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Listen to Professor Crystal

'Whatever!' Note the intonation - that's the way you hear it most often used, especially by teenagers. An exclamatory sentence with a sort of summarising or dismissive force, avoiding further explicitness. 'Whatever!' Note the tone!

Where does it come from? Well, actually, as a usage, it's been in the language a long time. You'll hear 'whatever' as a pronoun, you know, 'whatever happened?', 'whatever next?' - meaning 'whatever will happen next?' You hear it as a determiner - 'wear whatever dress you like', a sort of interrogative determiner, in grammatical terminology - 'wear whatever dress'. Or an emphatic word - 'they had no reason whatever to leave'. So the usage is very common in English. And what happened here is that, when it was used as a pronoun and introduced a clause, we got sentences like this one - 'we'll go by bus or train or whatever else might be available'. And then that clause got shortened so that only the pronoun was left - 'we'll go by bus or train or whatever!' And then it got shortened even more - 'we'll go by bus or train. Whatever!'

And then it was applied to animates as well as inanimates. So anything can be 'whatever!' now. It isn't only teenagers who use the word by the way. Older people, men, women, me, too! Whatever!


download transcriptTranscript (pdf - 42 K)

download lesson planLesson plan - Teacher's notes, student worksheets with answers (pdf - 39 K)

download audioAudio - Professor David Crystal on "Whatever" (mp3 - 523 K)
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