General Writing and Grammar Help/When & whenever

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Question
Dear Ted:

Is there any difference between "when" and "whenever"?

If so, when should I use each of them?

Would you please give me some examples?

For instance, should I use "when" or "whenever" in the sentence below?

You can visit us when / whenever you want.

Thank you,

Paolo

P.S. Ted, do you find my questions boring?

Answer
Dear Paolo:

Is there any difference between "when" and "whenever"?

If so, when should I use each of them?

Would you please give me some examples?

For instance, should I use "when" or "whenever" in the sentence below?

You can visit us when / whenever you want. [Use "whenever" if your invitation is meant to apply to more than one visit.]

**** Your message contains TWO surprising "elements."  WHEN I was in college, I rarely used the word "when."  Instead, I would always say "whenever."  My piano instructor would get very upset.  She tried to break me of this habit.  Her explanation was this:  Use "when" if you are referring to ONE time or if you are referring to something that happens "once in a while."  Use "whenever" if the action occurs repeating or EVERY TIME this action occurs. I would say something like this:  "Whenever I try to play this etude, my hands get stiff."  Her response was that I wasn't playing the etude constantly or habitually, so I needed to say, "WHEN I play this etude."  If I attempt to play the etude 100 times and each time my hands get stiff, THEN I can use "whenever."

EXAMPLE:  Whenever Mary speaks, her mouth cannot seem to manage the words, and she stutters.  That sentence indicates that Mary's problem is not a one-time occurrence.  It is habitual.

When Mary broke her leg, she missed a month of school.  This sentence indicates a one-time occurrence, so the proper subordinating conjunction is WHEN.

Thank you,

Paolo

P.S. Ted, do you find my questions boring?

****This is the second surprise.  I am sometimes asked if questions are clear or are too complex.  "Boring" is a word that I don't connect to "questions."  Sometimes, I feel that you are redundant with your questions, asking them more than once, but in slightly different ways.
But, I do not find your questions "boring."  Whatever gave you that idea?

Ted

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

Education/Credentials
B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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