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When vs. Whenever

Have you ever wondered how to use these words correctly? Have you ever thought, “Oh, either of these words will do”? Let’s have a closer look.

Rule 1 – If an event is unique or its date or time is known, use when.

Examples:
The game will begin Friday evening when the clock strikes seven.
When I told you I wanted a vacation, I meant a cabana by the beach, not a ticket to the Super Bowl!
She loved to play baseball with the neighborhood kids when she was a youngster.

Rule 2 – Whenever is best used for repeated events or events whose date or time is uncertain. If you can substitute every time that or at whatever time that in your sentence, then whenever is preferred.

Examples:
Whenever I get in the shower, the phone rings.
Whenever you decide to begin eating healthier foods, I’ll help you come up with new recipes.

Note: When can often substitute for whenever but generally not the other way around. The exception is using whenever as an intensive form of when in questions: Whenever will that dog stop barking?

Examples:
Correct:
When I get in the shower, the phone rings. (When is acceptable but whenever is preferred for conveying the meaning every time that.)
When you decide to begin eating healthier foods, I’ll help you come up with new recipes. (When is acceptable but whenever is preferred for conveying the meaning at whatever time that.)
Whenever are you going to finish cleaning the garage? (intensive form in a question)

Incorrect:
The game will begin Friday evening whenever the clock strikes seven.

 

Pop Quiz
1. Do you know when/whenever we’re supposed to arrive at your mother’s house?
2. Let me know when/whenever you’ll be arriving at the airport next week so I can pick you up.
3. When/Whenever the baby cries, she clenches her little fists.
4. I lived in a small town when/whenever I was seven years old.
5. Do you recheck your math when/whenever you have difficulty balancing your checkbook?

 

Answers:
1. Do you know when we’re supposed to arrive at your mother’s house?
2. Let me know when you’ll be arriving at the airport next week so I can pick you up.
3. Whenever the baby cries, she clenches her little fists. (When could also be used but whenever better conveys the meaning every time that the baby cries.)
4. I lived in a small town when I was seven years old.
5. Do you recheck your math whenever you have difficulty balancing your checkbook? (When could also be used but whenever better conveys the meaning at the time that or every time that you have difficulty balancing your checkbook.)

Posted on Tuesday, September 4, 2012, at 12:59 pm


9 Comments

9 Responses to “When vs. Whenever”

  1. wabsh says:

    is this statement correct?

    whenever we talked, she can still recalled our memories…

    if we use whenever. doest it always followed by a present for of verb? thank you.

    • Jane says:

      Whenever can be used for either past or present tense.

      Whenever we talked, she still recalled our memories. (past tense)
      Whenever we talk, she still recalls our memories. (present tense)

  2. MKultra says:

    It sounds so very ignorant when people use the word ‘whenever’ in place of when. I hear people using it all the time and it makes my internal pedant stabby.

    Don’t even get mw started on were/was… Tense people, past versus present.

    Right up there with people using ‘myself’ in place of me, or I. As if they think it makes them sound so intelligent…

    For example: (It pains me to type this)
    Myself and my sister got candy at the store whenever we was kids” If typed out, add an “alot” at the end (one word) Ha ha.

  3. Han chin says:

    Is this correct – However, whenever the dog barks, the baby cries

  4. Donna Zoller says:

    People in the mid west say this wrong all the time! It drives me crazy!!

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