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What is the Difference Between When and if

The difference between when and if

I was taking a test and filling in sentences when I came across a fill in the blank question, and the answer was either when or if. I was wondering, since these two sentences can be used in many of the same sentences, so what is the difference between "when" and "if"?


Difference between "when" and "if"


When you look at how these two words, if and when, are used in the English language, you will find that if is used as a conjunction and also as a noun while when is used a relative adverb.


1. How to use "when"?

When is used to confirm that something will happen.

For example: 

  • When I'm in Paris, I'll visit you.
  • A sow, when washed; returns to the muck.
  • Frugality when all is spent comes too late.
  • He never lies but when the holly is green.
  • Hoist your sail when the wind is fair.
  • I fear the Greeks, even when bringing gifts.
  • Take time when time cometh, lest time steal away.
  • The devil is good when he is pleased.
  • When guns speak it is too late to argue.
  • When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
  • When love puts in, friendship is gone.
  • When the fox preaches, take care of your geese.
  • When the sun comes in, the doctor goes out.
  • When three know it, all know it.
  • When war begins, then hell openeth.
  • When wine is in truth is out.

Note: In the first example I am sure, I am going to Paris.

2. How to use "if"?

If is used to infer what will happen.

For example:

  • If I'm in Paris, I'll visit you. 
  • If anything can go wrong, it will.
  • If the beard were all, the goat might preach.
  • If the cap fits, wear it.
  • If the old dog barks, he gives counsel.
  • If the ox falls, whet your knife.
  • If the shoe fits, wear it.
  • If winter comes, can spring be far behind?
  • If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
  • If you build it they will come.
  • If you cannot bite, never show your teeth.
  • If you command wisely, you'll be obeyed cheerfully.
  • If you want knowledge, you must toil for it.
  • If you want knwledge, you must toil for it.
  • If you wish for peace, be prepared for war.
  • If you wish good advice, consult an old man.
  • Justice must be done even if the sky falls.

Note: In the first example I am not sure if I am going to Paris.


When vs. If: note


You can use "when" or "if" to talk about things that happen frequently (in generalizations), for example:

  • When you freeze water, it expands.
  • If you freeze water, it expands.

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