When we are offered a choice between two alternatives, we use the sweet and simple conjunction “or” in English.
In the Italian language, there are two possible translations for “or” – o and oppure. But what is the difference between them?
While both present a choice between two alternatives, we find it helpful to think of oppure, which is made up of two words – o (or) and pure (even/also) – as a slightly more emphatic version of o on its own.
For example, in the following sentence, oppure can be used instead of o to emphasise the speaker’s sneaky suspicion that the other person may prefer a coffee. Had we used o instead, the statement would have come across as more neutral.
Vuoi un tè, oppure preferisci un caffè?
Do you want tea, or would you prefer a coffee?
O and oppure can also appear together in phrases featuring the “either-or” construction. In the sentence below, the first o corresponds to “either” whereas oppure represents “or”.
What’s important to remember is that the first o in the “either/or” construction can never be replaced by oppure, whereas oppure can be replaced by o no matter where it appears.
O mangiamo qui, oppure andiamo a casa.
O mangiamo qui, o andiamo a casa.
Oppure mangiamo qui, o andiamo a casa. Oppure mangiamo qui, oppure andiamo a casa.
Either we eat here, or we go home.
In some cases, oppure can be translated as “otherwise” or “alternatively”. When used in this way, it becomes a synonym for se no or altrimenti.
Devo sbrigarmi, oppure perdo l’autobus.
I have to hurry, otherwise I’ll miss the bus.