- in case that; granting or supposing that; on condition that: Sing if you want to. Stay indoors if it rains. I'll go if you do.
- even though: an enthusiastic if small audience.
- whether: He asked if I knew Spanish.
- (used to introduce an exclamatory phrase): If only Dad could see me now!
- when or whenever: If it was raining, we had to play inside.
- a supposition; uncertain possibility: The future is full of ifs.
- a condition, requirement, or stipulation: There are too many ifs in his agreement.
- ifs, ands, or buts, reservations, restrictions, or excuses: I want that job finished today, and no ifs, ands, or buts.
Origin of if
SynonymsSee more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
- intermediate frequency
- in case that, or on condition thatif you try hard it might work; if he were poor, would you marry him?
- used to introduce an indirect question. In this sense, if approaches the meaning of whether
- even thoughan attractive if awkward girl
- used to introduce expressions of desire, with onlyif I had only known
- used to introduce exclamations of surprise, dismay, etcif this doesn't top everything!
- as if as it would be if; as thoughhe treats me as if I were junior to him
- an uncertainty or doubtthe big if is whether our plan will work at all
- a condition or stipulationI won't have any ifs or buts
Word Origin and History for ifs, ands, or buts
Old English gif (initial g- in Old English pronounced with a sound close to Modern English -y-), from Proto-Germanic *ja-ba (cf. Old Saxon, Old Norse ef, Old Frisian gef, Old High German ibu, German ob, Dutch of "if, whether"), from PIE pronomial stem *i- [Watkins]; Klein, OED suggest probably originally from an oblique case of a noun meaning "doubt" (cf. Old High German iba "condition, stipulation, doubt," Old Norse if "doubt, hesitation," Swedish jäf "exception, challenge"). As a noun from 1510s.
- initiation factor
Idioms and Phrases with ifs, ands, or buts
In addition to the idioms beginning with if
- if anything
- if at first you don't succeed, try, try again
- if it ain't broke don't fix it
- if only
- if the mountain won't come to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain
- if the shoe fits, wear it
- if wishes were horses
- if worst comes to worst
- if you can't beat 'em, join 'em
- if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen