Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
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 Post subject: Militant Grammarian
PostPosted: Fri Aug 28, 2009 7:19 am 
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Joined: Thu Aug 06, 2009 8:39 am
Posts: 1
Infinite Jest p763:

> Mario: "How can you tell if somebody's sad?"
> Avril: "You mean whether someone's sad."

I don't understand the distinction here that Avril's making between "if" and "whether". Can anyone explain it to me?


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 Post subject: Re: Militant Grammarian
PostPosted: Fri Aug 28, 2009 8:08 am 
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Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2009 8:44 am
Posts: 7
Location: Montreal
From Bryan A Garner's A Dictionary of Modern American Usage (which DFW discussed at length in "Tense Present: Democracy, English, and the wars over usage"):

Quote:
It's a good practice to distinguish between these words. Use if for a conditional idea, whether for an alternative or possibility. Thus, Let me know if you'll be coming means that I want to hear from you only if you're coming. But Let me know whether you'll be coming means that I want to hear from you about your plans one way or the other.


Copyeditors (I am one) generally try to maintain the distinction.


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