this will happen if and only if we educate our labour pool properly and prepare them for a brave new world outside of making beds and cleaning hotel rooms.’
      • ‘They will come to our defence if and only if it is in their national interests to do so, regardless of what we've done for them.’
      • ‘The ganja addict who suffers from a mental breakdown, which is controlled by medication, if and only if the medication is taken.’
      • ‘The problem is the formal definition of the logical constructs of if and only if, or sufficient and necessary conditions.’
      on condition that, provided, provided that, providing, providing that, presuming, presuming that, supposing, supposing that, assuming, assuming that, on the assumption that, allowing, allowing that, as long as, given that, with the provision that, with the proviso that, on the understanding that, with the understanding that, if and only if, contingent on, in the event that
      View synonyms
  • if and when

    • At a future time (should it arise)

      ‘most of these plans can be altered if and when the situation changes’
      • ‘Naturally, this position would mean leaving London, but we'll talk about that more if and when it arises.’
      • ‘I'm sure his name will be touted if and when the opportunity arises.’
      • ‘Next time, if and when there is a next time, it'd be a good idea to prepare myself and to have some outings and projects lined up.’
      • ‘Of course, your client may exercise the rights that are available to him if and when the issue arises.’
      • ‘He said there had been no settlement - and if and when there was it would probably be confidential.’
      • ‘When it was in that state the only function it could conceivably have was to endanger life if and when the occasion arose.’
      • ‘Fix your mortgage rate for a few years, she said, and deal with that problem later if and when it arises.’
      • ‘Yes, he was the one who was going to decide the question of law if and when it ever arose.’
      • ‘The amount of this cover may need to be enlarged if and when the need 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’
      • ‘The onset of Foot of Mouth disease, if anything, fuelled spending in urban shopping malls.’
      • ‘My own experience suggests we are if anything already too generous on this point.’
      • ‘What the play does lack if anything is a sense of balance in that the police's perspective is barely touched on.’
      • ‘There is simply no need for it and if anything such phrases have now become counter-productive.’
      • ‘School admissions will not be a lottery, if anything the process will be more straightforward.’
      • ‘Indeed, if anything the worship of nature is probably more intense today than at any time this century.’
      • ‘Councillors have agreed to meet with officers to see if anything can be done about the objections raised.’
      • ‘We could have some tests to see what, if anything, is wrong, and see if anything can be done to fix it.’
      • ‘Mrs Catterson says she should have been alerted as she is the point of contact if anything happens to her mother.’
      • ‘The trend under the previous administration was, if anything, the reverse of this.’
  • if I were you

    • Used to accompany a piece of advice.

      ‘I would go to see him if I were you’
      • ‘I think it counts as ‘fair use’, and I wouldn't worry if I were you.’
      • ‘I wouldn't worry too much about that if I were you.’
      • ‘So, if I were you, tonight I'd sleep with one eye open.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I wouldn't take that ‘old-school academics’ remark too seriously if I were you.’
      • ‘So if I were you, I'd just leave it alone and keep driving.’
      • ‘I'd definitely come back tomorrow if I were you.’
      • ‘I'd give Herbert a call if I were you, and work something out.’
      • ‘I'd write to the editor, if I were you, that's what I'd do.’
      • ‘For the rest, I could offer cautionary advice for a rental, but I'd just pass 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’
      • ‘He is one of the most improved players in the squad, if not the most improved.’
      • ‘The vast number of papers which had all been piled up seemed to have hundreds if not thousands of pages.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘There's as much, if not more, traffic flowing past our house than during the week.’
      • ‘From the US it must seem that much European comment is unsympathetic if not carping.’
      • ‘Might it be that some kinds of love that came naturally if not easily to Turgenev are no longer available to us?’
      • ‘I thought that this had already happened, and will last many months if not years.’
      • ‘Blunter language would have concluded that most, if not all, were a long way out of their depth.’
      • ‘Especially as three of the four dismissals have been dubious if not outrageous.’
      • ‘In past years, you had to wait days if not weeks to get a piece of clothing that commemorated a great success.’
  • if only

    • 1Even if for no other reason than.

      ‘Willy would have to tell George more, if only to stop him pestering’
      • ‘Ash stopped if only to make Salacia end her pleading and put it back in the gold plated box that had safeguarded it.’
      • ‘Even when we believe that death is a moral good, it is a unique one if only for the reason that no one knows what it is like.’
      • ‘I'll stick up for him here, if only because he does such a poor job defending himself.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘We are sure, if only out of political expediency and with hindsight, you wish you had not used this language.’
      • ‘There are times when I wish things were different, if only because the people deserve better.’
      • ‘The rest is depressing history that is worth retelling, if only to avoid repeating.’
      • ‘I do have to say that I consider that last bit unlikely, if only for reasons of practicality.’
      • ‘It has also prompted me to get Lucky Jim out of the library if only for the shallow reason that Larkin is the dedicatee.’
      • ‘She would help Sarah, if only to stop Lauren from thinking even worse of her.’
    • 2Used to express a wish, especially regretfully.

      ‘if only I had listened to you’
      • ‘Stardom beckons on Sky One, if only you stop trying to entertain the Sun readers.’
      • ‘Most salmon anglers have a wish list of places they would love to fish if only they could afford it.’
      • ‘The views out over the river through the glass frontage would have been great, if only I could have seen them.’
      • ‘In effect, you say, you want money so that you can stop worrying about what you would like to do if only you had money.’
      • ‘It might be love if only they can stop playing nasty practical tricks on each other.’
      • ‘So could Arianna, if only she could hide her smarts and play the game of politics.’
      • ‘So do people who would love to stop and shop - if only they could find somewhere to leave the car.’
      • ‘Maybe the lawsuit is a bother and there is another way, if only Pooh could stop bumping for a moment and think of it.’
      • ‘Damn, if only I had of been able to think of a reasonable excuse to get him to stay.’
      • ‘His people offered to accept him as their King and to lay all the riches of the land at his feet if only he would stop preaching.’
  • if so

    • If that is the case.

      • ‘I'm wondering if I can claim tax relief on rent paid to a private landlord and if so how I go about doing this?’
      • ‘It should state whether meals are to be provided and, if so, on what basis.’
      • ‘I should like to know if it was tangled and, if so, has someone set it free?’
      • ‘There must be some truth in it if so many people believe in it strongly enough to do anything for its sake.’
      • ‘We shall report next week if there is sufficient demand and, if so, when the launch meeting will take place.’
      • ‘Given that I would be looking to replace it with a similar car, would I be better off keeping it and if so for how long?’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They must take hours putting on the faultless make-up and if so, is that built into their working time?’
      • ‘Still, you can never tell if it will get coverage and if so, which aspects or what angle will be put on it.’


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




Main definitions of if in English

: if1IF2



  • Intermediate frequency.