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Using “If” in TOEFL Independent Writing

In TOEFL independent writing, statements with “if” in them are often useful. “If” statements can help you give good supporting details for your opinions.

How “if” statements work in general

In English, the word “if” is used in statements called conditionals. There are a few different possible grammar structures for conditional if statements. You can go over these structures in Kate’s review of conditionals if you want. But for this post, all you need to know about if statements is that they demonstrate cause and effect. To give one very simple example, I can tell you that if you read this post, you will learn something new about TOEFL Independent Writing. (Reading this blog post is a cause, and learning something new is the effect.)

How “if” statements work in TOEFL Independent Writing

In TOEFL Independent writing, you’re asked to express and support an opinion about a social issue. One of the best ways to support an opinion about society is to talk about what must be true if you are correct.

Suppose, for instance, that you strongly feel that governments need to make regulations to reduce pollution. You could say that if governments don’t make good laws, pollution will increase. On the other hand, you might feel that individual people need to make better decisions that reduce pollution. In that case, you could support your opinion by making a statement such as “If  people make more of an effort to recycle and if people are more willing to use public transportation, we can have less pollution.”

In short, by using “if” to support your opinion, you encourage your reader to imagine situations that demonstrate your points.

Examples of if statements in a TOEFL Independent Writing response

Now, let’s look at some if statements that could be used in a response to an actual TOEFL Task 2 question. We’ll use this sample TOEFL Writing Task 2 prompt:

  • Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? The Internet causes people to interact with each other less than they did in the past. Use specific reasons to support your answers.

    Like many TOEFL Independent Writing questions, you are being asked to take a side on an issue. No matter which side you take, you can use “if” statements to give examples that support your argument. Below are some possible statements for the agree and disagree options.


    • If people didn’t spend so much time in their rooms on the Internet, they would spend more time with their family and friends.
    • If you meet other people in a public place like a coffee shop or the mall, you have more chances for memorable social interactions, compared to the Internet.
    • Before the Internet was invented, if people were bored, they were more likely to leave their house and do things with other people.


    • If we didn’t have the Internet, it would be a lot harder to chat with people from different parts of the world.
    • If you go to an Internet cafe, you can actually meet people and make new friends while you’re doing your homework or playing computer games.
    • If people who are not very social don’t have the Internet, they will still choose to do other things alone, without being social.

    Using “if” statements in a full TOEFL Writing Task 2 response

    These examples can help you think about how you might respond to the question above. Try writing your own answer to this Independent Writing question. Use the word “if” to give cause/effect details that support your opinion. And in my next post, I’ll show you my own model answer to this example Independent Writing Task.

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