How to use ‘if’ and ‘when’

How to use ‘if’ and ‘when’

By English Tutor:

How to use 'if' and 'when'


  • If is a conjugate which is used on condition or supposition that. When it is used under these conditions then words such as provided, assuming, on condition that, providing and supposing can be used in its stead.
  • A conjugate is a word that gives different forms of a verb as they vary according to number, tenses. It other words, a conjugates are those words that are used in grammar that join words, phrases or sentences. Examples of conjugate words include, and, or, but etc.
  • It can be used with the present perfect tenses and perfect tenses to introduce a likely action or situation. E.g. if you have finished eating, you may leave the table.
  • There are really no strict rules that govern the use of if, just the understanding of what the sentence it is being used in means.


  • When can be an interrogative adverb at what time and on what occasion; which simply means that the statement being said is asking a question. E.g. when can you come? When did h leave? Interrogative adverbs ask questions
  • When can also be used as a relative adverb. Relative adverbs have to do with time, day, month, etc. e.g. Sunday is the day when I can relax or there are times when I wonder why I do this job. When as a relative adverb can be used to state with reference to time period.
  • When can also be used as a pronoun


*    When carries a certainty in its intended meaning posed as either a question of a relative statement that if does not have. Even as a statement or a person asks a question, there should be a clear distinction as to what the intended meaning of either one is.

*    The two cannot be used interchangeably.

*    The following examples should show this last point clearly.
When I see you tomorrow…

If I see you tomorrow…

Keep Learning,

English Tutor


Founder and Editor in Chief of the Readers Cafe Africa

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.