There are a lot of confusing words in English. Words that look the same; Words that sound the same; words that have very similar but slightly different meanings. Sometimes, it is difficult to keep track of them all.
The words weather vs. whether are a perfect example of confusing English words. They are a pair of homophones, which means they sound the same when spoken, but they have different meanings and spellings. These kinds of words are especially troublesome because spell check doesn’t always flag them.
What is the Difference Between Weather and Whether?
Today, I want to go over the definitions of these two words, how to use them in a sentence, and give you a few tricks for keeping them apart in your mind. After reading this post, you shouldn’t have any trouble knowing which word is which.
When to Use Whether
Whether is used as a conjunction in our sentences and is usually used to introduce indirect questions, often dealing with choices between alternatives.
- You should call ahead to see whether they are open.
- Whether we win or lose tonight, I will be proud of you guys.
- He won the race, whether by skill or luck.
- In a few days, the justices will decide whether to continue our nation’s commitment to freedom of expression. – The New York Post
The phrase whether or not incorporates the use of the word whether. This phrase means “regardless of circumstances” (more below).
When to Use Weather
Weather is what we tune in to watch each night on the local news to make sure our weekend plans go according to schedule. Weather most commonly deals with the state of our atmosphere such as rain, snow, temperature, etc., but as a verb it can mean the ability to withstand or endure the effects of weather.
Weather can function as many things, including a noun, verb, or adjective.
- The weather will be mixing things up quite a bit in Los Angeles and Ventura counties this week. – L.A. Times (Noun)
- Our family weathered a crisis this last year. (Verb)
- The house weathered the storm but was severely damaged. (Verb)
- The weather balloon will report back information to us. (Adjective)
There are two popular phrases that use weather.
- Make heavy weather of
- Under the weather
To make heavy weather of means to exaggerate the difficulty of something to be done.
- This isn’t that big of a deal; there’s no need to make heavy weather of it.
The phrase under the weather means slightly unwell or in low spirits; ill.
- I didn’t go to work today because I felt under the weather.
What is a Wether?
A less commonly used homophone to weather or whether is the word wether. A wether is a castrated ram.
Understandably, not many people have this word in their everyday vocabulary, but it’s worth noting.
Popular Phrases That Use Whether
As mentioned above, a popular phrase using the word whether is whether or not. This means regardless or circumstance or outcome. For example,
- I am going to the game tonight whether or not you decide to join.
- I am going to the game tonight weather or not you decide to join.
This phrase is sometimes incorrectly written as weather or not, but this is a mistake. The correct phrase is whether or not.
Remember the Difference
The farmer was not sure whether or not his plants would be able to weather the night’s weather.
Sentences like this one can serve as a helpful mnemonic for words like these, but I have another trick to help you when determining whether or weather.
Weather usually has to do with winds, rains, storms, etc., and if you are a fisherman out on the lake or sea, you know how important good weather can be.
Weather and sea both have the letters “ea” in them, as does the word ocean. For lake fisherman, there is also an “a” in lake. If you can remember that the weather will affect the sea or the ocean, you will be set. Then you can just remember that the other word, whether, is used in the other sense.
While these words can be tough to remember, it’s important to use them correctly because whether vs. weather have very different meanings and functions within a sentence.
Whether is used to introduce alternatives or possibilities.
Weather deals with the atmosphere or the ability to endure or withstand.