Questions with either-or

  • We have learnt 3 types of pattern to form a question:
  • 1. by adding a particle 吗 at the end of a declarative senetence:
    Declarative sentence + “吗”

    2. by repeating the first verb of the verb phrase in affirmative and negative form:
    verb + not (不/没) + verb

    3. by using 是否.

  • Today we are going to learn choosing between alternatives with either-or questions
  • 还是 (hái shi ) is used to ask a listener to choose between two alternatives, only one of which can be true or possible. It conveys the sense of ‘either. . . or’. Questions pattern:

    noun phrase/verb phrase/sentence + 还是 + noun phrase/verb phrase/sentence.

  • Question with noun phrase + 还是 + noun phrase.
    1. Are you Japanese or Chinese?
    shì běn rén hái shi zhōng guó rén ?
    noun phrase noun phrase
    you is Japanese or Chinese
    2. Do you want to drink black tea or jasmine tea?
    yào hóng chá hái shi huā chá ?
    noun phrase noun phrase
    you want drink black tea or jasmine tea
  • Question with verb phrase + 还是 + verb phrase.
    1. Do you want to have Chinese food or Western food?
    yào chī zhōng cān hái shi chī cān ?
    西 ?
    verb phrase verb phrase
    you want eat Chinese food or eat Western food
    2. Will you go there by bus or on foot?
    shì zuò chē hái shi zǒu ?
    verb phrase verb phrase
    you is go by bus or go on foot
  • Question with sentence + 还是 + sentence
    1. Which do you think is more difficult: Chinese or Japanese?
    jué shì zhōng wén nán xué hái shi wén nán xué ?
    sentence sentence
    you feel is Chinese
    hard learn or Japanese
    hard learn
    2. Are you going or is he?
    hái shi ?
    sentence sentence
    you go or he goes
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4 thoughts on “Questions with either-or”

  1. Hi Min Min!

    I am new to the site and I am enjoying the lessons very much. I did notice a problem with the second question you provided regarding the tea.

    2. Do you want to drink black tea or jasmine tea?
    nǐ yào hē hóng chá hái shi huā chá ?
    你 要 喝 红 茶 还 是 花 茶 ?
    noun phrase noun phrase
    you want drink black tea or jasmine tea

    hóng ( 红 ) is red not black. I would not have caught that except my fiancee’s name is Yuhong (Hong hong) (xiao hong).

    1. Hi Sichuan red,
      Thanks for visiting my website.

      In Chinese, black tea is ” 红 茶 ” (which literally means ‘red’ tea). And we do not say 黑 (black) 茶.
      I do not really know the reason why English called it ‘black’ and Chinese called it ‘red’ (红) for the same tea.

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