When vs If

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What’s the difference between them?



implies a definite or expected time or situation.


1. When the sun rises, the birds start to sing.

2. We will know when the time is right.

3. When the bell rings, everyone should be ready to go.



introduces a condition or possibility, indicating a hypothetical or uncertain situation.


1. If you finish your work early, you can watch some TV.

2. If I don't get enough sleep, I'm not productive the next day.

3. If you need help, just ask me.

Learn similar and opposite words to spot the difference




1. At what time

2. Now

3. Immediately

4. Promptly

5. In due course

1. Now

2. Before

3. Later

4. Afterwards

5. Already


1. In case

2. Whenever

3. Supposing

4. Providing

5. Assuming

1. Unless

2. After

3. Before

4. Not

5. Instead of

Tricks for mastery

Useful tips to understand the difference between confusing words "When", "If".

1. When writing, consider the context of the sentence. 'When' implies a definite time or situation, while 'if' denotes an uncertain or hypothetical scenario.

2. When unsure of which word to use, use a mnemonic phrase such as 'When in doubt, use 'when'.'

Check the full list of commonly confused words in English

Learn the difference

Frequently asked questions

When should the word 'if' be used?

If should be used to introduce a condition or possibility, indicating a hypothetical or uncertain situation. For example, 'If I had more money, I would buy a new car.'

When should the word 'when' be used?

When should be used to imply a definite or expected time or situation. For example, 'When I finish work, I will go home.'

Do the two words share the same pronunciation?

No, the two words do not share the same pronunciation. The word 'if' is pronounced /if/, while the word 'when' is pronounced /wen/.

What are some common mistakes people make when using these words?

A common mistake people make when using these words is confusing the two. People often use 'when' when they should use 'if', or vice versFor example, 'When I have enough money, I will buy a new car' should be 'If I have enough money, I will buy a new car'.

Fill in the gaps to check yourself

1. I will call you _____ I arrive at the station.

2. _______ it rains tomorrow, we will have to cancel the picnic.

3. She will be upset ______ she finds out about this.

4. ______ you see my keys, please let me know.

5. We can go to the beach _____ the weather is nice this weekend.

6. ______ you pass the test, you will receive a certificate.

1. when

Explanation: The event of calling is directly linked to the event of arriving at the station. Theres a definite sequence implied: first arriving and then calling. Therefore, when is appropriate.

2. if

Explanation: Here, theres a condition set for the event of the picnic getting canceled. The condition is it raining tomorrow. Hence, if is used to denote this conditional scenario.

3. when

Explanation: The sequence of events is highlighted here: first finding out about something and then getting upset. The sentence suggests a definite reaction to finding out about something, so when is suitable.

4. if

Explanation: This sentence is conditional. Its not certain that the person being spoken to will see the keys, so if indicates the possibility.

5. if

Explanation: The action (going to the beach) is conditional on the weather being nice. Theres no sequence implied, but rather a condition for the action to take place, hence if is appropriate.

6. if

Explanation: The receipt of the certificate is dependent on passing the test. This dependency is conditional, and if is the right choice to indicate this condition.

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List of Commonly Confused Words

Finding your way around the English language can be hard, especially since there are so many confusing words and rules. So, a list of the most confusing words in English is an extremely useful tool for improving language accuracy and sharing the ideas clearly.