Whether ( and ) Whether or Not

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Whether ( and ) Whether or Not :

“Whether” works fine on its own in most contexts: “I wonder whether I forgot to turn off the stove?” But when you mean “regardless of whether” it has to be followed by “or not” somewhere in the sentence: “We need to leave for the airport in five minutes whether you’ve found your teddy bear or not.”

“If” is used frequently in casual speech and writing where some others would prefer “whether”: “I wonder if you would be willing to dress up as a giant turnip for the parade?” Revise to “I wonder whether. . . .” “If" can’t really be called an error, but when you are discussing two alternative possibilities, “whether” sounds more polished. (The two possibilities in this example are: 1) you would be willing or 2) you wouldn’t. In sentences using “whether” “or not” is often understood.) Don’t substitute the very different word “whither,” which means “where.”

Common Errors Index

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