if [if] /ɪf/ Show IPA
in case that; granting or supposing that; on condition that:
Sing if you want to. Stay indoors if it rains. I'll go if you do.
an enthusiastic if small audience.
He asked if I knew Spanish.
(used to introduce an exclamatory phrase):
If only Dad could see me now!
when or whenever:
If it was raining, we had to play inside.
a supposition; uncertain possibility:
The future is full of ifs.
a condition, requirement, or stipulation:
There are too many ifs in his agreement.
ifs, ands, or buts,
reservations, restrictions, or excuses:
I want that job finished today, and no ifs, ands, or buts.
before 900; Middle English, variant of yif, Old English gif, gef; akin to Old Norse ef if, Gothic ibai whether, Old High German iba condition, stipulation
1, 2. If, provided, providing imply a condition on which something depends. If is general. It may be used to indicate suppositions or hypothetical conditions (often involving doubt or uncertainty): If you like, we can go straight home. If I had known, I wouldn't have gone. If may mean even though: If I am wrong, you are not right. It may mean whenever: If I do not understand, I ask questions. Provided always indicates some stipulation: I will subscribe ten dollars provided (on the condition ) that you do, too. Provided he goes, we can go along. Providing means the same as provided that is, just in case some certain thing should happen: We will buy the house, providing (provided ) we can get a mortgage.
If meaning “whether,” as in I haven't decided if I'll go, is sometimes criticized, but the usage has been established in standard English for a long time.