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In the following example:

I wonder whether that is just a way to get more accounts or whether it is motivated by some other reasons.

Is the second whether in bold letters incorrect, optional, or necessary?

3 Answers 3

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It's not incorrect, and it isn't strictly necessary either, so you could say it was optional. But it feels right in this case because of the length of the sentence and I suspect the writer made that conscious choice to include it. It sort of acts as an indicator that the second possibility is being introduced.

It would feel much more redundant in a short sentence like "I don't know whether it's right or wrong".

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There aren't any rules against using "whether" twice in a sentence, but in this context, you could omit the second "whether":

I wonder whether that is just a way to get more accounts or it is motivated by some other reasons.


Example sentences shown on Collins Dictionary also have the same structure, such as:

To this day, it's unclear whether he shot himself or was murdered.

"or" is used in the same way as your sentence; thus, there isn't a second "whether".

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  • Thanks, what if the subject differs? E.g., "It's unclear whether Alex shot himself or Bob was murdered."? Dec 30, 2022 at 9:32
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    @FranckDernoncourt that doesn't seem like an either / or option. Both could be true. I'd probably say "It's unclear if Alex shot himself and if Bob was murdered"
    – Astralbee
    Dec 30, 2022 at 9:37
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    @FranckDernoncourt It will still be the same behaviour with different subjects, you still do not need to use a second "whether". But, realistically the sentence you commented does not make real sense. Dec 30, 2022 at 9:37
  • Got it, thanks very much! Dec 30, 2022 at 9:47
  • @FranckDernoncourt If you were taking a reading comprehension test, and you had a single-option multiple-choice question "Which event happened in the text? (a) Alex shot himself, (b) Bob was murdered", then the sentence "It's unclear whether Alex shot himself or Bob was murdered" makes sense, because they're established as mutually exclusive alternatives. Dec 30, 2022 at 21:54
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It should never be necessary to use a second 'whether'.

Broadly, a second 'whether' is only chosen for contradistinction; when it emphasizes a difference and even then, not in most cases.

'Whether it's black or white…' is always sufficient.

'Whether it's black or whether it's white…' serves to emphasize the point… and at least equally clearly, it draws attention to the fact that the speaker isn't a sophisticated user of English.

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