– By Ruoran Helen Bai
Are you confused with 还是 háishì and 或者huòzhě? Even intermediate Chinese language learners still make mistakes with this because in their mother language, these two separate words don’t exist. Maybe you do as well. You tried to use them in the way your Mandarin teacher told you, but you often end up making mistakes in your daily Chinese practice. Let’s check out how to use this tricky point in Chinese grammar from HSK3.
Is it a question or statement?
Get this key rule in your head:
- If it’s a statement, use 或者(huòzhě) to say ‘or’.
- If it’s in a question, then 还是 (háishì) it is!
For instance, you and your roommate are deciding where and what to eat for dinner.
- Q: 我们今天吃什么?
What do we eat today?
Hotpot or dumplings, both are fine.
- Q: 那去外面吃还是在家做。(question!)
Dining out or making at home?
- A: 去外面吃吧。
Let’s go out.
Watch out when you see 无论(wúlùn), 不论 (búlùn), or 不管 (bùguǎn)
Like most of the languages in the world, there is an exception about 还是(háishì) when it means ‘or’ and it can be in a statement. That’s the case when you see 无论(wúlùn) / 不论 (búlùn) 不管 (bùguǎn) is around, each of them means ‘no matter’ ,‘whether’. For instance:
Whether it’s Winter or Summer, I like eating ice-cream.
He watches Chinese TV program everyday, whether it’s weekdays or weekends.
Or when making a suggestion
When making a suggestion or a proposal, we often see 还是(háishì) indicates a suggestion and gets 吧 (ba) in the end. For instance:
How about we go to Hainan for Christmas?
Let’s go to Harbin, we can go skiing.
I don’t like cold, let’s go to somewhere warm.
- Q: 我想提高我的中文，我应该在APP上学习还是和GOEAST学呢? (question)
I want to improve Chinese, should I study with an APP or with GOEAST?
- A: 我觉得还是和GOEAST学吧! (suggestion)
I think you should study with GOEAST.
Last but not least, 还是(háishì) also can be used to as a indirect way to say ‘but’, so 虽然 (suīrán) or 尽管 (jǐnguǎn) is often seen in the beginning of the sentence. The ‘but’ here kinda means ‘but still’, or ‘and yet’. And you must keep in mind that 还是(háishì) often goes after the subject：
- 1. 虽然我吃饱了，可我还是想吃蛋糕。
I’m full, but I’d like to have some cake.
- 2. 尽管昨天她和弟弟吵架了，今天她还是给弟弟做早饭.
She argued with her younger brother yesterday, but she still makes breakfast for him.