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Who said grammar was all hard work? It can be sweet when our presenter Dan's involved… Watch him explain the differences between if and when and gobble some tasty candies.

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    Упражнение 1

Упражнение 1

If and when

If and when. When and if. Both are, of course, very common words in English, but using them can sometimes be confusing. But never fear, Dan's here with some sweet grammar tips to make sure you know the important differences between them!

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Hi guys. Dan for BBC Learning English here. This week I'm going to teach you about the difference between if and when. And of course, all in 90 seconds. We're going to do the whole thing using this timer, this coin and these two delicious piles of sweets.

Are you ready? Here we go.

Now. Do you like sweets? I love sweets. I've had a sweet tooth since I was a child. The problem is that when I get two delicious piles of sweets I can never make up my mind which one I want to eat first. It drives me mad.

And so, to help me decide, I've brought along a coin. Now, in English we call this side of the coin heads, and this side of the coin tails. What I'm going to do is spin this coin. Now, if the coin lands on heads I'm going to eat these delicious sweets. And if the coin lands on tails, I'm going to eat these delicious sweets. It's win-win! I literally can't lose. This is superb. Are you ready?

I can say if because at the moment, both oportunities are still possible. And if is used for a possible outcome in the present or future. It's often used with conditionals.

Now I spin the coin.

When the coin stops, I'll know what to do. I can say when because when is for certainty. I know the coin will stop spinning eventually.

Have you got it?

Let's have a look. It's tails. I'm going to eat this delicious pile of sweets.

Alright? Did you get the difference between when and if? That's good. When and if can be used for a variety of different tenses and a variety of different situations.

For more information have a look on our website at bbclearningenglish.com for a full transcript... CLOCK BEEPS... perfect timing as usual... a full transcript and exercises on what to do.

I've been Dan; you've been fantastic. I'm going to eat these sweets. Excuse me.


The main difference is to do with certainty. Compare these:

1) If the coin lands on tails, I'll eat these sweets.

2) When the coin stops, I'll know what to do.

In the first sentence, we don't know what will happen. The coin could land on heads or tails. Both consequences are possible, so we use if.

But in the second sentence, we are certain that the coin will stop. It's a question of when it stops, not if it stops.

To do

When you feel ready – try these questions to test your understanding!

Sweet success!

3 Questions

Dan's got his sweets, but how well did you understand his point? Test yourself in our quiz. No sweets provided if you get them all right, unfortunately. In some answers both 'if' and 'when' are grammatically possible, so choose the answer that follows the advice that Dan gave in the video.

Excellent! Отлично! Bad luck! Вы набрали:
x / y

End of Session 1

That's it for this session. We hope you enjoyed it. Now, where are the sweets...?!


Join us for News Review as we discuss a major story in the news, and the language you need to understand it.

Сеанс работы над грамматикой

Сеанс работы над лексикой

  • heads
    the side of a coin with a head or face on it

    the other side of a coin