How to use ‘IF’

How to use ‘IF’ to improve your Business English

Learn 6 ways to use the word ‘IF’ to improve your English when you speak and write email at work.

  • English level: intermediate, upper intermediate & advanced /  B1, B2 & C1
  • English Skills: advanced grammar; speaking & writing 
  • Time: 5-10 mins

Did you know that this little word … ‘IF’ … has many functions in English?! Read on to discover an easy way to upgrade your English fluency!

1. How to use ‘if’ to give advice

We often use the phrase If I were you to give advice.

For example:

If I were youI’d look for a new job.

I’d try speaking with her again if I were you.

Click here to learn more about the second conditional

how to use if for advice

2. How to use ‘if’ to make an offer

The phrases If you like or If you want are often used to introduce offers

For example:

  • I’ll help at the trade fair, if you like.
  • If you like I can pick you up on the way to the event.
How to use if to make an offer

3. How to use ‘if’ to ask permission

We can use if in requests for permission after the phrases Is it OK/all right and with the phrases Do you mind/Would you mind… 

For example: 

  • Is it ok if I leave early tomorrow?
  • Is it all right if Mark joins the meeting?
  • Do you mind if I don’t attend the conference call tomorrow?

For more on polite language see 5 reasons to use polite English in negotiations

how to use if to ask permission

4. How to use ‘if’ to make a promise or talk about future possibility

We can use IF in 1st conditional sentences to talk about the possible future. This is often used when you want to make a promise.  

For example: 

  • If you buy the latest model, we will give you a free service next year.
  • I’ll definitely move there if we open the new office in London.
how to use if to talk about possibility

5. How to use ‘if’ to make a suggestion

We can use the 1st and 2nd conditional sentences with if to make suggestions for action

For example: 

  • If you want that job, you should get a certificate of English.
  • If you had invested in that company you would be rich by now.
how to use if to make a suggestion

6.  How to use ‘if’ to make a request

The phrase I would be grateful if you could is a polite way of making a request.  Other phrases that are similar are I was wondering if you would… and I’d appreciate it if you could … 

For example: 

  • I’d be grateful if you could send me a copy of your catalogue?
  • I was wondering if I could have a quote by Friday?
how to use if to make a request

Need more practice? Learn perfect polite English with our Business English Masterclass

Polite English


English Digital Academy

1. See if you can match the ‘IF’ phrase to the function

2. Match the phrases to make full sentences

Kerin Goodall Founder English Digital Academy

ps. See how you can move towards proficiency with my advanced English courses.

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