Learn English – Expression “if and when something happens”


What is the level of formality in the expression “if and when” while referring to a possible happening? Googling “if and when X happen” gives me all sorts of entries, some formal some clearly informal.

Best Answer

If and when carries no direct formality implication as your search shows.

Note 1: Unless you associate the complexity and precision with formalism. As in if you assume that a formal audience will more likely understand (and also correctly use) the expression in all of its subtleties.

Note 2: The phrase was actually heavily criticized by Fowler (see here) and perhaps more appropriately treated in Merriam-Webster. This complexity is something that you might not want to deal with in informal text or talk.