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Если vs Ли: Expressing the Conditional

Today's post is a short reminder of when to use если or ли. Foreigners are sometimes confused and have trouble whether to use one or the other. Let's try to clarify this point today.


Actually the distinction between both conditional sentences are quite simple, если can only be translated by if, while ли could be translated by whether (or not).

  • Если было бы так просто! (If it was that simple!)
  • Позвони если тебе нужно что-то. (Call me if you need anything.)
  • Если я буду свободен, я пойду. (If I am free, I will go.)

Ли, also meaning if, and can be translated in English by whether (or not):

  • Марина не скажет, придёт ли она домой. (Marina won't say, if/whether she will come home.)
  • Я не знаю, пошёл ли он на работу. (I don't know if/whether he went to work.)

When to use если or ли…