Chinese Grammar: Using 或者 and 还是” to say "or"
Here’s a dire question for you: Do you like Nincha or Lupishu or Baimei more? Ha-ha, maybe your answer is “All of them!” Good for you! Nonetheless, we’re going to see here how to say “or” in Chinese. It’s always useful to know how to offer choices when you’re asking a question, and to have a way to give options, isn’t it? In Chinese, both 或者 (huòzhě) and 还是 (háishì) mean “or” but they are used in different situations. Let’s see when you should use 或者 or 还是 to say “or”!
The big difference between 还是 and 或者 is the type of sentences in which they are used. 或者 is mainly used in declarative sentences - a declarative sentence is a statement, a sentence that ends with a full stop -, whereas 还是 is your go-to word if you want to offer choices in a question.
Provide an option in a declarative sentence with 或者
Option 1 + 或者 + Option 2
You use 或者 to talk about options in a sentence. It’s perfect to talk about something not quite decided, where you haven’t entirely made up your mind. It’s also used to express “either or”.
Provide options with a double 或者
或者 can also be repeated in a sentence, to show two different options.
The main thing to keep in mind is that 或者 can only be used in declarative sentences. When you want to ask someone to choose or clarify something by asking a question, you want to use 还是 to express “or”.
Provide options in a question with 还是
Subject + Verb + Option A + 还是 + Option B ?
Embedded questions with 还是
Sometimes when it’s difficult to choose, you can say “I don’t know whether" or “ I’m not sure”. These sentences may not technically be questions, but they contained implied questions and choices, so you still use 还是.
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