The meaning and use of “entweder … oder … “

Hello everyone,high five smileys and welcome to another rendition of the German Word of the Day TAG – TEAM – SPECIAL ! Today we will look at one of those infamous duos will tackle that one certain phrasing you need for you. This time we are going to have a look at the meaning and the mechanics of:

entweder … oder…


These 2 guys will be the ones to call whenever you have to phrase a decision between 2 options. The translation is pretty straight forward for once. Entweder means either and oder means or. The basic structure is also quite similar in German and English. Entweder… oder …are a little more flexible as to their positioning. But let’s look a few regular examples first.

Now so far our options were different things or places. But sometimes, you have the choice between 2 actions… and maybe the actions even have the same objects.

The modal verb kann is taking the second position in the German sentence. So naturally all the remainder of the verbal phrase will pile up at the end of the sentence. That’s why the choices, the verbs lesen and verkaufen, come after book in German. Other than that there are no big differences, and most of the either-or configurations you can muster up in English will be easily transferable to German. One thing is a little tricky though…
Depending on the context the entweder either counts as position 0 or 1, so sometimes the verb has to come after it. It is position 0 if the phrase tells someone to do something and tells what is going to happen if he doesn’t do it.

It will count as position 1 if the phrase is expressing that someone is pondering two possibilities.

We are almost done but first we need to make sure to avoid one trapdoor. Or translates to oder in pretty much any case that I can think of. Either however only translates to entweder when used in a either … or … context. Either in sense of “I do not smoke either” is translated by ‘as well not’.

The either in sense of ‘both’ or ‘either one’ is translated differently based on context but it usually works with word for both which is beide. More detailed information can be found in the online dictionary of Pons.

So this was the tag team special of the German Word of the Day. I hope you enjoyed it and see you next time.

for members :)

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Very interesting


In response to:
“-I can either read the book or sell the book.
-Ich kann das Buch entweder lesen oder verkaufen.

So due to the flexible word order the book only has to be said once in the German sentence whilst the English constraint to have the verb before the object forces you to say book again or replace it by the pronoun ‘it’.”

In English, it is common to read/say: “I can either buy or read the book.” = [subject] [verb] [either] [verb] [or] [verb] [direct object].
In this structure, one does not have to replace ‘the book’ with ‘it’. The configuration only differs from the German configuration by the placement of the direct object.

Hope this helps!


I am just a beginner but I learnt that the syntax in “Entweder du machst deine Hausaufgaben, oder ich stelle Babyfotos auf deine Facebookseite.” would rather be “Entweder machst du deine Hausaufgaben, oder ich stelle …”. Please note Entweder O S rather than Entweder S O. Is this correct?


This helped a lot!

Hany Basha
Hany Basha

das ist ja eine super Erklaerung. danke Ihnen schoen.


I just read this sentence. “Jedes deutsche Nomen hat ein Geschlecht, das entweder maskulin, feminin oder neutral ist.” Does that mean that entweder/oder and weder/noch can correctly be used with more than two things (unlike in English)?? Thank you.


Thank you so much!!

Simon Petri
Simon Petri

What about this sentence:

– I can either give my wife a kiss or a beating.

Would that become:

– Ich kann meiner Frau einen Kuss oder einen Prugel geben.

I am asking because what if you wanted the sentence to appear innocent at first, and then become not so innocent:

– Ich kann meiner Frau eninen Kuss geben….. oder einen Prugel!


Huh. My small A1 attempt to speak German.
-Am liebsten schlafe ich, wenn ich mit dem Flugzeug fliege. Etweder lese ich Zeitungen, oder schlafe ich. Und machmal fuhle ich mich nicht wohl.
-Und warum isst du nicht?
-Naja.. Entweder schmeckt die Essen nicht gut, oder habe ich kein Hunger.

(sorry for the absense of one small umlaut :)