'Or' is a commonly used word in the Englsih language. In this lesson, we will learn all about this coordinating conjunction.

How to Use "Or" in English?

'Or' is a coordinating conjunction. In this lesson, we will learn how to discuss and use it.

'Or' as a Coordinating Conjunction


'Or' is another coordinating conjunction. Below, we are going to learn all about its meanings and uses:

  • When we want to show possibilities and choices, we use 'or'. Take a look:

We could go to the park or we could simply sit here and wait for the time to pass.

Couldn't she choose the yellow bag, or the purple one?

  • When we have a negative verb, we can use 'or' to signify that the second action does not happen either. Look:

Linda doesn't want to eat or drink anymore.

As you can see, the second action does not take place either.

The little girl has never cried or screamed at her parents.

  • When we want to indicate that if one does not do something, there will be bad results, we use 'or'. For example:

Eat this or you will never be able to walk again.

Gloriana must defend herself or she will get in big trouble.

  • When we want to give further information on something/someone, or correct what was said, or give an explanation, we use 'or'. Look:

Annemarie Schimmel, or Anne as they call her, is a famous Orientalist.

Here, 'or' has been used to give further information about the subject.

Everything was perfect; Or it seemed perfect at least.

  • When we want to prove something, we can use 'or'. Look:

She must be out, or she wouldn't lie to me.

Probably she has accepted the offer or the manager would've called by now.

  • When we are talking about something we are uncertain of, we use 'or'. Check out the examples:

He was seven, or eight years old, perhaps.

The movie ends in an hour or two.

Position in a Sentence

As it was mentioned, 'or' is a coordinating conjunction that is used to connect words or phrases. We mainly put it between parts of speech that are similar, or between phrases. Look below:

Maria could write her homework now or take a nap.

Who cares if she betrayed you out of hatred or anger?


Please note that we do not start any sentences with 'or' in formal English. It might only happen in some literary genres such as poems.

Idioms with 'Or'

'Or' can also be used in some idioms. Let us learn them below:

  • Or no: When we want to indicate that the stated thing will not make any difference. Look:

Flowers or no flowers, I am going to call your father right away.

Mental health or no mental health, I have to work full time this month.

  • Or so: It means approximately. Take a look:

I gathered twenty or so people for the meeting.

As you can see it means nearly twenty people were gathered.

There are a dozen or so cats in the park.

  • Or at least: When we want to emphasize the least someone can do, we use this idiom. Take a look:

Register tonight or at least talk to Professor Brown immediately.

I can clean the house or at least, give you a hand.

  • Or else: This one is used as both a warning and when we want to introduce the second of two alternatives. Take a look:

He always has a cold or else is very weak.

Here, the phrase is used to indicate the second of two alternatives.

You have to hand in your report today, or else you will get fired.

Here, it is indicating that if something is not done, there will be bad results.


It might come in handy to know that we can use 'or' and 'otherwise' interchangeably. Take a look:

Hannah must attend this seminar today or she will be omitted from her classes.

I suggest we reach a final conclusion, otherwise we cannot move forward.


Please note that you do not mistake 'or' with 'OR'. 'OR' is an abbreviation for both the city of Oregon in the United States and also 'operational rooms'.


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