Both phrases “whether it be” and “whether it is” are correct. However, “whether it be” is subjunctive, and “whether it is” portrays an indicative. This essential difference will determine which one to use for communicating the comparison of more than one object, concept, person and etc.
The only exceptions are in conversational use, where “whether it is” has a more casual tone.
Subjunctive versus Indicative
Both “whether it be” and “whether it is” suggest the speaker is uncertain of or doesn’t care about the conditions. “Whether it be” is subjunctive, meaning the speaker denotes a bias. “Whether it is” is indicative, which suggests a tangible uncertainty.
Both subjunctive and indicative phrases project a grammatical mood from the person speaking. It injects a sense of opinion or admittance of being unsure about the list within the comparison. However, “whether” must always accompany “or” at some point in the lineup of choices. This is a strict grammatical rule that has no alternatives.
Study the examples below to understand how to use “whether it be” versus “whether it is.” Each phrase connotes a sentiment connecting to mood along with comparing at least two things.
Whether It Be
I love any type of flower whether it be a rose, lilac or lily.
Whether it be snowing or raining, we’re training outside.
Whether It Is
It’s important to celebrate milestones whether it is a small accomplishment or a huge achievement.
No one knows whether it is John, Steve, Suzie or Charlie who stole the muffin.
In some cases, it doesn’t matter which phrase you use. Both can be acceptable but there are times when they can sound off.
- Acceptable: I love any type of flower whether it is a rose, lilac, or lily.
- Acceptable: Whether it is snowing or raining, we’re training outside.
- Acceptable: It’s important to celebrate milestones whether they be a small accomplishment or a huge achievement.
- Awkward: No one knows whether it be John, Steve, Suzie, or Charlie who stole the muffin. [sounds like a pirate talking]
“Whether it be” is a subjunctive phrase indicating a lack of care in the speaker’s bias. “Whether it is” is indicative and promotes an air of uncertainty. However, you can exchange one for the other and have them be correct. But, sometimes one my sound strange in context.