Whenever vs. When Ever

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It’s interesting that two-word phrases like “any place,” “a lot,” and “all right” are often squeezed into nonstandard one-word forms like anyplace, alot, and alright, but one-word whenever is often written incorrectly as “when ever.”

As a relative conjunction introducing a conditional clause, whenever means “at whatever time, no matter when.”

Here are some examples in which whenever is used correctly:

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.—Mark Twain

Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.—Oscar Wilde.

Whenever I turn on my computer, the screen says “Monitor going to sleep.”

Here are examples of whenever incorrectly written as two words:

Incorrect: Journalists are like dogs, when ever anything moves they begin to bark.
Correct : Journalists are like dogs, whenever anything moves they begin to bark.

Incorrect: She smiles at me when ever I see her.
Correct : She smiles at me whenever I see her.

Incorrect: The computer crashes when ever I try to game.
Correct : The computer crashes whenever I try to game.

The words when and ever are written separately when the sense is “when, if ever?”

Here are some examples of when ever used correctly:

When ever will you get over your fear of cats?

When ever will you have this chance again?

When ever will they learn to not put stuff up there?

When ever did these feelings start?

When ever are you going to clean the house?

When, Ever, Is a Murderer Anything but a Murderer?

If your intended meaning is “every time that,” write whenever.

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4 thoughts on “Whenever vs. When Ever”

  1. Perhaps you could also address the use of “whenever” when “when” is actually the word needed. For example, “Whenever my car got stuck in the snow today, I had to walk the rest of the way home.” I’m pretty sure this person wasn’t foolish enough to get stuck multiple time in one day. Well, perhaps, for someone uses whenever instead of when…. Sigh. Or is that a regionalism here in north-central PA?

  2. It is certainly true that a simple When often suffices when a Whenever is used:

    “When [ ] you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”—Mark Twain

    “When [ ] I turn on my computer, the screen says ‘Monitor going to sleep.’ ”

    Sometimes, however, Whenever does impart additional meaning. A useful word that probably gets overused from a practical POV. It is stylistically handy.

  3. Is this another one that falls into the same category: “for ever”?
    This is an in, “I will hate you for that for ever!”
    Up until now, I have dismissed this one as a British quirk, such as writing “North West” or “North Western” instead of “Northwest” or “Northwestern”.
    The people at the well-respected Northwestern University and those living in the Northwest Territories disagree strongly with other spellings.

  4. Joining up words is never needed.

    After all, language is an extension of the human brain’s logic, and creating new rules that do nothing more than confuse, work against that very logic.

    The issue really lies in working out what are actual words and what aren’t, which puts us back where we started.

    A complete waste of time.

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