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Whichever vs. Whatever: What's the Difference?

By Janet White & Harlon Moss || Updated on March 4, 2024
"Whichever" implies a choice among options, focusing on selection, while "whatever" refers to anything or all things, emphasizing indifference or variety.

Key Differences

"Whichever" is used when referring to a choice from a specific set of options. It conveys a sense of selection where the exact choice is not important or is left to the discretion of someone else. On the other hand, "whatever" is more encompassing and can refer to an unlimited range of possibilities, often used to express indifference or a lack of restriction in choice.
In a sentence, "whichever" can stand in for a noun or function as a determiner, leading to phrases like "whichever book you choose" where the selection is limited to books. Whereas "whatever" can be used similarly but often carries a broader or more abstract meaning, as in "whatever you decide," implying any decision, not just those previously discussed.
"Whichever" often appears in contexts requiring a decision to be made, such as "Choose whichever option suits you best." This usage highlights the element of choice among defined alternatives. In contrast, "whatever" might be used in more open-ended or indifferent contexts, like "Do whatever you want," suggesting complete freedom or a lack of concern for the specifics.
The tone conveyed by "whichever" is generally neutral or practical, focusing on the act of choosing without expressing a preference. On the other hand, "whatever" can sometimes carry a dismissive or indifferent tone, depending on context, suggesting that the speaker is unbothered by the outcome.
While "whichever" guides the listener or reader towards making a choice from a specified set of options, "whatever" opens the door to a wider range of possibilities, often without any preference or limitation implied, reflecting its broader and more flexible usage in language.

Comparison Chart


Determiner or pronoun, indicating a choice among options.
Pronoun, determiner, or adverb, indicating any or all things, often with indifference.

Usage Context

When a selection is to be made from a defined set of alternatives.
When referring to an unlimited range of possibilities, or expressing indifference or generality.


Neutral, focusing on the act of selection.
Can be neutral, dismissive, or indifferent, depending on context.

Example Sentence

"Choose whichever dessert you like best."
"Whatever happens, we'll be prepared."


Implies a decision-making process with specific options.
Can imply indifference, openness, or a lack of restriction in choice.

Whichever and Whatever Definitions


Used to offer a choice among options.
You can sit in whichever chair you find comfortable.


Expressing a lack of restriction.
You can use whatever ingredients are available.


Any one from a specific set.
Whichever route you take, make sure to arrive on time.


No matter what.
We'll go out whatever the weather.


Signifying any that.
Whichever team wins, the celebration will be huge.


Used to emphasize a statement.
He's going to be late, whatever he does.


Indicating selection.
Pick whichever color you prefer for your room.


Of any number or kind; any
Whatever requests you make will be granted.


Being any one or any number of a group
Read whichever books you please. It's a long trip whichever road you take. See Usage Note at whatever.


All of; the whole of
She applied whatever strength she had left to the task.


(interrogative) Which ever; emphatic form of 'which'.
Good heavens! Whichever button did you press to make that happen?!


Of any kind at all
No campers whatever may use the lake before noon.


Regardless of the ... that; no matter which.
It won't work, whichever buttons you press.
Whichever book you borrow, be sure to return it to the library on time.


Used to indicate indifference to or scorn for something, such as a remark or suggestion
We're having pizza tonight.—Whatever. I don't care.


Any or either ... that; the ... that.
Choose whichever card you like.
Borrow whichever books interest you.
I'll buy whichever shirt is cheapest.


(interrogative) What ever; emphatic form of 'what'.
Good heavens! Whatever time is it?!


According to or depending upon which.
I'll buy the red shirt or the blue shirt, whichever one is cheaper.
If the work is of joint authorship, the copyright expires 50 years after the death of the author who first dies, or upon the death of the author who dies last, whichever period is longer.


Regardless of the ... that; for any ... that.
Whatever choice you make, there will be consequences.
I will stick with you, whatever fate befalls us.


(interrogative) Which ever; emphatic form of 'which'.
These chocolates all look delicious. Whichever shall I choose?


Any ... that; of no matter what type or kind that.
Whatever doubts I had were quickly dispelled.
Write down whatever thoughts come into your mind.


Irrespective of the one(s) that; no matter which one(s).
Whichever you pick, be content with it.


Any; of no matter what type or kind.
I must obtain it at whatever cost.


Any or either one(s) that; the one(s) that.
I have a few books; please borrow whichever interest you.
They have lots of shirts, but I'll buy whichever is cheapest.
Whichever of you gets here first will get the prize.


(interrogative) What ever; emphasised form of 'what', used to ask which thing, event, circumstance, etc.
Whatever do you mean?


(informal) Any or either one(s).
I don't mind which you have. Take whichever.


Regardless of anything that.
Whatever he does, he will still lose the game.
Whatever happens, stay calm.


According to or depending upon which one(s).
I'll buy the red shirt or the blue shirt, whichever is cheaper.


(fused relative) Anything that; all that.
Do whatever works.
I’ll do whatever I can.


Whether one or another; whether one or the other; which; that one (of two or more) which; as, whichever road you take, it will lead you to town.


(informal) Anything; thing(s) of unspecified kind, or no matter what kind; sometimes used to indicate that the speaker does not care about options.
I don't need any of this stuff, so take whatever.


Referring to one or the other.
Whichever way you look at it, the decision is tough.


At all; in any way; whatsoever.
There is no point whatever in going on with this discussion.


(interrogative) In what way; to what extent.
Whatever does it matter now?


(colloquial) A holophrastic expression used to dismiss something that the speaker doesn't care about, doesn't think important, or doesn't want to consider or discuss any further.
So you don't like Mrs Jones. Whatever. What's that got to do with my question?
I wonder which I'm supposed to take ... whatever, I'll just pick any one.
Go brush your teeth. – Whatever!


(colloquial) Unexceptional or unimportant; blah.


(colloquial) Something whose exact kind or nature is unimportant; a thingy.


Anything soever which; the thing or things of any kind; being this or that; of one nature or another; one thing or another; anything that may be; all that; the whole that; all particulars that; - used both substantively and adjectively.
Whatever fortune stays from his word.
Whatever Earth, all-bearing mother, yields.
Whatever be its intrinsic value.


One or some or every or all without specification;
Give me any peaches you don't want
Not any milk is left
Any child would know that
Pick any card
Any day now
Cars can be rented at almost any airport
At twilight or any other time
Beyond any doubt
Need any help we can get
Give me whatever peaches you don't want
No milk whatsoever is left


Anything or everything.
Whatever you need, just ask.


Indicating indifference.
Choose whatever you want. I don't mind.


When should I use "whichever" instead of "whatever"?

Use "whichever" when offering or making a choice among specific options.

Can "whatever" be used to show indifference?

Yes, "whatever" often expresses indifference or a lack of preference towards the outcome.

Is "whichever" only used in questions?

No, "whichever" can be used in statements as well, often to provide options or when referring to a selection.

Is "whichever" more formal than "whatever"?

Not necessarily; formality depends more on context and tone than on the choice between these words.

Can "whatever" imply a broad range of choices?

Yes, "whatever" can suggest a broad or unlimited range of choices, often without specifying.

Can "whichever" imply a decision is needed?

Yes, "whichever" often implies that a choice or decision among alternatives is required.

Does "whatever" have a negative connotation?

It can, especially when used to express dismissal or indifference, but context is key.

Can "whichever" and "whatever" be used interchangeably?

They are not usually interchangeable due to their different implications about choice and specificity.

What does "whatever" mean when used emphatically?

When used emphatically, "whatever" can stress a statement or indicate that something is true under any circumstances.

How does "whatever" function as an adverb?

In its adverbial form, "whatever" can mean "to whatever extent," emphasizing the degree of something.

What role does context play in using "whichever" and "whatever"?

Context is crucial as it determines the appropriateness, tone, and meaning of these words in a sentence.

How do I use "whichever" in a sentence?

"Whichever" is used before a noun or alone when the noun is understood, as in "Choose whichever (option) is best."

Is "whatever" used in formal writing?

"Whatever" can be used in formal writing, but its meaning and tone should be carefully considered.

Can "whatever" be used to agree with a decision?

Yes, "whatever" can express agreement, often with a nuance of indifference or acquiescence to the decision.

How does "whichever" relate to choice in a sentence?

"Whichever" directly relates to the act of choosing, indicating that any of the provided options is acceptable.

How do "whichever" and "whatever" differ in their implication of specificity?

"Whichever" implies a choice among specific, defined options, while "whatever" refers to any or all things, often without specifying.

How can "whichever" enhance clarity in communication?

By specifying that a choice is to be made from defined options, "whichever" can help clarify the boundaries of a decision.

Can "whichever" be used to defer a decision to someone else?

Yes, "whichever" can be used to delegate the choice to another person, indicating flexibility in the decision-making process.

Does "whatever" always express indifference?

Not always; its expression can range from indifference to an open-minded acceptance of possibilities.

In what situations is "whatever" considered rude?

When used dismissively in response to someone else's statement or question, "whatever" can be perceived as rude.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Co-written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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