Learner's definition of IF
1 — used to talk about the result or effect of something that may happen or be true
If it rains, (then) we won't go to the park.
If he actually did commit the crime, he deserves to be punished.
If you believe that, you'll believe anything!
Come to the party if you can.
If you really want to know, you should ask.
What will happen if I fail the test?
You should study. If not, you won't pass the test. = If you don't (study), you won't pass the test.
Please arrive early if possible. = Please arrive early if it is possible.
I'll do the work myself if necessary. = I'll do the work myself if it is necessary.
If and when he comes, you can ask him. = When and if he comes, you can ask him.
2 — used to discuss the imaginary result or effect of something that did not happen or that is or was not true
If you had studied, you would have passed the test.
The situation would be funny if it weren't so tragic. = (informal) The situation would be funny if it wasn't so tragic.
The harvest would have been good if it had rained.
The news would be interesting if (it were) true, but it's not true.
3 — used to say that something must happen before another thing can happen 4 — used to indicate a result that always occurs when something happens 5 : even though : although
It was an interesting if unbelievable story.
Her actions were understandable, if not forgivable.
He had to perform an annoying, if necessary, task.
a fair, if tough, boss
The weather was good, if not great.
6 — used to introduce a statement or question about something that is not certain
I'll see if [=whether] I can come.
Do you know if he'll come to the party?
I wonder if it's true (or not).
Frankly, I doubt if he'll pass the exams.
She asked if the mail had come.
We should determine/decide if it is safe to go swimming.
7 a — used to make a polite request or suggestion
b — used to state an opinion in a polite way
Would you mind if I sat here? [=may I sit here?]
If you will/would (be good enough to) follow me, ladies and gentlemen, I'll take you to your seats.
If I could make a suggestion, why don't we sit closer to the front of the theater?
I'd like to stay a little longer, if you don't mind. = I'd like to stay a little longer, if it's/that's all right with you.
8 — used in statements that describe feelings (such as regret) about a possible situation
I'm sorry if you think I insulted you.
I'd be sorry if you thought I had insulted you.
I don't care if we're late.
9 — used in statements and questions that express doubt
I met Brenda last week—if that is/was in fact her real name.
If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?
10 — used to introduce an even stronger alternative to what has just been said
These changes will have little if any impact on the problem.
Few if any of the town's original settlers are left.
Rarely, if ever, does that happen.
His efforts have helped to save thousands, if not millions, of lives.
My car is as fast as yours if not (even) faster.
11 — used to express surprise about meeting someone when it is not expected
So I went to the game and who should I see there if not [=but] my old friend Tom!
Well, if it isn't my old friend Tom!
So I went to the game and who did I see there if it wasn't my old friend Tom!
12 — used to emphasize the truth of a statement
The idea is true if any idea has ever been! [=the idea is certainly true]
“He claims that he's never met her.” “Well, if that isn't the biggest load of nonsense I've ever heard!” [=that is a lot of nonsense; that is completely untrue]
I'll get my revenge if it's the last thing I do! [=I am determined to get my revenge]
— used to make a statement that strongly disagrees or contrasts with a preceding statement
We don't see each other too often—if anything we don't see each other often enough!
The economy has not improved. It has gotten worse, if anything.
if I were you
— used when giving advice to people about how they should behave
if not for
: in the absence of (something or someone) : without
— often used in the phrases if it were not for and if it had not been for
If not for modern medicine, fewer babies would survive.
If not for him, I wouldn't be where I am today.
If it were not for your donations, many more children would go hungry.
If it hadn't been for him, I wouldn't be where I am today.
if nothing else
: at least — used to stress that an approving statement is true even though a stronger statement might not be
If nothing else, he's polite!
The food was hot, if nothing else. [=the food may not have been very good, but at least it was hot]
— used to talk about something that you want to happen or be true
if you ask me
— used in statements that express an opinion
Learner's definition of IF
: something that is not certain : something that could either happen or not happen
There are too many ifs in this proposal.
They could win if everyone plays his best, but that's a big if. [=it is not likely that everyone will play his best]
(US) She's the most qualified candidate, and there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it! = (Brit) She's the most qualified candidate, and there are no ifs and buts about it! [=it is certain that she is the most qualified candidate]