Wiktionary says that the word если ("if") originated from есть ли (literally "whether is"):

Происходит от стар. естьли (ещё у Карамзина), ср.: укр. єсли, польск. jeśli, др.-польск. jestli, чешск. jestli и т. д. Из jestь li. (Link)

I also found in Google that есть ли (written as two separate words or as a single word) was routinely used in old Russian texts to express if:

(1) Естьли въ ариѳметикѣ изъ двухъ данныхъ чиселъ третіе слѣдуетъ непрекословно, то и въ семъ происшествіи слѣдствіе было необходимо.

(2) А есть ли бъ Карпъ или Сидоръ названъ былъ, такъ тогда навѣдаться можно объ нихъ и отъ нихъ.

(3) Могъ ли бъ я вѣрить, есть ли бъ я не видѣлъ, кто меня нынѣ толь возненавидѣлъ.

In Sentences (1)-(3) есть ли does precisely the same thing as если does in modern Russian.

Moreover, I also found numerous examples of using есть ли to express if in modern Russian:

(4) В идеале, хотелось бы узнать, существует ли закон, обязывающий физическое лицо платить НДФЛ от переводов полученных от юр. лиц. И есть ли есть, то где можно почитать про это и проверить какие там есть исключения. (Source)

(5) Есть ли есть желание, Вы можете передать эти вопросы рекрутеру и попросить ответить на эти вопросы через email. (Source)

(6) Есть ли в ваших магазинах духи Legacy Cristiano Ronaldo? И есть ли есть подскажите стоимость. (Source)

My question is this: Given that если already contains есть, is если есть a kind of repetition like буде будет or масло масляное? In other words, is using если есть somewhat hilarious or disrespectful to the history of the Russian language, and should I therefore avoid using если есть?

  • 3
    A modern speaker doesn't perceive Если as containing есть + ли. Cnf Спасибо (thanks) etymologically contains спаси+бог (save God), but a modern speaker doesn't mean God when using спасибо.
    – alexsms
    Commented May 23, 2019 at 6:15

2 Answers 2


Not at all. People use если есть all the time, and avoiding it would be as gratuitously pedantic as avoiding был бы. The connection is no longer felt, and the есть ли of your examples 4–6 is a spelling mistake despite being etymologically correct.

  • Are you really sure that examples 4-6 are spelling mistakes and not just a dialect in which "есть ли" as "if" survived? Look what I found in the Internet: rusfootball.info/pliga/… Look at the title(!) of this article. The title is: Магомед Адиев: "Ахмат"? Есть ли есть хоть малейший шанс, то я останусь в "Анжи". How could a spelling mistake like that be made in a title?
    – Mitsuko
    Commented May 23, 2019 at 23:41
  • Your answer really confused me. If someone made a spelling mistake, either he simply pressed a wrong button because he ''missed'' a target with his finger, or he did not know how to write the word correctly. But you cannot type есть ли есть if you intend to type если есть. You can type, for example, есаи есть or smth like that, but you cannot hit the keys т and ь consecutively if it is not your intent. It is like typing "bull" and saying it was a series of spelling mistakes in "cow."
    – Mitsuko
    Commented May 23, 2019 at 23:42
  • And if a person believes that есть ли is a valid form of если, and if it is really not, then how come he wasn't taught properly at school? Если is a fundamental word. How could his Russian teacher ignore the wrong spelling?
    – Mitsuko
    Commented May 23, 2019 at 23:43
  • 1
    @Mitsuko As I was explained, a "wrong button" mistake is called something else, a "typo". Those are specifically not-knowing-how-it's-spelt mistakes, the "their/they're" kind — which of course can be made accidentally in a hurry too. And yes, there's a mistake in that RusFootball title, which the proofreader, if they have one, didn't catch. What can I say, some people didn't pay attention in school; some type faster than they think, as it were; one way or another, it's wrong. Commented May 23, 2019 at 23:53
  • 1
    @Mitsuko Aah, so that's why. The /т/ inside the clusters -стл- and -стн- is silent. Местный is pronounced [месный], etc. Hypercorrection may cause people to insert extra /т/'s where they don't belong (e.g. взрослый — misspelt as "взростлый", it would be pronouonced the same). Commented May 24, 2019 at 1:20

No, for russian speaker it hears if is or if eat dont forget to be | eat = есть so there is also lexem ambigity here, russian is so weird.

P.S. Do not judge modern russian by reading old one with ѣ whatever

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