If vs When – What’s the difference?

Words like if and when are often very confusing. Most people fail to distinguish the meaning and usage between such words and confuse them to be the same word. However, that is not the case. Terms like if and when have different purposes and meanings.

If vs When - What's the difference?

It is a fact that If and when can be used interchangeably in most cases. But they are not entirely the same. In order to form a proper formal sentence, it is important to know their distinctions.

If is a term in English grammar that introduces a conditional clause in a sentence. That means it functions as a conditional word and introduces an unreal or possible situation. If is either used at the beginning of the sentence or at the end. In most cases, if functions as conjunction between two clauses.

For example:

  • If it rains today, we will cancel the trip.
  • You can call me out if you need any help with the assignment.
  • She can leave if she is feeling dizzy.

When, on the other hand, is used in a time sense. It indicates the time of a future situation or condition which is not just a possibility but is also certain to happen. Unlike if, when is not conditional. When is basically used as a relative adverb that means at which.

For example:

  • She visited me when I was sick.
  • You can come to my house when you are free.
  • I’ll leave when she arrives.

These are the basic differences between the two. They might look the same, but both have different purposes.

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