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When to use 'either... or...' and 'whether... or...'? And what's the difference between them?


I've also seen phrases like this: 'In a fancy restaurant, EITHER side of your place setting there are different knives and forks for the different courses of your meal.', which contains the word EITHER meaning 'both'. It really gets me confused.
Phrases saying: 'WHETHER this or WHETHER that...' are common too, and, until I know, I probably can substitute 'whether' for 'either'. It's hard. Please, help me.

Thanks in advice!

For learning: English
Base language: English
Category: Other


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    They have similar meanings but serve a different purpose in a sentence. "Either" is an adjective or an adverb - it describes the condition of a noun or a verb or phrase in the sentence - usually describing one thing as being exclusive of another.

    "Whether" is more like a conjunction that joins two parts of a sentence together, both with a subject and a verb. Other common conjunctions are "but," "or," and "and." "Whether" is different because it does not always go between the two parts of the sentence it is joining, but can go at the beginning of the sentence.

    "Either the dog or the cat made a mess in the kitchen." is a fine sentence.
    "Whether the dog or the cat made a mess in the kitchen." is not a complete sentence. It is a fragment that needs another piece to make sense. It would set up the listener to expect some more information.

    "Whether the dog or the cat made the mess in the kitchen, I still have to clean it."

    "You decide whether you want to become a doctor or a lawyer" is an informal, conversational usage of "whether." It is really the joining of the two sentences "You decide that you want to become a doctor" and "You decide that you want to become a lawyer." The "whether" sets it up as a clear choice between the two. "You can decide to become either a doctor or a lawyer." would serve the same purpose.

    "There are knives on either side of the plate." does mean that both sides have knives. "There will be knives on either the left side or the right side of the plate." means that only one side will have knives. If "either" is used without "or" separating two alternatives, it usually means "both."

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