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  #1 (permalink)  
Unread Jul 30th, 2015, 12:16 pm
eslHQ Member
Join Date: Jun 29th, 2010
Posts: 17
Natsumi is on a distinguished road
Default whether

"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.
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  #2 (permalink)  
Unread Jul 31st, 2015, 02:41 am
Join Date: Oct 8th, 2006
Location: Milan
Posts: 1,406
susan53 is on a distinguished road
Default 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.

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  #3 (permalink)  
Unread Jul 31st, 2015, 04:25 am
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Join Date: Jun 29th, 2010
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Default 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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