AEE 388: The Three Meanings of “Whatever” in English

how to use whatever in English

Do you know how to use “whatever” in English?

American English speakers use it all of the time but it’s important to know how to use it in the right places and with the right tone of voice.

With this word, tone of voice is key to getting your point across accurately. Today we’ll show you how to do it.

Meanings of “whatever”:

  • To say that you are flexible and open to different options or ideas
  • To show that you are indecisive or wishy-washy
  • To show frustration or anger or resentment

“Whatever” is used a lot by teenagers. It was especially common for teenagers back in the ’90’s. Watch the movie Clueless to hear it used this way.

Sample conversations (listen to the episode to hear these):

L: I think we should get a new website look.

M: I personally like the yellow but whatever you want.

*with this response Michelle used an upward intonation to show that she was interested in the question but wasn’t sure how to respond, she was flexible.

M: Lindsay did you really get stood up last week? What are you going to do?

L: Ughh whatever. I am not going to get in touch with him. He can contact me

*In this case Lindsay’s tone of voice indicated that she was frustrated and annoyed. Listen to the episode.

 

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Use whatever in one of the three ways!

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