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message 1: by Rose (new)

Rose Romano | 28 comments Am I the only person left in the English-speaking world who knows the difference between 'if' and 'whether'? Or is it that nobody else cares?
You use 'if' when there is a hypothetical situation and, when this situation exists, something is supposed to happen. For example: If it doesn't rain, we will go to the park.
So far, so good. But, in the event that there are TWO hypothestical situations, and a third thing will or will not happen, depending on which hypothetical situation turns out to exist, we use 'whether.' For example: I'll let you know whether he comes. (That is, whether or not he comes.)
We don't say: I'll let you know if he comes, because that would mean: I'll let you know (something) in the event that he comes. In the event that he doesn't come, I won't let you know (something).
To say: Could you let me know if this is correct? actually means: Could you let me know (something) in the event that this (something else) turns out to be correct. The sentence should be: Could you let me know whether (or not) this is correct?
I'm not trying to sound like a know-if-all. It's just that I love grammar and have studied linguistics and these things are really important to me as a writer and a poet.
Rosabeatrice.


message 2: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (bonfiggi) I know the difference. I'm trying to care.


message 3: by Zadignose (last edited Nov 25, 2013 10:52PM) (new)

Zadignose A natural question would be, what do you found this grammar rule on? It's obviously not based on common usage. But most proscriptive grammar "rules" turn out never to have been rules at all.

In the first case, I would say "I'll let you know if he comes," if I intended to communicate that "in the event he comes, I will let you know (that he has come)." (I.e., if he doesn't come, I won't trouble you with a report).

I actually prefer to say "Could you let me know whether this is correct?" but I have no trouble understanding and accepting the very common form "...if this is correct." If I were copyediting, I would, perhaps, draw the writer's attention to this distinction, but I'd leave it to him or her to decide which way to go with it.


message 4: by Danielle (new)

Danielle Tremblay (danielle_t) | 22 comments Rosabeatrice wrote: "Am I the only person left in the English-speaking world who knows the difference between 'if' and 'whether'? Or is it that nobody else cares?
You use 'if' when there is a hypothetical situation and..."


lolll @ "I'm not trying to sound like a know-if-all."

No. Just a know-whether-all. ;)




message 5: by Rose (new)

Rose Romano | 28 comments Zadignose wrote: "A natural question would be, what do you found this grammar rule on? It's obviously not based on common usage. But most proscriptive grammar "rules" turn out never to have been rules at all.

In th..."


To Zadignose:
At this point, given that hardly anyone ever makes a distinction between 'if' and 'whether', your comment 'I'll let you know if he comes' is very unclear.

You ask what I base this grammar rule on. But it's not a grammar rule. It's just a question of two different words with two different definitions.

But the rest of your message treats the subject as though you are aware of this "distinction" and accept it as correct.

To Joanne: If you don't care about language use, why did you join this group? Why are you being so defensive?

To Danielle: Have you ever considered growing up?

Rosabeatrice


message 6: by Danny (new)

Danny Tyran (danny_) | 7 comments Rosabeatrice wrote: "Zadignose wrote: "A natural question would be, what do you found this grammar rule on? It's obviously not based on common usage. But most proscriptive grammar "rules" turn out never to have been ru..."

Danielle only tried to alleviate a little this discussion that some of you seem to consider like a little grammar drama. I appreciate her efforts.

And consider that some of the members here are just like me, not very fluent in English. My native language is French. I tried to improve my English. But frankly, I despair to do it here. It seems this is more a struggle between the know-it-all and those who truly want to learn.


message 7: by Zadignose (last edited Nov 29, 2013 10:46PM) (new)

Zadignose Actually, everyone has been polite, as far as I can tell, until about 13 hours ago.

"To Joanne: If you don't care about language use, why did you join this group? Why are you being so defensive?"

Who's being defensive? Read this again: "I know the difference. I'm trying to care." This comes in response to the question of if (or whether) anyone knows the difference, and if (or whether) they care. I interpreted Joanne as saying that she knows, and does her best to care. So, a supportive response. But if it was sarcastic, I see your point. I just didn't see any evidence of that.

"To Danielle: Have you ever considered growing up?"

That seems a little rude. Especially when directed at someone who, to the best of my knowledge, is having a bit of fun while supporting your basic idea that kids these days are learning some strange ideas about language.

As for me, myself, and I: I'm the only one who explicitly disagreed.

"You ask what I base this grammar rule on. But it's not a grammar rule. It's just a question of two different words with two different definitions."

Studying linguistics will quickly lead to the conclusion that there is no distinction between lexicon and grammar. But, especially in the case of some words, it's very difficult to try to extract "definitions" from "grammar rules." What's the definition of "of"? It's not a concrete noun. It's a word whose only raison d'être is to serve a syntactic function. That's the same case for "if," and "whether."

Linguistics study also leads us to regard the conflict between descriptive and prescriptive grammar. Very often though, some grammar rules concocted by the champions of prescriptive grammar are not based on any common usage. They may represent part of the language of a small elite class, or the standards applied within academia, or they could be part of a "style" which has been selected by a publisher or group of publishers, which may then be disseminated to a larger group. That's how we get "rules" such as "don't end a sentence with a proposition." (i.e. "Who were you talking to" is wrong, "Whom were you talking to" is wrong, but only "To whom were you talking" is correct... but try asking that question to your friend at the dance club.) We get rules such as "don't start a sentence with but," which grammarians now pretty much all acknowledge is not a rule, and never has been a rule, yet teachers teach it routinely.

Anyway, that's where I'm coming from. I actually do prefer the usage you're championing. I just don't call it a rule.

If I dare ramble further:

"I'll tell you if he comes" is possibly ambiguous, but one potential reading is as a complex sentence with two clauses which are reversible. It might be an equivalent of "If he comes, I'll tell you." But then, it might just be the common usage of if = whether, so that such a reversal is not possible. I'd prefer to choose my word carefully here if there's a risk of misinterpretation.

In "Could you let me know if this is correct?" I think our understanding of the situation is such that we can't fail to understand the questioner's intent. We know that the questioner is desirous to determine the correctness or incorrectness of something. He or she is not telling us only to respond in the case it is correct but to remain silent in the case that it is not. So it's a bit persnickety to demand that the speaker use "whether" in this case.

Or so it seems to me.


message 8: by Rose (new)

Rose Romano | 28 comments Hi, Zadignose!

"I'm trying to care" is a sarcastic way of saying "I don't care and I never will." It's usually used by teenagers to their parents after or during a lecture. You sound like a person who should know these distinctions.

You don't have to try to care--if you have to, that obviously means you don't care. But any feeling is not something you have to try to feel. Either you feel it or you don't.

As far as Danielle is concerned, she was ridiculing me and that was rude.

As for you, I didn't see in your original message an explicit disagreement. In fact, I understood that you saw the value of what I said even if you thought it wasn't necessary to be so grammatically picky.

And I appreciated the fact that you actually spoke to what I was saying.

As I've said before, I've studied linguistics. I don't base what I say on imcompetent grammar school teachers. I've probably read more grammar books than incompetent grammar school teachers have ever heard of. (And I'm not above ending a sentence with a preposition!) I can't care, and will not try to care, about what a grammar school teacher says. However, there is a difference between lexicon and grammar. Very often, it's not too easy to explain or even to see, but it's usually there. For example, although "of" is not a concrete noun (I can't believe you think concrete nouns are the only words that have definitions in spite of the fact that the way you word your sentence seems to give that impression.), and depends for its definition for the most part on its (grammatical) use in a sentence, it does have a meaning of its own. For example, "This is the page of the book I was talking about" and "This is the page for the book I was talking about" don't mean the same thing precisely because one sentence uses "of" and the other uses "for."

I notice you mention the old rule about not ending a sentence with a preposition, although you actually typed "proposition" which confused me for a moment until I realized it was a typo when I read the next sentences. I mention it only for this reason: if I were to make a sarcastic remark about it, and ignored the point you were trying to make, I think, even if you didn't feel offended, you would take it as being rude. That's why I say Danielle was rude.

As far as the word "whom" is concerned, I personally would only use it in formal writing, such as an essay intended for publication. The word reminds me of a joke. A man calls a friend and before the answerer can identify himself, he starts jabbering. Finally, when the answerer gets a chance to say something, he asks, "To whom did you wish to speak?" The caller says: "I'm sorry. I must have the wrong number. No one I know says whom!"

You say: In "Could you let me know if this is correct?" I think our understanding of the situation is such that we can't fail to understand the questioner's intent.

Yes, of course, you're right. But this is a group for people who are interested in grammar. And so I thought that the members of this group would be interested in grammar. I certainly don't correct people during conversations because I don't want to insult or annoy them.

Anyway, I don't have internet at home nor do I have an American English dictionary. I live in Italy and neglected to bring one with me, knowing I would have to concentrate on improving my Italian as quickly as possible. And the only English grammar books I have are intended to teach English as a foreigh language to Italians.

And don't get me started on what Italians do to English grammar because I'll never stop!

Danny, your English is just fine. If you want to improve it further, you need a real teacher who is good. Sites like this won't help you.

I checked this message carefully to make sure there are no typos but I might have missed some. Forgive me. I'm not perfect.

Rosebeatrice


message 9: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (bonfiggi) I wasn't being sarcastic. I love language.


message 10: by Carol (last edited Dec 07, 2013 06:18AM) (new)

Carol | 10390 comments Joanne wrote: "I wasn't being sarcastic. I love language."

I want to know whether or if you are up to hit the malls, for early Christmas shopping.


message 11: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (bonfiggi) I'm Jewish.


message 12: by Carol (new)

Carol | 10390 comments Has Hanukkah come and gone? I don't remember.


message 13: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18313 comments Mod
The first candle was lit on Thanksgivukkah, so I'd say 8 and out by now. Of course a lot of Jews I know "sort of" celebrate Christmas, too. The commercial one, not the religious one (as if one can be found inside the smog of the other...).


message 14: by Carol (new)

Carol | 10390 comments I'm not Christian, but I enjoy the festivities.


message 15: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18313 comments Mod
It IS beguiling, isn't it? But in recent years it's begun to outlast its welcome. I'm doing alternative stuff like giving to UNICEF (high marks on the Charity Navigator site):

http://inspiredgifts.unicefusa.org/shop

I do this in the name of people in my family. What the hay. We all have too much STUFF as it is....


message 16: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 15767 comments Mod
Carol wrote: "I'm not Christian, but I enjoy the festivities."

I'd rather skip the whole thing.


message 17: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (bonfiggi) Me too, I'm with Dwight Yoakam, "Keep me hidden safe till January's second day."


message 18: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 15767 comments Mod
Joanne wrote: "Me too, I'm with Dwight Yoakam, "Keep me hidden safe till January's second day.""

Bingo. We keep threatening to leave town. Or better yet, stay here, but tell everyone we've left town.


message 19: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18313 comments Mod
New Year's Eve is no biggie. We just hang out and celebrate as a couple, typically. Not party animals at all. Make our own party.


message 20: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 15767 comments Mod
I usually vote for going to bed early.


message 21: by Rose (new)

Rose Romano | 28 comments How did this turn into a conversation about the holidays? This is a group for people interested in grammar or not?


message 22: by Rose (new)

Rose Romano | 28 comments Oops! I just saw a typo in my message. I'll have to run home and put my head in the oven.


message 23: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (bonfiggi) We digress.


message 24: by Carol (new)

Carol | 10390 comments We are a language and grammar group, but we like to chitty-chat, sometimes inadvertently hijacking threads. Given enough patience threads do return to subjects at hand. Sorry for the inconvenience.


message 25: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18313 comments Mod
Back to if and whether it is. Before we talk about the weather or something....


message 26: by Zadignose (last edited Dec 11, 2013 05:38PM) (new)

Zadignose All right. Here are some classic precedents for the use of "if" as a synonym of "whether" from the 18th and 17th Centuries:

---------------------
From Samuel Richardson's Clarissa:

Letter IX, Clarissa Harlowe to Miss Howe:

"...I asked if this was her own insolence, or her young mistress's observation?"

Letter X, Clarissa Harlowe to Miss Howe:

"...Yet, till I know if she has or has not authority for this usage, I will only write further, that I am
Your very unhappy child, CL. HARLOWE."

----------------------------
From William Shakespeare:

Sonnet 14

"...Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell;
Pointing to each his thunder, rain and wind,
Or say with princes if it shall go well
By oft predict that I in heaven find…

--------------------------
From the King James Bible:

Genesis 8:8

"Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground;"


message 27: by Rose (last edited Dec 27, 2013 03:52AM) (new)

Rose Romano | 28 comments I'm guessing that you, Zadignose, didn't really understand my original message. I never said nobody uses "if" when they mean "whether." What I said was that many people do, in fact, use "if" when they mean "whether." The examples you use could have just as easily supported my complaint.
Please excuse a more personal comment, but I looked at your photo enlarged and I have to say that you look very angry, very arrogant, as though you consider all of us to be insects without the right to disagree with you. Did I guess right? Because even your messages don't sound like communications. They sound more like sermons that we bugs better obey.
And your hair!
I don't like you. I'm not going to read your sermons anymore.


message 28: by Zadignose (last edited Dec 27, 2013 09:31PM) (new)

Zadignose You're the only person yet that I've met on Goodreads who felt an ad hominem attack on me was appropriate. I've disagreed with several people, but until now it's been civil.

However, if this will bring a reasonable resolution, consider that you may have misinterpreted my intention from the beginning. I did not expect that this would be a place to only complain about other people's grammar, but rather a place where people discuss grammar and regard ideas, even contrary ideas, without taking disagreement to be a personal matter. It is quite normal and natural to examine questions of grammar by looking at historical precedent, which seemed to me a reasonable approach to the question. Perhaps I should have realized that you were not interested in pursuing this as a question at all.


message 29: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (bonfiggi) Zadignose wrote: "You're the only person yet that I've met on Goodreads who felt an ad hominem attack on me was appropriate. I've disagreed with several people, but until now it's been civil.

However, if this will ..."


A civil and measured response Zadignose, Happy New Year.


message 30: by Carol (new)

Carol | 10390 comments I like to treat people on a social site, as if they were guests in my home.


message 31: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18313 comments Mod
Got any popcorn, Carol?


message 32: by Carol (new)

Carol | 10390 comments Sure, popcorn , peanuts and crackers , no jacks though.


message 33: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18313 comments Mod
... of all trades, even?


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