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I'm interested whether or not you consider the sentences 12 and 13 bad language.

Whether or not means “regardless of whether”

(11) I will complain whether or not the committee accepts my application. ( = no matter what the committee does, I will complain.)

In all other cases “or not” is superfluous.

(12) We’ve been wondering whether or not to apply for this grant. [bad language]

(13) Let me know whether or not the printer still jams. [bad language]

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    What happened to sentences 1 to 10?
    – Stephan B
    Feb 2, 2023 at 22:46

2 Answers 2

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In the linguistic sense, sentences 12 and 13 are grammatically correct but may seem redundant to some readers or listeners because the words "or not" add no additional meaning. In such cases, it's more concise and clear to simply use "whether". So, the revised sentences would be:

(12) We've been wondering whether to apply for this grant.

(13) Let me know whether the printer still jams.

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    the or not in 13, is saying i want you to tell me in either case I want you to tell me if it is jammed but i also want you to tell me if it is NOT jammed. As people are prone to tell you only if it is still jammed.
    – WendyG
    Feb 2, 2023 at 10:46
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    @WendyG: The request to be informed in either case is already implied by the use of whether (regardless of whether or not appears) It's only using if that ambiguously allows the possible alternative interpretation You only need to tell me if it jams - I'll assume it doesn't unless you tell me otherwise. Feb 2, 2023 at 12:18
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    I suppose I am confusing syntax with psychology, yes whether does mean in either case but people don't, they only tell you if it has jammed, which is why (i am making assumptions) the "or not" became to be added. I am a UK brit and we reduce everything down to the minimum words in everyday language, and the fact the standard phrase has 2 seemingly redundant words, tells me they are not redundant at all.
    – WendyG
    Feb 2, 2023 at 13:15
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    Adding "or not" does not change the logical meaning, but it does emphasizes the negative case, indicating that it is of equal importance to the positive case, providing a kind of conceptual symmetry between the two cases.
    – Matt
    Feb 2, 2023 at 21:07
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    WendyG is correct. Idiomatically, if someone says 'Let me know whether the printer still jams" they're only interested if it's still happening (though I guess a lack of response could be treated as an indication that it is working correctly). If I want an answer in both circumstances, instead of after 'whether', I'd put the 'or not' at the end, as that's where the alternate is referenced: "Let me know whether the printer still jams or not".
    – mcalex
    Feb 3, 2023 at 4:20
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First of all, you mean incorrect grammar rather than bad language!

You are correct in saying that or not is superfluous in sentences 12 and 13. It's not 'wrong', but it can safely be left out. See this

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  • But if we do include or not, it's usually more idiomatic to tack it on the end of the sentence, rather than shoehorn it in between whether and whatever single possibility is explicitly given. Not doing that makes OP's examples 12 & 13 sound much more "awkward" to me. Feb 2, 2023 at 12:13

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