Meaning of OR in English

or S1 W1 /ə; strong ɔː $ ər strong ɔːr/ BrE AmE conjunction

[ Language: Old English ; Origin: oththe ]

1 . POSSIBILITIES/CHOICES used between two words or phrases to show that either of two things is possible, or used before the last in a list of possibilities or choices:

Shall we go out to the cinema or stay at home?

You can have ham, cheese, or tuna.

... or anything/something spoken (=or something of the same kind)

Would you like a coffee or something?

She wasn’t involved in drugs or anything like that.

Grapes are usually either green or red.

He’s going to do it whether we like it or not.

You must do the job yourself or else employ someone else to do it.

⇨ ↑ either 1

2 . AND NOT used after a negative verb when you mean not one thing and also not another thing:

He doesn’t have a television or a video.

Sonia never cleans or even offers to wash the dishes.

3 . AVOIDING BAD RESULT used to say that something bad could happen if someone does not do a particular thing:

Wear your coat or you’ll catch cold.

Hurry up or we’ll be late.

I had to defend myself or else he’d have killed me.

You’d better hand over the money, or else (=used to threaten someone) .

4 . CORRECTION used to correct something that you have said or to give more specific information:

It’s going to snow tomorrow, or that’s what the forecast says.

John picked us up in his car, or rather his dad’s car which he’d borrowed.

We’ve cleaned it all up, or at least most of it.

5 . PROOF used to prove that something must be true, by saying that the situation would be different if it was not true:

He must be at home, or his car wouldn’t be here.

It’s obviously not urgent or else they would have called us straight away.

6 . UNCERTAIN AMOUNTS used to show that you are guessing at an amount or number because you cannot be exact:

The boy was three or four years of age.

I saw Donald leaving a minute or two ago.

There’s a motel a mile or so down the road (=about a mile or possibly a little more) .

• • •


▪ or conjunction used between two possibilities or choices, or before the last one in a list of possibilities or choices:

Don’t get the chemicals on your hands or your clothes.


Payment can be made by cash, cheque or credit card.

▪ alternatively adverb used when giving another choice apart from the one you have already mentioned:

Use a pair of scissors or, alternatively, a very sharp knife.


You can go up into the mountains. Alternatively, you can stroll around one of Switzerland’s delightful cities.

▪ on the one had ... on the other (hand) used when giving two very different ideas or opinions about something, especially when they need to be balanced against each other:

On the one hand, I don’t want to hurt his feelings, but on the other, I don’t want to be miserable for the rest of my life.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.