• 3-minute read
  • 7th August 2020

Word Choice: Weather vs. Whether

The words “weather” and “whether” sound alike, but they’re spelled differently and have different meanings. To make sure you can use them correctly in your writing, then, check out our guide below.

Weather (Atmospheric Conditions)

Most commonly, “weather” is a noun that refers to the atmospheric conditions outdoors. This includes things like temperature, wind speed, humidity, and precipitation (e.g., rain, snow):

Let’s go to the beach if the weather is hot.

The forecast says stormy weather is on the way.

However, “weather” can also be a verb. In this case, it refers to something being changed or worn away from exposure to the atmosphere:

The rocks were weathered from the constant pounding of the waves.

Or it can have the more figurative meaning of “survive difficult conditions”:

The company pulled together and weathered the recession.

As both a noun and a verb, though, this word is spelled “weather.”

Various forms of weather.
Various forms of weather.

Whether (Alternatives and Uncertainty)

“Whether” is a conjunction that indicates a choice between alternatives or uncertainty. When presenting two alternatives, we use it like this:

He asked whether they should go to dinner today or tomorrow.

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In terms of uncertainty, we use “whether” when referring to something we’re unsure about. We can include “or not” in this case, but this is optional:

 It was hard to tell whether or not she was lying.

 It was hard to tell whether she was lying.

These mean the same thing, but the “or not” is implicit in the second version.

In addition, some people use the phrase “whether or not” to imply that it isn’t important which of two alternatives is true. For example:

The data will remain confidential whether or not the study is published.

In cases like this, the “or not” is essential to the meaning!

Summary: Weather or Whether?

These words might sound the same, but you won’t want to confuse them in your writing. Remember the following difference:

  • Weather is typically a noun that refers to outdoor conditions (e.g., sun, rain, wind), but it can also be a verb meaning “wear down by exposure.”
  • Whether is a conjunction that expresses a choice between two alternatives or uncertainty over something.

Since these words have very different roles – one is a naming word or an action word, and the other is a linking word – it should be easy to tell them apart. And as long as you remember that “weather” is sun, rain, and other atmospheric conditions, you should be able to avoid errors!

If you would like any more help with your spelling or word choice, though, our team of expert proofreaders is available around the clock.

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