Submitted by Banjo  •  January 24, 2012

that vs. if and whether

From my experience, about 95% of english speaking people (even educated people) employ this grammar (which I believe is incorrect, based on my school training in English, many moons ago, and which I hence detest and just cannot and will not adjust to !):

e.g.: “I wonder THAT this is correct”, rather than: “I wonder IF this is correct”, or:

“I wonder WHETHER this is correct”.

“I wonder THAT that is a fact”, rather than: “I wonder IF this is a fact” or:

“I wonder WHETHER OR NOT this is a fact”.

“I don’t know THAT it was cleaned much…” (from a radio personality this very evening)

IF or WHETHER must be used when there is uncertainty or doubt.

THAT should be used when there is certainty. E.g.: “I know that this is true.”

Comments Sort by:   Oldest first  •  Latest first  •  Rating

I don't find your examples to be following your own rules.
"I wonder if that is a fact?" THAT IS A QUESTION. A question displays uncertainty or doubt.
"That is a fact." is a statement lacking uncertainty or doubt, which is why THAT is used.
"You know that that's going to fall." This is an example of what you are describing. The speaker is telling the listener that "THAT" is going to fall.
"You know if that's going to fall?" This is a question asking if "THAT" is going to fall.

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

"From my experience, about 95% of english speaking people (even educated people) employ this grammar"

Ninety-five percent, eh?

Then perhaps it's correct.

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

I do not think I have ever heard (much less read) people using THAT in the way that you say.

“I wonder THAT this is correct” does not mean the same thing as “I wonder IF (or WHETHER) this is correct”, it is a rather awkward way of saying something like "I am (or will be) amazed to find that this is correct."

2 votes Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

Banjo

Reply to EPI:

"I don't find your examples to be following your own rules.":

"You know if that's going to fall?" This is a question asking IF "THAT" is going to fall.
Your sample sentence is, in my humble opinion, grammatically correct, but seems to point to something grammatically inappropriate. "that" in this sentence refers to some item which is, or is not going to fall, rather than the grammatical "that" used incorrectly to mean WHETHER or NOT, or, IF.

To clarify for you:
"Do you know IF that's (item or object) going to fall ?" Question, compare with:
"Do you know THAT that's (item or object) going to fall ? - implies a certainty.

Repeat mention of radio personality:
“I don’t know THAT it was cleaned much…” (from a radio personality this very evening)
(He was was referring to "it" being a shirt, and was wondering whether of not the shirt in question had been cleaned much, if at all, over the last 3 weeks while it had been in use)

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

95% certainly suggests common usage.
However, as can be seen from the majority of posts in the forum, common usage is not always correct usage.
I would agree that some of the examples quoted certainly do sound strange and stilted and I certainly would not use such phraseology.
Some people do have an unfortunate tendency toward using peculiar phraseology in the misguided belief that it makes them sound a bit more erudite.

2 votes Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

I marvel that this is correct.

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

Nice one Rachel!

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

Dear Rachel, I can assure you that I am of most sound mind, as well as educated sufficiently to perceive many things, but I simply do not get what you are referring to with your comment.
"Please explain"

Plus: here's another that gets me:

The frequently used words "ecology" and economy or "economic", pronounced by many as if the words were spelled with double c, e.g. ecconomic etc.

Why this pain to our great language ?
Is it ignorance or do some people introduce these things just to be different ?

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

@Banjo

At the risk of going off topic, how does the pronunciation of a double "c" differ from that of a single "c"?

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

Sounds such as "echo", eccentric, etc. employ either an extra "c", or sometimes an "h" to indicate to the user how to pronounce the word in question.
I thought that this is the way upon which language is usually built, spelling to indicate how to pronounce, and grammar rules to indicate how to make sense to each other what we mean with a minimum of confusion.

Hence, the single "c" is meant to pronounce words like say, "economics" with an "ee" sound, rather than an "e" sound such as in "echo". We don't pronounce that word as "eecho" do we ?

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

@Banjo
Thanks for the explanation.
Just shows that one is never too old to learn.
Do you have an example that covers words like schedule, mandatory, premier, buoy, route, debut etc?
There are a lot of people out there who need enlightenment.
;)

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

One thing is sure. Your need to add "OR NOT" to the WHETHER usage is a redundancy. The inclusion of "whether" already stipulates a request for an understanding between the pro and con side of the stated argument. Adding "OR NOT" only doubles this, like saying "I wonder WHETHER OR NOT this is a fact or not". It should simply and correctly read "I wonder WHETHER this is a fact" because it either is or it isn't.

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

The notion that the single "c" requires an "ee-" pronunciation is not a standard English pronunciation rule. In the variants of econo... ecolo... etc, the first e may often be pronounced with many options, including "ih-", "eh-", "uh-" (well, really "shwa"), and, yes, "ee-". Actually, in all of the dictionaries I've checked, the "ee-" pronunciation is not even listed in mostof the variants, and then, when it is, always the last pronunciation. They are pronounced the same as the double c, not out of ignorance, but out of correctness.

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

I would say 'if that' because 'that' is relative pronoun that introduces a noun, adjective, or an adverb clause. When it's an adverb clause, it means a purpose or result, while 'if' is used for condition, i.e. "If I read now, I will be done with home work sooner."

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

Your Comment