Conjunctions o/u/o...o/o bien...o bien (coordinating conjunctions)

The conjunctions "o (u)", "o ... o" or "o bien ... o bien"  in Spanish are coordinating conjunctions that can translate into English as "or" or "either ... or".

Conjunction o and u

"o" can either connect two elements in a sentence or it can connect two independent clauses. For example:

No sé si voy a pedir lasaña o paella.I don't know whether to order lasagna or paella.

¿Te gusta más el rojo o el verde?Do you prefer the red one or the green one?

En septiembre iremos a Roma o viajaremos a París.In September we will go to Rome or we will travel to Paris.

The conjunction o becomes u when the following word starts with o- or ho-, for example:

Admiten a todo el público, mujeres u hombres.They admit the general public, women or men.

To learn more about this change from o to u see When the conjunction o becomes u

Conjunction o ... o / o bien ... o bien

The conjunction o is repeated twice: "o ... o" if we want to say "either ... or". The construction "o bien ... o bien" also has this meaning .

Here are some examples:

Tenemos dos opciones, o vamos en tren o vamos en autobús.We have two options, either going by train or going by bus.

No podemos invitar a tanta gente, o bien invitamos a la familia o bien invitamos a los amigos.We can't invite so many people, either we invite the family or we invite friends.

Tiene que venir o tu padre o tu madre. Tu hermano no puede venir a la reunión.Either your father or your mother has to come. Your brother cannot come to the meeting.

Bear in mind we sometimes omit the first conjunction (but never the second), for example:

No podemos invitar a tanta gente, invitamos a la familia o bien invitamos a los amigos.We can't invite so many people, (either) we invite the family or we invite friends.

Note that conjunctions o/o bien can either present a person with a choice to make (either one thing/idea or another) or both options are seen as possible. There is a choice to make here:

Tiene que venir o tu padre o tu madre. Tu hermano no puede venir a la reunión.Either your father or your mother has to come. Your brother cannot come to the meeting.

Whereas here both options are possible:

Admiten a todo el público, mujeres u hombres.They admit the general public, women or men.

See also Using ni... ni... for neither... nor...

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Examples and resources

No podemos invitar a tanta gente, o bien invitamos a la familia o bien invitamos a los amigos.We can't invite so many people, either we invite the family or we invite friends.
Tiene que venir o tu padre o tu madre. Tu hermano no puede venir a la reunión.Either your father or your mother has to come. Your brother cannot come to the meeting.
Tenemos dos opciones, o vamos en tren o vamos en autobús.We have two options, either going by train or going by bus.
Admiten a todo el público, mujeres u hombres.They admit the general public, women or men.
¿Te gusta más el rojo o el verde?Do you prefer the red one or the green one?
En septiembre iremos a Roma o viajaremos a París.In September we will go to Rome or we will travel to Paris.
No sé si voy a pedir lasaña o paella.I don't know whether to order lasagna or paella.
No podemos invitar a tanta gente, invitamos a la familia o bien invitamos a los amigos.We can't invite so many people, (either) we invite the family or we invite friends.
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