German Word of the Day – “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.

  • We don’t really have Lager here so either Pils or dark beer.
  • Wir haben hier kein Lager, also entweder Pils oder Schwarzbier.
  • I don’t know what to do tonight… I could either go to a concert or to my colleagues wedding party.
  • Ich weiß nicht, was ich heute abend machen soll… Ich könnte entweder zu einem Konzert oder zur Hochzeitsfeier von einem Arbeitskollegen gehen.

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.

  • I can either read or sell the book.
  • Ich kann das Buch entweder lesen oder verkaufen.

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.

  • Either you do your homework or I post baby pictures on your Facebook page.
  • Entweder du machst deine Hausaufgaben, oder ich stelle Babyfotos auf deine Facebookseite.

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

  • “What are you doing after work?”Well, either I go home or I go have beer. “
  • “Was machst du nach der Arbeit?” “Hmm, entweder gehe ich heim oder ich trinke ein Bier.”

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’.

  • “Ich rauche nicht.”
    “Ich rauche auch nicht.”
  • “I don’t smoke.”
    “I don’t either.”

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.