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U8L2 Disjunctive question(選擇問句)

 

In this Cantonese grammar lesson, disjunctive question(選擇問句)will be introduced.  Disjunctive question(選擇問句)is created by combining two or more sentences into one according to the structure of compound sentences(並列句)and it is asking for listener’s choice between those provided options.  You can revise compound sentences in Unit 6 Lesson 2.  The following words are used to connect two sentences.  抑或[jik1 waak6], 定[ding6] and 定係[ding6 hai6] are completely interchangeable.

Conjunctions to be used in disjunctive question

ConjunctionsMeaning
抑或[jik1 waak6]Or
定係[ding6 hai6]Or
定[ding6]Or

 

When you are creating a disjunctive question, if words with identical functions in those sentences have been repeated, the latter can be omitted.

nei5 soeng2 heoi3 hon4 gwok3 ding6 heoi3 jat6 bun2

你想去韓國定日本?

Do you want to go to Korea or Japan?

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentenceCompound sentences
ComponentsSentence 1Sentence 2
True valueTrueTrue
Words in sentence你想去韓國定去日本

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechNounAuxiliary verbClause
Words in sentence去韓國

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speech/VerbNoun
Words in sentence/韓國

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceConjunctionSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechConjunctionNounAuxiliary verbClause
Words in sentence(你)(想)去日本

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speech/VerbNoun
Words in sentence/日本

 

nei5 zung1 ji3 gou1 ge3 neoi5 zai2 ding6 hai6 ngai2 ge3 neoi5 zai2

你中意高嘅女仔定係矮嘅女仔?

Do you like tall girls or short girls?

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentenceCompound sentences
ComponentsSentence 1Sentence 2
True valueTrueTrue
Words in sentence你中意高嘅女仔定係矮嘅女仔

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechNounVerbNoun
Words in sentence中意高嘅女仔

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier
Head女仔

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceConjunctionSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechConjunctionNounVerbNoun
Words in sentence定係(你)(中意)矮嘅女仔

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier
Head女仔

 

nei5 soeng2 sik6 tong4 seoi2 jik1 waak6 sik6 daan6 gou1

你想糖水抑或蛋糕?

Do you want to eat sweet soup or cake?

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentenceCompound sentences
ComponentsSentence 1Sentence 2
True valueTrueTrue
Words in sentence你想食糖水抑或食蛋糕

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechNounAuxiliary verbClause
Words in sentence食糖水

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speech/VerbNoun
Words in sentence/糖水

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceConjunctionSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechConjunctionNounVerbNoun
Words in sentence抑或(你)(想)食蛋糕

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speech/VerbNoun
Words in sentence/蛋糕

 

keoi5 hai6 hoeng1 gong2 jan4 ding6 hai6 zung1 gwok3 jan4

佢係香港人定係中國人?

Is he a Hong Konger or Chinese?

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentenceCompound sentences
ComponentsSentence 1Sentence 2
True valueTrueTrue
Words in sentence佢係香港人定係中國人

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechNounVerbNoun
Words in sentence香港人

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceConjunctionSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechConjunctionNounVerbNoun
Words in sentence定係(係)中國人

 

keoi5 ci4 di1 soeng2 zou6 siu1 fong4 jun4 jik1 waak6 zou6 ging2 caat3

佢遲啲想做消防員抑或做警察?

Does he want to become a firefighter or a police in the future?

 

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentenceCompound sentences
ComponentsSentence 1Sentence 2
True valueTrueTrue
Words in sentence佢遲啲想做消防員抑或做警察

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicateObject
Part of speechNounAdverbAuxiliary verbClause
Words in sentence遲啲做消防員

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speech/VerbNoun
Words in sentence/消防員

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceConjunctionSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechConjunctionNounAuxiliary verbClause
Words in sentence抑或(佢)(想)做警察

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speech/VerbNoun
Words in sentence/警察

 

nung4 lik6 san1 nin4 hai6 ting1 jat6 ding6 hau6 jat6

農曆新年係聽日定後日?

Is Lunar New Year tomorrow or the day after tomorrow?

 

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentenceCompound sentences
ComponentsSentence 1Sentence 2
True valueTrueTrue
Words in sentence農曆新年係聽日定後日

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechNounLinking verbNoun
Words in sentence農曆新年聽日

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceConjunctionSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechConjunctionNounLinking verbNoun
Words in sentence(農曆新年)(係)後日

Reference

  1. 張洪年(2007)。香港粤語語法的研究(增訂版)。香港:中文大學出版社,頁 305-306。

That’s it for this Cantonese grammar lesson!  If you appreciate our work, sign up now and give us a LikeCoin by clicking the LikeCoin button below 5 times.  It will empower us to create more useful contents for you in the future!

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. These are some nice examples, but I think the article leaves a couple of unanswered questions:
    1. What are the differences (if any) between 抑或 and 定係? Are they completely interchangeable? (I believe 定/定係 is more casual/colloquial, yes?)
    2. And what about 或者? How does it differ from the words above? Most English speakers are going to translate all of these words as “OR” and attempt to use them all interchangeably that way.

    1. Thank you for your feedback zKing. As a native speaker, sometimes we do miss out something obvious for learners and we really appreciate your feedback as it would help us improve our content.

      For the first question: Yes they are completely interchangeable. Personally I do use 定/定係 more than 抑或, but I believe it is not related with formality but the word choice of different generation(I was born in 1997, and I guess 抑或 would be used more often by someone who was born in 60s or 70s).

      For the second question: Nice question! 或者 or 或 cannot be used to replace all of those aforementioned words above. Grammatically, 或者 and 或 is used in alternative sentences for displaying the viable options. Meanwhile 抑或, 定 and 定係 is used in disjunctive sentences. More on 或者 will be covered in a future lesson, but in short, 或者 and 或 cannot be used in a question and 抑或, 定 and 定係 has to be used in a question. See if you can understand this example sentence.

      佢或者我都可以幫你手。(O)
      佢定係我都可以幫你手。(X)
      你定係佢可以幫我手啊?(O)

      Once again thank you for your feedback and your support.

      Hugo Sum
      Founder of How to study Cantonese

      1. Thank you! Those are very clear explanations; very useful!

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