Common mistakes and tips in speaking Chinese #1 - How to say “Or”

Today I decided to start writing a blog here on SMC. Actually I'm thinking of doing this for a long time. I've talked to a lot of foreigners before. Some of them are really good at speaking Chinese already, but still make some very common mistakes. Native Chinese speakers probably wouldn’t  ask or correct you as long as they understand, but I think you might want to know how to say it in a more Chinese way instead of just being understood.


What I'm going to write might not strictly follow grammar rules, but it is how Chinese speakers say it all the time.


Today let's see how to say "or" in Chinese.


还是 (hái shì) is the most common translation for "or" in your book. But did you know that 还是 is only the translation when you use it in question? If it's a statement, we don't say 还是, we say 或 huò (者 zhě)/或(者)是。 或 is short for 或者。


Do you like Beijing or Shanghai better?


Nǐ bǐjiào xǐhuan běijīng háishì shànghǎi?


He might be leaving today or tomorrow.


Tā kěnéng jīntiān huò shì míngtiān líkāi.


Tā kěnéng jīntiān huòzhě míngtiān líkāi.


Tā kěnéng jīntiān háishì míngtiān líkāi.


Any questions and discussions are welcome!

You may also be interested in:

The difference between 或者 huòzhě and 还是 háishì - either / or


This post was originally published on Study More Chinese Blogs, written by Seraph Ching.

(photo credit Akuppa

Views: 1341


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Comment by Damien on August 14, 2013 at 4:42pm
Thank you so much! :)

Comment by Seraph Ching on August 14, 2013 at 10:29am

或是,或,或者 for statements~

Comment by Damien on August 14, 2013 at 9:14am
So do you only use 或是 for statements as well?

Comment by Seraph Ching on July 15, 2012 at 10:26pm

Hi Helmut,

"或是 huò shì" & "或者 huò zhě" are both correct. You can also say "或者是huò zhě shì", “或huò” is short for “或者 huò zhě”.

Sorry that I should‘ve put pinyin version there as well...

Comment by Helmut on July 14, 2012 at 11:47pm

Dear Seraph, could you please explain shortly why you can use "huò shì" in your first example sentence? I would have expected that only " huòzhě " is the right translation...


Thanks for your help (and thanks for your great blog in general)


Comment by Pamela Y (楊梅) on July 10, 2012 at 1:38pm

oh thank you for the lesson. I will try to remember these when I am speaking and writing. 感謝!

Comment by Seraph Ching on July 10, 2012 at 11:33am

Thanks guy, I'm glad it's helpful. :)

Feng Shan, feel free bringing "many other questions" if you still have~ :)

Comment by Feng Shan on July 10, 2012 at 1:12am

Thanks for distinguishing the forms of "or" - I wish this post had been around when I first started studying Mandarin in China seven years ago as it was hard to find an answer in text books, the same for many other questions learners have.

Comment by Ruaridh Maxwell/麥儒叡 on July 8, 2012 at 9:45pm

Great post Seraph, I was always confused about 还是 and 或者 when I started out!

Comment by Seraph Ching on July 6, 2012 at 5:25pm

Xiexie Carey! I do need it! :)

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