Weather or whether

by Craig Shrives What is the difference between wether, weather, and whether?

  • Wether. A wether is a castrated ram (male sheep).
  • Weather. Weather refers to the state of the atmosphere (e.g., temperature, wind, clouds, rain).
  • Whether. Whether is a conjunction with a similar meaning to if (e.g., I wonder whether it will rain.)

Weather or Whether

Getting ready…

Getting ready…

Getting ready…

Getting ready…

Getting ready…

Getting ready…

Getting ready…

Getting ready…

Getting ready…

Getting ready…

Here is a short video summarizing the differences between weather, whether, and wether.

The words wether, weather, and whether sound identical, but their meanings are very different. The word wether is most commonly seen as a misspelling for whether or weather. A wether is a castrated ram (a male sheep) or a castrated billy (a male goat). Farmers will castrate their male goats or sheep to create wethers to ensure only the best male breeds with the females. Also of note, non-wethers (i.e., uncastrated males) show more aggression (to people and their young) and tend to stink (as non-wethers urinate on themselves during breeding season and have active glands that excrete an unpleasant scent).

From a grammatical perspective, the word wether is a noun. (More specifically, wether is a common noun and a gender-specific noun.)

The conjunction whether is similar to if. It is most often used to introduce an indirect question. (Provided the spelling is correct, whether is generally used correctly by native English speakers. The rules for using whether are covered in more detail in the lesson Whether and If.)

Examples:

  • Sarah wants to know whether the visit is still on schedule.
  • I am going to the fair, whether it's raining or not.

As a noun, the word weather means the atmosphere in terms of temperature, wind, clouds, and precipitation. As a verb, to weather can mean to withstand or to endure(e.g., to weather an onslaught) or to erode (over time) (e.g., to weather the surface rock).

Examples:

  • I am not going fishing today. Have you seen the weather?
  • (weather as a noun)

  • We'll anchor up, weather the storm and then head back to land.
  • (weather as a verb meaning to endure)

  • The sea will weather that rope in less than a week.
  • (weather as a verb meaning to erode)

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Whether or Weather: What’s the Difference?

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

Weather or WhetherWhether 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 or WhetherWeather 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.

-not-

  • 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

Wether, Weather, Whether

Weather or Whether

Wether is a prime example of a word that will slip past the spell check. It is easily confused with two of its homonyms, whether and weather. Flying fingers find it easy to miss the single letter that separates them. Unless you’re a farmer, you might not even know that wether is either a:

  • male sheep or ram (the Oxford Dictionary of Etymology traces its roots to Old English, Old High German, Old Norse and Goth)
  • or a:
  • castrated ram or billy goat (according to A Word A Day).
  • We all know that MS Word can be easily confused, but there’s no need for us to face the same confusion.

Weather, that stuff up there in the sky, is the ‘condition of the atmosphere with respect to heat or cold, calm or storm, etc’. That’s according to the Oxford Dictionary of Etymology.

Interestingly, when it was first used in Old English in the 12th century, weather always had adverse implications. In the 14th century, the term also referred to the wind direction, and its roots lie in various terms meaning either wind or storm.

Weathering, derived from weather, is the result of exposure to wind and weather.

The frequently misspelled whether is used to introduce a question, often outlining a choice between options. Its roots lie in Old English and Old High German.

Here’s my attempt at using them all in a sentence. The farmer wondered whether the adverse weather had affected his wether.

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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

English On The Go: Weather, whether or wether

Whether or not you’re talking about the weather outside or the wether on the farm, we explain which spelling you should use to make sure you’re understood properly.

1. Watch the video

  1. Watch the video without captions to test your listening.
  2. Then watch it with the captions on to check your understanding.

You can switch on and off the captions in the video for this activity.

2. Activity

After the video, complete the following activity.

Fill in the blanks with weather, whether or wether.

  1. Is there a __________________ in your area?
  2. “Expect to see colder ______________________ roll back in for several days,” the meteorologist said.
  3. We have to work out _______________________ the iron from the rocks is from Earth or outer space.
  4. She didn't know _________________________ she could believe him.
  5. I don't know if it's the ________________________ or the workload that's making me feel a bit sick.

Transcript:

Today's English On The Go lesson is on weather, whether and wether.

Weather can be a noun. Here, it refers to the conditions in the atmosphere.

I absolutely love the weather in summer.

The weather isn’t very good today. It’s going to rain all day.

  • If something’s weathered, it can also mean that its state has changed due to the sun, wind and other weather conditions.
  • The weathered ship needed a makeover.
  • To weather something can mean to deal well with a difficult situation.
  • We put measures in place to ensure we could weather the crisis.

Whether is a conjunction. It can be used when talking about two alternatives.

I’m not sure whether to wear the pink or blue sneakers.

Wether is rarely used in English. A wether is a male sheep which has had its sex organs removed.

A commonly used word in the world of business and politics which has wether in it is bellwether. But it has nothing to do with sheep.

  1. A bellwether is believed to give an indication of the future performance of financial markets or political parties.
  2. Analysts are closely watching how bellwether stocks are doing today.
  3. The southern New South Wales seat was a trusty bellwether for 40 years.
  4. For more English On The Go videos, go to ABC Learn English.

Answers to activity:

  1. Is there a wether in your area?
  2. “Expect to see colder weather roll back in for several days,” the meteorologist said.
  3. We have to work out whether the iron from the rocks is from Earth or outer space.
  4. She didn't know whether she could believe him.
  5. I don't know if it's the weather or the workload that's making me feel a bit sick.

#1 Grammar and Spell checker

Spelling Book > Confusing words index > 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.

Examples:

  • 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

The difference between wether, weather, and whether (grammar lesson)

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What is the difference between wether, weather, and whether?

  • Weather. Weather refers to the state of the atmosphere (e.g., temperature, wind, clouds, rain).
  • Whether. Whether is a conjunction with a similar meaning to if (e.g., I wonder whether it will rain.)
  • Wether. A wether is a castrated ram (male sheep).

The words wether, weather, and whether sound identical, but their meanings are very different. The word wether is most commonly seen as a misspelling for whether or weather. A wether is a castrated ram (a male sheep) or a castrated billy (a male goat). Farmers will castrate their male goats or sheep to create wethers to ensure only the best male breeds with the females. Also of note, non-wethers (i.e., uncastrated males) show more aggression (to people and their young) and tend to stink (as non-wethers urinate on themselves during breeding season and have active glands that excrete an unpleasant scent).

From a grammatical perspective, the word wether is a noun. (More specifically, wether is a common noun and a gender-specific noun.)

Whether

The conjunction whether is similar to if. It is most often used to introduce an indirect question. (Provided the spelling is correct, whether is generally used correctly by native English speakers. The rules for using whether are covered in more detail in the lesson Whether and If.)

Examples:

  • Sarah wants to know whether the visit is still on schedule.
  • I am going to the fair, whether it's raining or not.

As a noun, the word weather means the atmosphere in terms of temperature, wind, clouds, and precipitation. As a verb, to weather can mean to withstand or to endure(e.g., to weather an onslaught) or to erode (over time) (e.g., to weather the surface rock).

Examples:

  • I am not going fishing today. Have you seen the weather?
  • (weather as a noun)

  • We'll anchor up, weather the storm and then head back to land.
  • (weather as a verb meaning to endure)

  • The sea will weather that rope in less than a week.
  • (weather as a verb meaning to erode)

If you can follow this sentence, you have a good grasp of weather, whether, and wether:

The farmer looked out the window and wondered whether the wether would weather the weather or whether the weather would kill the wether.

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