One small but important word for everyday life in every language is the word “or” (“oder“). This lesson shows you how and when to use the German word for “or”.
Saying “or” in German
The German word for “or” is “oder“. The word is used in the same context in which you would usually use it in English:
Kino oder Theater?
Cinema or theatre?
Möchtest du Möhren oder Rosenkohl als Beilage zum Mittagessen?
Would you like carrots or Brussels sprouts as side dish for lunch?
“Oder” at the end of a sentence
In questions that seek to confirm a statement it’s also possible to add “oder” at the end of a sentence. In this context, “oder” functions in the same way as the English question tag “isn’t it”:
Du kommst aus Hamburg, oder?
You’re from Hamburg, aren’t you?
Du magst keinen Kuchen, oder?
You don’t like cake, do you?
Saying “either … or” in German
In German, just like in English, it is possible to use the phrase “either … or”. In German, this phrase is “entweder … oder“.
In most cases, the phrase is similarly used as in English and even the word order is the same:
Ich könnte entweder joggen gehen oder Vokabeln lernen.
I could either go running or study vocabulary.
Das Essen ist entweder süß oder salzig.
The food is either sweet or salty.
However, you should note that the word “entweder” cannot be used as a stand-alone word. Although the English word “either” can be used in sentences like “I don’t go swimming, either”, this usage is not possible with the German “entweder“.
How to say “neither … nor”
Now that you know how to say “either … or”, it’s also good for you to know how to say “neither … nor” (“weder … noch“).
This phrase is used when you are presented with two options but you want to accept neither of them:
Sie möchte weder das eine noch das andere Kleid kaufen.
She wants to buy neither this nor the other dress.
Ich kann weder stricken noch nähen.
I can neither knit nor sew.
As a bonus, why don’t you learn more about tricks and tipps for translating German?