Do you like basketball or soccer?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Vibrato, Apr 20, 2018.

  1. Vibrato Banned

    Hello. This kind of "or" sentences can have two meanings depending on the way you stress the words, right? It can either mean "Which one do you like? Basketball or football?"(If you stress the words "basketball" and "soccer") or "Do you like at least one of basketball and football?", can't it? I know that I can say "Do you like basketball or soccer" for asking if someone likes at least one of them, but I am not sure if I can use the same sentence for meaning "Which one do you like? Basketball or football?"
  2. boozer Senior Member

    I agree with you. Depending on context and how the sentence was said, I could hear either meaning.
  3. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    Where the meaning is "choose one of the two", the first item has a rising intonation, and the second item has a falling intonation:

    Do you like /basketball, or \football?

    With the other meaning, it's simply a rising intonation to the end of the sentence, as it would be for a single item:

    Do you like /basketball?
    Do you like /basketball or football?

    The standard example, because it's realistic, is:

    Would you like /tea, or \coffee? [= you're having a drink: which one?]
    Would you like /tea or coffee? [= are you having a drink?]

    I write the choice one with a comma to indicate the change in intonation, but don't rely on this.
  4. Vibrato Banned

    Thanks for the answers.
  5. Vibrato Banned

    @entangledbank I can say "Do you have a girlfriend or a boyfriend?" with the right intonation if I think that someone's girlfriend is manly, (not something I would say, but I just made up a context) right? Actually any "or" questions have these two meanings based on the intonation, don't they?
  6. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    Most questions with 'or' would have the two possibilities. Sometimes there is only one because the two clearly exclude each other: Is he tall or short? Is he young or old? These have to have the double "choose one" intonation.

    With more than two choices, it might get more tricky: 'Does he sit on a stool or a sofa or a chair?' allows both possibilities. If it's a choice, the last choice has falling intonation, and the ones before it have a rise.

    It is possible to combine the two types ('Does he sit on a stool or a sofa or a chair, or squat?'), but that gets too complicated for everyday use.
  7. Vibrato Banned

    Thank you.
  8. dojibear

    dojibear Senior Member

    Fresno CA
    English - Northeast US
    Let's not ignore the idea of incorrect questions. If you use the intonation which implies "choose one or the other" but the words used do not say or imply "choose between these", the question simply sounds incorrect. The person you are asking is likely to reply "What do you mean, or?"

    If you say "Do you like cake or cookies?" in your kitchen, in a situation where you are about to give me dessert, I know that "do you like" really means "which would you like". Almost any sentence including the words "cake" and "cookies" would mean that.

    If we are having a conversation at a bus stop and you say "Do you like cake or cookies?" I would not give an answer: I would complain about the question.

    In normal English, we say "Do you like cake or cookies better?"
  9. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    What's missing here is that "like" is not the best choice. One can "like" many things.

    What you're asking is "which one do you like better?" or better still, in my opinion, "which do you prefer?"

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