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Commonly Confused Words: Weather vs. Whether vs. Wether


Whether you prefer hot weather or the rain, make sure you aren’t mixing up your spellings of the words weather and whether (and wether). You probably only ever need to use two of these words, but we’ve included the third so you can make sure you aren’t using it by mistake!

What does each word mean?

  • As a noun, the word weather refers to atmospheric conditions, i.e. the effects of the temperature, wind, and clouds. If you’re writing about how your trip to the beach was ruined by the rain, use the word weather.

    As a verb, weather refers to the effects of these atmospheric conditions. If something is weathered, its exposure to the atmosphere had caused it to change (usually for the worse) in appearance or texture. The word is also used to describe coming through a bad situation (such as a storm) safely.

    Here is weather used in some example sentences:
    • The weather was good so we had a picnic.
    • As the cliff weathers, the houses at the edge of it become more and more unsafe to live in.
    • The fisherman’s skin had become weathered due to his exposure to the sea.
    • The boat weathered the storm without too much damage.

  • The word whether is a conjunction used to communicate choice or doubt between two alternatives.

    Here is whether used in some example sentences:
    • He couldn’t decide whether he should spend more time on practising his spelling or on practising his maths.
    • I’ll phone and see whether she’s at home before I go over.

  • The word wether is so rarely used that my version of Microsoft Word is putting a squiggly red line underneath it. Unless you’re writing about a male sheep or ram that has been castrated, listen to Microsoft – you’ve made a spelling mistake!

Where does each word come from?*

  • Weather comes from the Old English word weder which means ‘air, sky; breeze, storm, tempest’, which, in turn, comes from the Proto-Germanic wedram meaning ‘wind, weather’.

  • Whether comes from the Old English hwæðer/hweðer meaning ‘which of two’ . This in turn comes from the Proto-Germanic gihwatharaz.

  • Wether comes from the Old English weðer which means ‘ram’. Weðer comes from the Proto-Germanic wethruz.

Are there any tricks to help remember the difference between these words?

  • Weather had the word eat in it. Think of which foods you like to eat in which weathers, e.g. ice cream when it’s hot.

  • The word whether presents options to a sentence, while the questioning word which asks one to choose between options. Both words begin with wh.

  • Whether has the words he and her in it. Try saying one of the following sentences to yourself:

“He’ll spell this word correctly whether he wants to or not.” or “She’ll practise her spelling whether she wants to or not.”

Watch out: Make sure you never combine the words weather and whether and accidentally write wheather. This is not a word!

Avani Shah

*All etymologies are from The Online Etymology Dictionary.


11 Aug 2014
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