What is the difference between those three words? I've been trying to find the answer, but some says they are all the same, some that 或者 is more formal, and some (but i think that person was a cantonese native speaker) that 或是 is more formal. I know that 或者 is used in statements (vs. 还是), the other two are also used in statements or can be used in questions, too?

So they all mean "or"? And if so, are some more/less formal?

2 Answers 2


或者 = 也许, "maybe"; "perhaps"

= 或许;也许 = 或者, "or"; "one or the other"

还是, nevertheless; still; or

还是 has broader uses, see https://www.zdic.net/hans/%E8%BF%98%E6%98%AF for more info.


Yes, these can all mean "or." However, some can take on other meanings.

或:As a native speaker, my intuition tells me that this word is more formal as it is more concise (less characters used), so I would associate it with academic writing. Means "or;" can also mean "perhaps" or "maybe."

或者:This is definitely the most common way to say it, at least in mainland China. Means "or;" can also mean "perhaps" or "maybe."

或是/或者是:I would say that these are slightly more formal than 或者,but less formal than 或. Means "or;" can also mean "perhaps" or "maybe."

还是:Means "or;" this can also mean "nevertheless" or "yet" (synonym with 仍然/依旧). I would rank this as rather informal.

Thus, in order from most to least formal: 或;或是/或者是;或者;还是。

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