Questions with "whether"

7

3

Sorry for such a basic question, but I don't know how to google it.

How to correctly ask questions with whether?

Questions like these:

  • Whether she made it blue or green?
  • Whether she made it or I made it?

Hope it is clear what I mean to ask in these questions.

The problem for me that as far as I know in questions I always must put the verb before subject, but whether is already there and "Whether has she make it blue or green?" sounds confusing to me. I got even more confused when there are two verbs, e.g.: "Whether has she make it or have I make it?" Do I really suppose to add verbs in such questions?

Maybe I can't use whether like this at all? Then how do I ask a question in order to know which out of two situations is present, the first one (she made it) or the second (I made it)?

klm123

Posted 2013-11-18T08:10:53.203

Reputation: 401

2Your "questions" are not really grammatical- whether can't stand by itself like that. In most questions using whether you can replace whether with if: *Do you know whether she made it blue or green?* is the same as: *Do you know if she made it blue or green?* – Jim – 2013-11-18T08:18:03.660

@Jim, Then how do I ask a question in order to know which situation is present - first (She made it) or second (I made it)? – None – 2013-11-18T08:21:34.497

1Do you know whether she made it or I made it? Whether introduces alternatives as potential answers to the Do you know part of the question. – Andrew Leach – 2013-11-18T08:24:03.383

@AndrewLeach, what if I want to avoid additional questions like "do you know"? What if all I care is reality and not knowledge of people or stuff like this. – None – 2013-11-18T08:27:50.357

Did she or I make this? I want to know whether she or I made this – mplungjan – 2013-11-18T08:42:17.090

1Or just plain "Who made this?" – Jim – 2013-11-18T08:49:51.727

3You can't use whether as a question-word like who. It doesn't work like that. – Andrew Leach – 2013-11-18T09:08:12.750

1Did she make it blue or green? What color did she make it, blue or green? Did she make it or did I? Who made it, she or I? – Jay – 2013-11-18T16:57:02.197

Answers

11

Whether is not a question word, although it looks like one.

Question words beginning with wh are the following:

  • what
  • which
  • where
  • who
  • whose
  • when
  • why

The rule for making questions using question words is fairly simple:

Question word + auxiliary + subject + infinite or, "QUASI" is a useful acronym. (It is not infallible but it works most of the time)

1) Which colour did she choose to make it? Blue or green? (if there is a limited choice)

2) What colours did she use? (a wider choice of colours is inferred here)

3) Who made it? Did you? OR "Was it me or you?" (in this case, who is the subject of the question and does not require an auxiliary)


You can omit the wh question word and ask a yes/no type question.

Auxiliary + subject + infinite

  • "Did you use blue or green?" asked Maria.
  • Maria asked, "Did you make it?"

If you wanted to use whether you have to rephrase your sentence. Note that the following are not questions. There is no question mark at the end.

  • Maria asked whether she used blue or green.
  • Maria asked whether [name] made it or not.

If you really need to make questions with whether then the following is acceptable

  • Do you know whether she used blue or green to make her scarf (it)?
  • Did you find out whether it was me or her who made it?

Mari-Lou A

Posted 2013-11-18T08:10:53.203

Reputation: 19 962

Thank you for such a detailed answer! One more question. What if I have 1. a constrain like use only one sentence; 2. have to subjects, which corresponds to different auxiliaries? Can I formulate the question? Is something like "Has she make it or have I make it?" possible? – klm123 – 2013-11-18T11:08:42.917

1Has in your example is being used as an auxiliary, the main verb should be in the past participle. Therefore: "Has she made it or have I?" is possible. It sounds odd that you would be asking whether or not (!) you made something but who am I to argue? The best question would be to ask: Who made it? OR Did A or B make it? – Mari-Lou A – 2013-11-18T11:24:35.260

@klm123, Mari-Lou: Great answer! "Has she made it or have I?" sounds a bit off to me, though; I would say "Did she make it or did I?" when referring to actual objects. If you were asking if, say, she or you made it into the final round of a competition, you might then ask the judge Well, who's going through? Has she made it or have I? But I wouldn't use it in reference to actually making things. – WendiKidd – 2013-11-18T21:35:44.803

@WendiKidd, kim123 asked me a question while I was getting ready for work. I honestly didn't have much time to reflect, I agree the "Has she made it or (have) I?" isn't great but it is comprehensible, you could argue that two friends were baking two identical cakes in the same oven and when they were baked, took them out and asked:"Have I made this one or have you?" Possibly! The question was odd in any case, I offered what I thought were better alternatives. – Mari-Lou A – 2013-11-18T21:57:12.093

@Mari-LouA Oh, I think your answer is excellent (I upvoted :)). I just wanted to elaborate further on the comment :) And hehe, I like your cake example. There's so much we can do with language! – WendiKidd – 2013-11-18T21:58:15.930

Sorry for asking it here, maybe I should ask a separate question. I have a technical document and there is a table where one of the columns is entitled "If the search is case-sensitive?". From what you said, it seems that it will not be grammatically correct to change it to "Whether the search is case-sensitive?", right? – jsv – 2020-09-01T16:00:53.473

1@jsv I would write: “Whether the search is case-sensitive or not”. No question mark at the end. "Whether" is not an interrogative pronoun. You could say to someone: "Are you asking me whether it's case-sensitive?" The [or not] is implied – Mari-Lou A – 2020-09-01T16:11:36.993

1@jsv I'm glad to have helped. :) – Mari-Lou A – 2020-09-01T16:17:23.937

-1

Mari-Lou's answer is correct for Standard English. Whether is not used in this manner in Standard English. However in Indian English, it can be used this way.

In Indian English, when the questioner isn't sure of something, they can use "Whether?":

"Can you tell me whether this bus goes to Chennai?"

A typical example of correct, Standard English usage of whether is as follows:

"It doesn't matter whether you do it or not."

But in Indian English, people do use whether for questioning. Even though it is not standard English your question could be understood in India if you ask with whether as follows:

Student: "Sir, But I want to use Zigbee technology!"

Professor: "Whether it is currently in use?"

Student: "Yes, sir."

In this snippet the Professor's query has an implicit or in it . You can try reading it the same as:

Professor: "Whether it is currently in use or not, you have to find out."

AAI

Posted 2013-11-18T08:10:53.203

Reputation: 397

@AjeyaAnand Can you tell me whether this bus goes to Chennai? This is correct not only in Indian English, but in Standard English. In the conversation the use of Professor: "Whether it is currently in use?" is not correct. I myself is a user of Indian English, I would never write a sentence like that. – Man_From_India – 2016-09-22T16:30:47.293

"I myself ''is a'' user of Indian English" !! @Man_From_India Understand your English. Indian English is super complex. no one can claim authority to it. – AAI – 2016-09-22T22:40:46.383

@AjeyaAnand my use of is a there is completely wrong :( – Man_From_India – 2016-09-23T00:00:42.497

3Actually I think you've proven that this isn't easily understandable, because I didn't get that interpretation from your sentence at all. When I read "Whether it is currently in use?" I assumed it meant to say "Whether or not it is currently in use?" which I would interpret as "You mean even if it isn't currently in use, you still want to use it? (Because you want to use it either way.)" I definitely would not have taken this to mean "If you want to use it, go find out if it's currently in use or not." I don't think this is at all clear or unambiguous English. – WendiKidd – 2013-11-18T21:53:46.940

I do not know whether my comment makes sense. But definitely there are languages which find the use of "whether" to suit the sentence structure than the traditional English use. Perspectives matter. – AAI – 2013-11-20T09:32:56.510

1I'm a bit confused now. I certainly wouldn't remark upon how whether is used in languages other than English; I have no idea about that, and will take your word for it that there are differences. But here we are talking about English, so isn't how the word is used in English the thing that matters? And in English, I don't find that sentences in your answer understandable. – WendiKidd – 2013-11-20T20:15:43.840

of course @WendiKidd it is not easy for you to understand possibly because the thought process behind the usage that I have mentioned is not in standard English. When flow of ideas and questioning come from another language and finding equivalent words in English to put it in effective manner, it becomes difficult to predict, the behaviour of the verbs and questions. It is not the fault of anyone. It only means that there are many ways to communicate and use English the way it needs to be understood and conveyed in different parts of the world. I agree,English(UK) does not permit the usage – AAI – 2013-11-21T10:43:52.200

2Whether is an English word, and it doesn't really make sense to talk about it's use in languages other than English - especially on "English Language Learners" or "English Language and Usage" where this question was first posted. – Matt – 2013-11-22T00:21:51.777

Indeed. If you agree that the example usage you give is not permissible in English, I'm very confused about why you've posted it. I'm not saying "I don't understand the logic behind the other language you're discussing." I'm saying "I don't see how other languages' usages of a word are relevant to an English site." – WendiKidd – 2013-11-23T00:24:54.637

1As a native speaker of both Indian and American English, I would disagree on this, this is just incorrect usage that is somewhat widespread. – Manishearth – 2013-11-25T03:43:41.897

I disagree with you @Manishearth as you very well know Indian English is only based on usage. It ha no formal structure, varies in North and South India and is totally unstructured . Anything can pass as Indian English. my objective was to give some examples on the usage. It has nothing to do with being "Indian". And I assure you that only native Indian English speakers officially recide in Nagaland as per the Govt. of India census. – AAI – 2013-11-25T07:26:30.633

3You can't have a dialect if there's no consistency within the dialect, @Ajeya. I'm not talking about variations in regional language here; I'm talking about inconsistency in any given region. If anything can pass as InE, then there is no point of this answer, because "This is allowed in InE" becomes a given for all constructs that make even a shred of sense. – Manishearth – 2013-11-25T07:40:17.820