General English

  • conjunction showing what might happen
  • conjunction used in asking questions


  • acronym forinstrument flying
    (written as IF)

Origin & History of “if”

The Old English version of if was gif, but its initial g was closer to modern English y in pronunciation than to g, and the conjunction gradually evolved through middle English yif to if. It is not known where it ultimately came from; it is evidently connected with Old high German iba ‘condition’ and Old Norse ef ‘doubt’, but whether it started life as a noun like these or was from the beginning a conjunction is not clear. Its surviving Germanic relatives are German ob ‘whether’ and Dutch of ‘if’.