Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: whether (1).

whether (1). Today: “Whether or not.” Despite the superstition to the contrary, the words “or not” are usually superfluous, since “whether” implies “or not” — e.g.: o “In another essay, ‘The Rules of the Game,’ he discusses moral codes and whether or not [read ‘whether’] they work.” Diane Hartman, “At Life’s End, Carl Sagan Awed by Life’s Unknowns,” Denver Post, 22 June 1997, at D6. o “Yet he seemed troubled by having to decide whether or not [read ‘whether’] to show the film at Venice.” Ken Auletta, “Beauty and the Beast,” New Yorker, 16 Dec. 2002, at 65, 68. o “[It depends] on whether or not [read ‘whether’] the winds favor us, and whether or not [read whether] there’s any trouble.” Gary Blackwood, Year of the Hangman 27 (2002). For a hilarious discussion of “whether or not” — and its variations, including “whether or not . . . or not” — see James Joseph Duane, “Avoiding the Curse of Whetherornot,” 6 Scribes J. Legal Writing 41 (1996-1997). But the “or not” is necessary when “whether or not” means “regardless of whether” {the meeting will go on whether or not it rains}. E.g.: “You can tap many of these resources whether or not you have an account with that fund company.” Keith Kirkpatrick, “Picking Funds? Web Sites Can Help You Hit the Mark,” Home PC, 1 Oct. 1997, at 181. If you add the word “regardless,” however, either it or “or not” is superfluous — e.g.: “[Who can use IRAs:] Couples with AGIs up to $150,000, singles to $95,000, regardless of whether or not [read ‘regardless of whether’ or ‘whether or not’] they have retirement plans.” Lisa Reilly Cullen, “How the New Breed of IRA Eases Retirement Saving,” Money, 1 Oct. 1997, at 26. Next: “As to whether.” For more information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “Most intellectual problems are, ultimately, problems of classification and nomenclature.” S.I. Hayakawa, “Classification” (1939), in Introductory Readings on Language 137, 143 (Wallace L. Anderson & Norman C. Stageberg eds., 3d ed. 1970).
Scroll to Top