Expressing ‘or’ 分清‘还是’和‘或者’

There are two main uses of the conjunction ‘or,’ one is offering a multitude of options for somebody to make a choice from, the other is simply stating a list of alternatives.

Let me illustrate the first instance

Would you like tea or coffee? 你想要茶还是咖啡?

Shall we play table tennis, squash or badminton? 我们打乒乓球,壁球,还是羽毛球?

Do you prefer spicy or bland? 你更喜欢辛辣还是清淡?

Hopefully, you can that ‘or’ is used to offer somebody a choice. In this case, the Chinese conjunction you need is ‘还是.’

Second example

You can relax or go for a walk. 你可以休息或者走路

People keep money banks, or under their bed. 人们把钱存在银行或者在床下面

We could call him, or knocking on his door. 我们可以给他打电话或者敲门

In this instance, ‘or’ is closer to ‘alternatively‘ in meaning.


  1. Instead of 或者, people often say 也可以 for ‘you could also…’ or 也行 for ‘…is also okay.
  2. 或者 can also express ‘maybe’ or ‘it could be that …’ I will cover this usage in another post.

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