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Chinese Grammar: Giving alternatives

It’s nice to learn some patterns to give options. Sometimes there will be a series of choices that you can make but sometimes maybe only two possibilities. Do you want to know how to react in Chinese when facing these situations?

Using 要么 to express “either or”

When facing a series of alternatives you can use this pattern 要么...要么... As in English “either...or...”. You can add plenty of things behind 要么 such as time adverbs, manners, places, verbs, specific actions or events, etc. They can be an option or a suggestion to someone you talk with. It can be totally two different parts after the word 要么.


要么 + Option A + 要么 + Option B


要么 要么
Either you go, or I go.

要么 周一要么 周二
Either Monday or Tuesday.

要么 汉语要么 日语
You can either study Chinese or Japanese.

要么 学校要么
He’s either at school or home.

Using 不是...就是

When there is only exist two possibilities, use 不是...就是... to describe this situation. It can mean “either or”, you can also consider it as “if it is not A, then it is B” in English. In this way, it’ll be easier to understand, isn’t it?


不是 + A + , + 就是 + B


每天 不是 鸡肉就是 牛肉
Every day if he is not eating chicken, he’s eating beef.

每天 上学 不是 地铁就是 公共汽车
If she is not taking the metro, then she’s taking a bus to go to school each day.

上网 这些 不是 就是 不能 穿
The shoes that I bought online are either too big or too small, I can't wear any of them.

回家 不是 电视就是 睡觉
If he doesn’t watch TV, he goes straight to sleep when he gets home.

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