Wild Nihongo!
それとも

それとも

それとも Japanese Grammar Lesson

Grammar Type: Conjunction

Essential Meaning: Or / Either ~ Or ~

Construction: Sentence 1. それとも Sentence 2.

Notes:

  • それとも is a conjunction that combines two statements or two questions that represent two alternatives (i.e. “Either X or Y“). It is typically paired with the か particle (which marks alternatives) and / or with どちらか [Either one / One of those].
    • E.g. Two alternative questions: 刺身さしみべますか。それともすきやきにしますか。[Shall we eat sashimi, or shall we go with sukiyaki?]
    • E.g. Two alternative statements: ぼくるか。それとも村井むらいさんがるかどちらかです。[I will come, or Murai-san will come. It will be one of those two.]
  • When the two alternatives are statements (rather than questions), それとも may be omitted altogether if it is clear from context (e.g. via or どちらか) that the two statements are alternatives.
    • E.g. このほん間違まちがっているか。(それとも) わたし間違まちがっているかどちらかだ。[Either this book is wrong, or I am wrong. It’s one of those two.]
  • If the context is clear, questions that involve それとも may be abbreviated. For example, instead of saying “Shall we play basketball or shall we play football?“, one could simply say “Basketball or football?” if it is clear from context that you are choosing between sports to play.
    • E.g. Regular Version: 刺身さしみべますか。それともすきやきにしますか。[Shall we eat sashimi, or shall we go with sukiyaki?]
    • E.g. Abbreviated Version: 刺身さしみ? それともすきやき? [Sashimi or sukiyaki?]

Example Sentences:

このほん間違まちがっているか。それともわたし間違まちがっているかどちらかだ。[Either this book is wrong, or I am wrong. It’s one of those two.]

刺身さしみべますか。それともすきやきにしますか。[Shall we eat sashimi, or shall we go with sukiyaki?]

ぼくるか。それとも村井むらいさんがるかどちらかです。[I will come, or Murai-san will come. It will be one of those two.]

あのひと先生せんせいですか。それとも医者いしゃですか。[Is that person a teacher, or is he a doctor?]

WILD Examples:

This song begins as follows: おーい、おーい、カバくんきみ背中せなかかたいのかい? それとも本当ほんとうらかいのかい?[Hey, Hey, Mr. Hippo. Is your back hard. Or is it actually soft?]

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