AskDefine | Define whether

The Collaborative Dictionary

Whether \Wheth"er\, conj. In case; if; -- used to introduce the first or two or more alternative clauses, the other or others being connected by or, or by or whether. When the second of two alternatives is the simple negative of the first it is sometimes only indicated by the particle not or no after the correlative, and sometimes it is omitted entirely as being distinctly implied in the whether of the first. [1913 Webster] And now who knows But you, Lorenzo, whether I am yours? --Shak. [1913 Webster] You have said; but whether wisely or no, let the forest judge. --Shak. [1913 Webster] For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord; whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. --Rom. xiv.
[1913 Webster] But whether thus these things, or whether not; Whether the sun, predominant in heaven, Rise on the earth, or earth rise on the sun, . . . Solicit not thy thoughts with matters hid. --Milton. [1913 Webster] Whether or no, in either case; in any case; as, I will go whether or no. Whether that, whether. --Shak. [1913 Webster]
Whether \Wheth"er\, pron. [OE. whether, AS. hw[ae]?er; akin to OS. hwe?ar, OFries. hweder, OHG. hwedar, wedar, G. weder, conj., neither, Icel. hv[=a]rr whether, Goth. hwa?ar, Lith. katras, L. uter, Gr. ?, ?, Skr. katara, from the interrogatively pronoun, in AS. hw[=a] who. ????. See Who, and cf. Either, Neither, Or, conj.] Which (of two); which one (of two); -- used interrogatively and relatively. [Archaic] [1913 Webster] Now choose yourself whether that you liketh. --Chaucer. [1913 Webster] One day in doubt I cast for to compare Whether in beauties' glory did exceed. --Spenser. [1913 Webster] Whether of them twain did the will of his father? --Matt. xxi.
[1913 Webster]



Old English hwæþer


  • , /ˈwɛðə(r)/, /"wED@(r)/
  • , /ˈʍɛðə(r)/, /"WED@(r)/
  • Rhymes: -ɛðə(r)
  • Hyphenation: wheth·er



  1. Used to introduce an interrogative content clause (indirect question) that consists of multiple alternative possibilities, and indicate uncertainty between them; if.
    He chose the correct answer, but whether by luck or by skill I don't know.
  2. Used to introduce a yes-or-no interrogative content clause (indirect question) that consists of a single possibility, and indicate uncertainty over it; if, whether or not.
    Do you know whether he's coming?
  3. Used to introduce multiple alternative possibilities, and indicate the irrelevance of which is the case; regardless of whether, no matter whether.
    He's coming, whether you like it or not.

Usage notes

  • There is some overlap in usage between the first two senses, 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? Further, in the first two of these examples, the "or staying" and "or not" may be added as an afterthought (sometimes indicated in writing with a comma before), such that the whether may be uttered in sense 2 and then corrected to sense 1.
  • Unlike sense 1, sense 3 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 1 and 2 are classified as noun clauses, and those headed by whether in sense 3 are classified as adverb clauses.


if (in indirect questions)
if, either
whether or not
Translations to be checked

Derived terms

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