Lesson 14: OR in Chinese: The Difference Between 还是 (hái shì) and 或者 (huò zhě)

Office Space

Both 还是 (hái shì) and 或者 (huò zhě) are translated as or in Chinese. Interestingly, the usage of each of them is different. In brief, we use 还是 (hái shì) in the question, while 或者 (huò zhě) in the statement.

 

还是 (HÁI SHÌ) – QUESTION

还是 (hái shì) is generally used in questions. It provides two or more options for the listener to choose.

Structure:

Option 1 + 还是 + Option 2 + ?

 

Examples:


你想吃西餐还是中餐?

Nǐ xiǎng chī xīcān háishì zhōngcān?

Do you want to eat Western food or Chinese food?


星期天你要去逛街还是看电影?

Xīngqítiān nǐ yào qù guàngjiē háishì kàn diànyǐng?

Do you want to go shopping or watch a movie on Sunday?

 

或者 (HUÒ ZHĚ) – STATEMENT

Conversely, 或者 (huò zhě) is used in statements. It is more similar to the English ‘either … or …’. In colloquial way, 或者 (huò zhě) can be shortened to 或 (huò).

Structure: Possibility 1 + 或者 + Possibility 2 + .

 

Examples:


今天晚上我想吃麻辣香锅或者麻辣火锅。

Jīntiān wǎnshàng wǒ xiǎng chī málà xiāng guō huòzhě málà huǒguō.

I want to eat spicy numbing stir-fry pot or spicy numbing hot pot tonight.


你可以使用现金或信用卡支付。

Nǐ kěyǐ shǐyòng xiànjīn huò xìnyòngkǎ zhīfù.

You can pay by cash or credit card.

 

Read: Various Ways to Say AND in Chinese.

 

MORE THAN TWO OPTIONS OR POSSIBILITIES? COMPLETELY OKAY!

If there are more than two options or possibilities, all you have to do is only repeat the ‘or’ word. Only using one ‘or’ before the last option or possibilities are acceptable too. Thus:


下个月我们去欧洲,亚洲,还是非洲呢?

Xià gè yuè wǒmen qù ōuzhōu, yàzhōu, háishì fēizhōu ne?

Where will we go next month? Europe, Asia, or Africa?


明天,(或者)后天,或者大后天都可以。

Míngtiān, (huòzhě) hòutiān, huòzhě dàhòutiān dū kěyǐ.

Tomorrow, the day after tomorrow or two days later is fine.

  

QUICK TIPS

If the sentence ended with a

  • question mark (?) → use 还是 (hái shì).

  • full stop (.) → use 或者 (huò zhě).

Easy and simple, right?

 

QUIZ TIME

To check your understanding, answer the questions below!

  1. 她是泰国人___越南人?

  2. 我们可以坐船___坐飞机。

  3. 草莓是酸的___甜的?

 

 

ANSWERS
  1. 还是

  2. 或者

  3. 还是