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

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40 Comments on When vs. Whenever

40 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.

  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.

    • R says:

      It is true; so many people don’t know how to use the subjunctive mood anymore. Heck, lots of people around here don’t even know when to use “anymore,” anymore. The “whenever” curse is fairly prevalent where I live, and it hurts. Oh, does it hurt.

  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!!

  5. Echo says:

    Is this question is correct?
    When are you going to finish studies? please reply.

  6. Emma says:

    Is this sentence correct:

    The dogs barked whenever the moon was dim or absent.

    In this case, can I substitute “whenever” for “when?”

    Thanks.

    • As the blog states, whenever is best used for repeated events or events whose dates or times are uncertain. When could also be used, but whenever might better convey the meaning every time that the moon was dim or absent, the dogs barked.

  7. Liem Nguyen says:

    Dear Jane,
    We cannot use “Whenever , Wherever, however, and Whatever” in relative clauses. These words are used only in noun clauses and adverb clauses. Is that correct?
    Thanks,
    Liem Nguyen

    • A relative clause begins with a relative pronoun or relative adverb. Whenever, wherever, and whatever are subordinate conjunctions. They are used to begin subordinate clauses—also called dependent clauses. They are not used in relative clauses. However is a conjunctive adverb. It begins an independent clause.

  8. Ian says:

    Which one is correct “whenever she do or whenever she does”? please reply..thanks..

  9. Harris says:

    Hello
    Whenever i remember you
    I know it ll be a sleepless night

    Is this correct?

    Thanks.

    • The pronoun I should be capitalized, and a comma is needed after you. Also, the contraction it’ll requires an apostrophe. You are missing a period at the end of the sentence. Whenever I remember you, I know it’ll be a sleepless night.

  10. Francis says:

    is this sentence correct?

    Whenever i fell sick, weary and tired, i find hope and healing in Bible texts.

  11. Olga says:

    What about the example “I go surfing whenever I’m not working”? I came across the sentence in an English textbook, and I’m absolutely confused about using Present Continuous after “whenever”. Isn’t it usually Present Simple? Thanks in advance.

  12. Priya says:

    Whenever i eat into that restaurant, I give rs100 tip to the waiter.
    Ye sentence kahan pe wrong hai?

  13. Don says:

    When or whenever?
    Whenever an individual has both a personal ID and a vendor ID, you must use the personal ID.
    Both work, but is one better?

  14. Agnes says:

    Which one of the following is correct?
    He does not hesitate to raise questions whenever in doubt.

    He does not hesitate to raise questions when in doubt.

  15. neeraj says:

    Can Whenever be used with continous tense.
    1. Whenever I am taking a shower, I hear a strange noise.
    Or
    2. While I am taking a shower, I hear a strange noise.

  16. Ayomide says:

    Is it right to say “Whenever I said ‘it’s ok then,’ people think I say/said ‘it’s ok dear’ “?

  17. Ibn Ali says:

    Is it correct to say “The man said that he would fix the door whenever the light came”?

  18. Robin says:

    Please can you tell me whether whenever is the same as when in this sentence:
    My dad said “I can get help whenever I am in financial need.”
    My question is can I interchange the above sentence by saying “My dad said I can get help when I am in financial need.”
    With thanks.

    • Using whenever implies multiple offers of financial help; when implies a single event. Assuming your dad is offering help to you, is he offering it every time or at whatever time you need help, or is he offering it once or on a limited basis? Answering that question will help you choose between whenever and when.

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