In Cantonese, you can use 一係 to present two options. For instance, you can say:

"Either eat or go" => 一係食一係走

In Mandarin, someone said 或者 is similar but lacks the same emphasis and force.

In other words, Mandarin speakers wouldn't say 或者吃或者走

So what's the Mandarin equivalent for 一係?

1 Answer 1


An equivalent expression is: 要麽 before each option


Either eat or go.


Either you go or he goes; I can't.

  • Since 係 is the Cantonese counterpart of 是 in Mandarin, can we just replace 係 with 是 in this structure? For example, [一係食一係走" --> "一是吃, 一是走"] ;[一係你去 一係佢去" --> "一是你去, 一是他去]
    – Tang Ho
    Sep 8, 2017 at 3:42
  • Mmm... never heard of "一是...一是..." in Mandarin. This expression seems to be southern - Cantonese "一係...一係...", some Min dialects/languages, such as Hokkien, Taiwanese, Longdu, use "一是...一是...". I am not familiar enough with other language families to know if it's used anywhere else. Perhaps others can chime in.
    – monalisa
    Sep 8, 2017 at 4:26
  • Which demonstrates that Cantonese isn't just Mandarin with a few interchangeable characters and funky tones...
    – dda
    Sep 8, 2017 at 4:39
  • 一是... 一是... is understandable I think, though it's not used often. I did hear the lines on TV, something like, 一个是生,一个是死, 你自己选择。The same concept here, 一个是吃,一个是走,which offers two options for people to choose from.
    – dan
    Sep 8, 2017 at 4:50
  • my mandarin friend said you can replace 一係 with 不要. so it would be like 不要吃,不要走
    – Crashalot
    Sep 10, 2017 at 2:27

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