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Natsumi Jul 30th, 2015 12:16 pm

"It would be better whether these are fully equipped tours"

"Whether" is incorrect in this sentence. The correct word would be "if", but I don't understand why. I know that whether is more formal than if, but in this sentence it doesn't sound right.
Could anyone give me an explanation?

Thank you in advanced.

susan53 Jul 31st, 2015 02:41 am

Re: whether
If has three uses - it can express : a) a condition, b) the idea "given that X is true" or c) the concept possibly yes, possibly no

Whether doesn't just mean if - it means if or not. So it can only be used in contexts where there is a yes or no possibility - ie replacing if when it is used with its third use. Some examples :

I don't know if/whether I shall go to the conference (possibly yes, possibly no)
He asked me if/whether I liked cats (possibly yes, possibly no)

In your context there is no yes/no possibility. Here if expresses a condition - not a yes/no alternative, and therefore whether cannot be used. Notice that it's a hypothetical condition (currently the tours are not fully equipped) and so the second form of the verb should be used :
It would be better if these were fully equipped tours

Other examples where if expresses a condition and therefore can't be replaced by whether include :

If the phone rings while I'm gone, would someone answer it please?
If I hadn't missed the plane, I'd be on the beach now!

And some where it means Given that X is true... :
If you saw him, why didn't you tell him about the meeting?
If you knew about it, you should have told me.


Natsumi Jul 31st, 2015 04:25 am

Re: whether
Thank you Susan53. Your explanation has been very useful to me. I've always been taught that whether is formal for if, and clearly that's not true.

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