Weather vs. Whether
Weather and whether are homophones, meaning they sound almost exactly the same. For that reason, they are often confused in writing, despite having very different meanings. Knowing the difference and using the terms correctly is important as confusing the two can make your writing appear unchecked and unprofessional.
- Weather is primarily used as a noun. It is the state of the atmosphere in a particular place e.g., rain, sunshine, snow and so on.
- Whether is a conjunction. It is mostly used to introduce a clause and express a doubt or choice between alternatives.
When to Use Weather + Original Examples
We use the noun weather when we are talking about the conditions of the atmosphere and climate in a specific place or time. It could elicit a broad range of thoughts based around temperature, windiness, rainfall etc.
- How’s the weather in Los Angeles? Hot and sunny, as always?
- We are expecting some bad weather this winter, including snowstorms.
- I look forward to the good weather in the summer.
- Portugal has wonderful weather; it’s neither too hot nor too cold.
- What’s the weather forecast for tomorrow?
Weather can be used as a verb, often combined with storm to create a phrasal verb, meaning to endure and come through a hardship.
- The Lakers weathered the storm of the Celtics’ offense.
- The ship weathered the storm, limping into port later that night with some minor damage to the sail.
But when weather is used as a verb without storm, it usually means to erode.
- His skin had weathered to such an extent it looked like leather.
Weathered can also be used as an adjective, to mean slightly worn and old.
- The table has that weathered look that makes it seem like an antique.
- Sally’s weathered jeans have the right look, neither too new nor too old.
When to Use Whether
Whether has a similar meaning to if, although the two words aren’t always interchangeable. It’s often used as a conjunction to express a doubt or choice between two or more alternatives.
- I wonder whether it will be sunny or cloudy tomorrow.
- Jane has decided she will go to the prom, whether her mom likes it or not.
- Whether it’s Australia or New Zealand, antipodean nations always succeed at rugby.
- Alex always turns up to help, whether he is needed or not.
Notice that whether can sometimes be replaced by if:
- I don’t know whether it will rain on Tuesday.
- I don’t know if it will rain on Tuesday.
- We often wonder whether we will get married.
- We often wonder if we will get married.
But whether can’t always be replaced by if, especially in cases when it forms a conjunctive clause or introductory clause. In these cases, we could replace whether with the phrase regardless if.
- Elena always tries her hardest, whether she wins or loses.
- Elena always tries her hardest, regardless if she wins or loses.
- Whether the boys pass the exams or not, they will still go to university.
- Regardless if the boys pass the exams or not, they will still go to university.
Whether commonly gets misspelled as wether, a rarely used word to describe a (castrated) male sheep. It’s important to be careful, as not all spell-check software will pick it up as an error, and it is safe to say you probably aren’t meaning wether when you write.
Tip to Remember the Difference
Some grammar sites suggest that you should focus on the spelling of weather to remember the difference between the two words. Look at the following phrase.
- Weather (wind, rain, storms) affects the sea.
If you focus on the ea in weather and sea, it can help you to remember that weather is the right term when talking about climate, and thus whether is correct in other non-climate-related cases.Back to Confusing words index