Weather vs. Whether – How to Use Each Correctly
What’s the Difference Between Weather and Whether?
Weather and whether are homophones. Homophones sound exactly alike, but have different meanings and spellings. This means that although weather and whether have the same pronunciation, they are very different words. This means it is not possible to interchange them in our sentences.
Weather can be a noun or a verb. It has to do with temperature, pressure, wind, cloud cover, precipitation, and other factors.
- The weather is beautiful today! It’s a great day for a picnic.
Whether is a conjunction. It introduces two alternative possibilities or options.
- I don’t know whether I’ll pass or fail the test.
Now that you know the differences between these two words, let’s look at them in context to ensure you don’t confuse one for the other.
Using Weather in a Sentence
When to use weather: Weather relates to atmospheric conditions such as how rainy, sunny, cloudy, or windy it is outside.
Weather can be either a noun or a verb. As a noun, weather refers to pressure, precipitation, cloud cover, and things of that nature. As a verb, to weather has two possible meanings. The first definition is to change physically because of the weather. The second definition is to live through or get through a difficult situation.
- The horses are always uncomfortable when there is stormy weather. (noun)
- That painting has been hanging in direct sunlight for many years. The sun has weathered it horribly. (verb – definition 1)
- My mother always fights with me on Thanksgiving. Usually I can just ignore her, but this year I’m not sure I can weather through it. (verb – definition 2)
- All passengers on board this ship must get below deck to weather this storm! (verb – definition 2)
As you can see in the third and fourth example, it is possible to use to weather either for a difficult situation that actually comes from bad weather or for any other type of trying situation.
There are many examples of idioms that involve different types of weather, such as rain. However, there is only one that uses the word weather:
- under the weather: not feeling well
- I’m sorry I can’t come to your birthday party tonight. I’m feeling a little under the weather.
When a person uses this idiom, it usually means that the person is a little sick but their illness is not an emergency. Sometimes people use this expression euphemistically to mean that they are drunk or hung over.
Using Whether in a Sentence
When to use whether: Whether is a conjunction that introduces two alternative possibilities. Sometimes people use it in front of only the first possibility. However, it can also occur twice, in front of the first and second options.
- It doesn’t matter whether you’re invited to the party or not. I won’t allow you to go until you finish your homework. (Here, whether occurs only before the first option.)
- My parents don’t care what instrument I choose. Whether I study the cello or whether I study the violin makes no difference to them. (Here, whether occurs before both options.)
It is more common for whether to occur only once in a sentence. When a person chooses to use it twice, it is often to give added emphasis to the fact that there are two alternative options.
People frequently use whether when there is one positive option, and a second opposite or negative option. In this case, they often use the expression whether or not.
- It doesn’t matter whether or not I can sing. I have stage fright so I won’t be going on stage regardless.
Occasionally, people list only one option with whether. In this case, the second option is implied. To demonstrate, omit the phrase or not from the example above.
The sentence becomes It doesn’t matter whether I can sing. I have stage fright so I won’t be going on stage regardless. The listener can infer from context that the second, unmentioned option is that the person cannot sing.
Remembering Weather vs. Whether
Many teachers suggest a tip regarding the word sea to help students remember the spelling for each word. Weather is especially important at sea because ships are at the mercy of the weather. Both the word weather and sea have the letters ea.
Alternatively, you could look at the word whether which has the word he in it two times. Think of the sentence whether he stays or he goes makes no difference. This shows that he has two options. Because whether always is about two options, it can help you remember.
- The National Weather Service issued a beach hazards warning through Saturday evening, as 3- to 6-foot waves are expected during the day. –Chicago Tribune
- Fighting a sore throat all week in the difficult weather conditions, the 59-year-old German star closed with an even-par 72 to finish at four-under 280 and beat American Corey Pavin by three strokes.–LA Times
- “I used to get headaches and have to take medicine sometimes and I wasn’t sleeping great thinking about whether I impressed this school or that school,” Wiggins said. –USA Today
- Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset said his agency may send as many as 10 officers to get training and tools needed to “confirm who individuals are before we release them” and to determine whether they’re wanted by federal immigration agencies or by anyone else. –Houston Chronicle
Quiz: Whether vs. Weather
Instructions: Fill in the blank with the correct word, either whether or weather.
- Today the _______________ is so sunny!
- I could never handle the cold ____________ in Russia.
- The constant storms have really ________________ this house. The roof is almost falling off!
- We should buy our mother a gift for her birthday. I’m not sure _____________ she’d prefer jewelry or something homemade.
- ____________ or not you choose to attend university classes, I’ll support you.
See answers below.
Should I use weather or whether? When speaking, both words have the same pronunciation, so you do not have to worry about whether you are using the right one. In writing, make sure to use the correct spelling.
Weather can mean atmospheric conditions such as stormy, sunny, or rainy, getting through something challenging, or being affected physically by weather.
- Whether is a conjunction that shows two alternative options.
There is no overlap between the meanings of these two words, so use the information above to keep them straight.