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Whatever, whichever or whatsoever?

Episode 191126 / 26 Nov 2019

This week's question

What do 'whatsoever', 'whatever' and 'whichever' mean? - Maruf in Bangladesh 

Answer this

What effect does adding -ever to a question word have?

Language points

Question word + ever

Adding '-ever' to a question word (e.g. who, when, where, how, what, which) generally gives them one of two meanings:

  1. Any (who, when, where, how, what, which) at all
  2. It doesn't matter (who, when, where, how, what, which)

Any at all: whatever
Whatever can mean 'anything and everything'.

  • I can eat whatever I like and I don't put on weight.

Any at all: whichever
can mean 'any of the available options'.

  • Whichever team wins, it's still going to be a great match.

It doesn't matter: whatever
can mean 'it doesn't matter what'.

  • Whatever weather comes, we're going to the party.

It doesn't matter: whichever
can mean 'it doesn't matter which'.

  • The journey takes an hour whichever way you go.

Short answers
and whichever are commonly used as short answers.

  • A: What do you want for dinner?       B: Oh, whatever.
  • A: Do you want tea or coffee?       B: Whichever is easier for you

Whatever: contempt
Whatever can also be used as a short answer to show contempt or rebellion. This could be a common response from a teenager to their parent!

  • Parent: You're going upstairs right now to clean up your bedroom! Teenager: Whatever!

Whatever: emphasis
Whatever can also e used as a form of emphasis instead of 'what' to show surprise, shock or other strong emotions.

  • Whatever are you doing!? You're going to crash the car!

is most commonly used for emphasis as an adverb at the end of negative sentences. Common collocations are: nothing whatsoever, none whatsoever or no (X) whatsoever.

  • I have no doubts whatsoever that she is the best person for the job.

The answer

Adding -ever to a question word has one of two effects: 'Any (who, when, where, how, what, which) at all' or
'It doesn't matter (who, when, where, how, what, which)'

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