Checking on the Whether

Typebars in a 1920s typewriter

Language Lessons. … (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s Language Lesson concerns one of my biggest linguistic pet peeves: following “whether” with “or not.”

By definition, the word whether implies dual possibilities, one of them positive (I will) and one of them negative (I won’t). For example:

Whether I go to the concert depends on how I’m feeling.

In other words, if I’m feeling better, I’ll go to the concert, but if I’m still not feeling well, I won’t—and the use of whether implies both possibilities. Thus, there is no need to add “or not.”

A few more examples:

My decision depends on whether we get the grant. (We might get the grant, we might not; either way, whether covers it.)

“I don’t care whether you like peas, you’re going to eat them!” said Mom. (You might like peas, you might not; whether includes both possibilities.)

The issue boils down to whether the company can produce enough whizz-bangs. (The company might be able to produce enough whizz-bangs, it might not be able to; whether covers both potential outcomes.)

Class dismissed … whether you like it (or not)! =)


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Carl A Harte
    Jun 25, 2014 @ 09:31:14

    Keep up your excellent and thought provoking language lessons!


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