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Two Ways to Say “Or” in Chinese with 或者 and 还是 | Alternative Questions

In today's video lesson we’ll learn two ways to say "or" in Chinese with 或者 and 还是. And we'll also learn about Alternative Questions

  • "Or" in Chinese with 或者
  • "Or" in Chinese with 还是
  • Alternative Questions



Grammar 1: "Or" in Chinese with 或者 · HSK 3

So 或者 and 还是 both suggests offering options, and are usually translated as “or” in English. The difference is that, 或者 is offering options in a declarative sentence/a statement to offer options, while 还是 is usually offering options to ask a question.

We'll learn about 或者 first.

To use 或者 in a declarative sentence, we can use this structure, Option 1, Opition 2 or more, and put 或者 before the last Option (X), following this structure:

Option1……,Option2……,……,或者 OptionX

For example,

  • wǒ xiǎng xué chànggē, tiàowǔ, huòzhě huàhuà
    I want to learn to sing-song, dance-dance, or paint-paint.
  • wǒmen kěyǐ kàn Shànghǎi duì de bǐsài, huòzhě kàn Běijīng duì de bǐsài
    We can watch Team Shanghai's game, or watch Team Beijing's Team.


Grammar 2: "Or" in Chinese with 还是 · HSK 2

To ask a question that offers options for people to choose from, we can use 还是 instead of 或者.  Questions like this are called Alternative Questions, 选择疑问句(Xuǎnzé Yíwèn Jù). To ask a question with 还是, there can be two structures.

(1) Option1……,Option2……,……,还是 OptionX

(2) 是 Option1……,Option2……,……,还是 OptionX

For example,

  • nǐ (shì) xǐhuan yīntiān, qíngtiān, háishì yǔtiān
    (Do) you like cloudy days, sunny days, or rainy days?
  • Lǎo Zhāng (shì) wǔyuè jiéhūn, liùyuè jiéhūn, háishì qīyuè jiéhūn
    (Does) Old Zhang get married (in) May, June, or July?

Be careful that sometimes 或者 can be used in a question, but it is not used there as the structure that raises the question. For example,

  • chànggē, tiàowǔ, huòzhě yóuyǒng, nǐ xiǎng xué nǎge
    Sing-song, dance-dance, or swim-swim, which one (do) you want to learn?
  • lánqiú huòzhě zúqiú ba
    Basketball or soccer maybe?

In the above sentences, it is 哪个 and 吧 that is used as the structure that raised the question, not 或者.

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