- Whether is defined as a word used to introduce an alternative.
An example of whether is what someone would say when asking her child if she would like vanilla or chocolate ice cream.
- if it be the case or fact that: used to introduce an indirect question: ask whether she will help
- in case; in either case that: used to introduce alternatives, the second of which is preceded by or or by or whether[whether he drives or (whether he) flies, he'll be on time]: sometimes, the second is merely implied or understood [we don't know whether he'll improve (or not)]
- either: taxation to support the war, whether just or unjust
Origin of whetherMiddle English ; from Old English hwæther (akin to German weder, neither) ; from Indo-European an unverified form kwotero-, which (of two) ; from base an unverified form kwo-, who (from source what) + comparative suffix
Archaic which (esp. of two): used interrogatively and relatively
whether or no
in any case
- Used in indirect questions to introduce one alternative: We should find out whether the museum is open. See Usage Notes at doubt, if.
- Used to introduce alternative possibilities: Whether she wins or whether she loses, this is her last tournament.
- Either: He passed the test, whether by skill or luck.
Which: “We came in full View of a great Island or Continent, (for we knew not whether)” (Jonathan Swift).
Origin of whetherMiddle English, from Old English hwether; see kwo- in Indo-European roots.
- Bible, Matthew xxi. 31
- Whether of them twain did the will of his father?
- 1616, William Shakespeare, King John, I.i:
- Whether hadst thou rather be a Faulconbridge, [...] Or the reputed sonne of Cordelion?
- Used to introduce an indirect interrogative question that consists of multiple alternative possibilities (usually with correlative or).
- He chose the correct answer, but whether by luck or by skill I don't know.
- Without a correlative, used to introduce a simple indirect question; if, whether or not.
- Do you know whether he's coming?
- Used to introduce a disjunctive adverbial clause which qualifies the main clause of the sentence (with correlative or).
- He's coming, whether you like it or not.
- There is some overlap in usage between senses 2 and 3, in that a yes-or-no interrogative content clause can list the two possibilities explicitly in a number of ways:
- Do you know whether he's coming or staying?
- Do you know whether he's coming or not?
- Do you know whether or not he's coming?
- Sense 4 does not have a counterpart that introduces only a single possibility; *"He's coming, whether you like it" is ungrammatical.
- In traditional grammar, the clauses headed by whether in senses 2 and 3 are classified as noun clauses, and those headed by whether in sense 4 are classified as adverb clauses.