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Webster 1913 Edition


Whether

Wheth′er

,
p
ron.
[OE.
whether
, AS.
hwæ[GREEK]er
; akin to OS.
hwe[GREEK]ar
, OFries.
hweder
, OHG.
hwedar
,
wedar
, G.
weder
, conj., neither, Icel.
hvārr
whether, Goth.
hwa[GREEK]ar
, Lith.
katras
, L.
uter
, Gr. [GREEK], [GREEK], Skr.
katara
, from the interrogatively pronoun, in AS.
hwā
who. [GREEK][GREEK][GREEK][GREEK]. See
Who
, and cf.
Either
,
Neither
,
Or
,
conj
.]
Which (of two); which one (of two); – used interrogatively and relatively.
[Archaic]
Now choose yourself
whether
that you liketh.
Chaucer.
One day in doubt I cast for to compare
Whether
in beauties’ glory did exceed.
Spenser.
Whether
of them twain did the will of his father?
Matt. xxi. 31.

Wheth′er

,
c
onj.
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.
And now who knows
But you, Lorenzo,
whether
I am yours?
Shakespeare
You have said; but
whether
wisely or no, let the forest judge.
Shakespeare
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. 8.
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.
Whether or no
,
in either case; in any case; as, I will go whether or no.
Whether that
,
whether.
Shak.

Webster 1828 Edition


Whether

WHETHER

, pronoun or substitute. [L. The sense seems to be what, or which of two, referring either to persons or to sentences.]
1.
Which of two.
Whether of them twain did the will of his father? Matthew 21/
Here whether is a substitute for one of two, and signifies which; which of the two; but in this sense it is obsolete.
2.
Which of two alternatives, expressed by a sentence or the clause of a sentence, and followed by or. Resolve whether you will go or not; that is, you will go or not go; resolve which.
[Note. IN the latter use, which is now most common, whether is called an adverb. This is a mistake. It is the same part of speech as in the former example. The only difference is that in the former example it represents or refers to a noun, and in the latter to a sentence or clause.]

Definition 2022


whether

whether

English

Pronoun

whether

  1. (obsolete) Which of two. [11th-19th c.]
    • 1526, William Tyndale, trans. Bible, Matthew XXVII:
      The debite answered and sayde unto them: whether of the twayne will ye that I lett loosse unto you?
    • Bible, Matthew xxi. 31
      Whether of them twain did the will of his father?

Conjunction

whether

  1. (obsolete) Introducing a direct interrogative question (often with correlative or) which indicates doubt between alternatives.
    • 1526, William Tyndale, trans. Bible, Mark II:
      whether ys it easyer to saye to the sicke of the palsey, thy synnes ar forgeven the: or to saye, aryse, take uppe thy beed and walke?
    • 1616, William Shakespeare, King John, I.i:
      Whether hadst thou rather be a Faulconbridge, [...] Or the reputed sonne of Cordelion?
  2. Used to introduce an indirect interrogative question that consists of multiple alternative possibilities (usually with correlative or).
    He chose the correct answer, but I don't know whether it was by luck or by skill.
    • 1915, George A. Birmingham, chapter I”, in Gossamer (Project Gutenberg; EBook #24394), London: Methuen & Co., published 8 January 2013 (Project Gutenberg version), OCLC 558189256:
      As a political system democracy seems to me extraordinarily foolish, []. My servant is, so far as I am concerned, welcome to as many votes as he can get. [] I do not suppose that it matters much in reality whether laws are made by dukes or cornerboys, but I like, as far as possible, to associate with gentlemen in private life.
    • 2012 June 19, Phil McNulty, England 1-0 Ukraine”, in BBC Sport:
      The incident immediately revived the debate about goal-line technology, with a final decision on whether it is introduced expected to be taken in Zurich on 5 July.
    • 2013 July 20, Old soldiers?”, in The Economist, volume 408, number 8845:
      Whether modern, industrial man is less or more warlike than his hunter-gatherer ancestors is impossible to determine. The machine gun is so much more lethal than the bow and arrow that comparisons are meaningless. One thing that is true, though, is that murder rates have fallen over the centuries, as policing has spread and the routine carrying of weapons has diminished.
  3. Without a correlative, used to introduce a simple indirect question.
    Do you know whether he's coming?
  4. 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.

Usage notes

  • 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 adverbial clauses.
  • 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?
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 3 and then amended to sense 2.
  • The or not can be placed after whether or after the verb, although in senses 2 and 3, or not is not required.
  • Sense 4 does not have a counterpart that introduces only a single possibility and thus requires or not if no other possibilities are presented. For example, "He's coming, whether you like it" is ungrammatical. Grammatical versions are "He's coming, whether you like it or not" or "He's coming, whether you like it or dislike it".
  • The main verb in adverbial clauses with whether is sometimes in the subjunctive mood, especially if the verb is be:
I shall be glad to play any instrument, whether it be a violin or a trumpet.

Translations

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Most common English words before 1923: during · several · either · #338: whether · city · held · help