Lesson 22 – And/Or series, “or” questions


As you imitate the speech in this story, pay special attention to the non-final intonation.



As I say the following words, match them to the intonation patterns below:

  • want to
  • want

Practice reading the following sentences will all three pronunciation patterns. (Note that the “if” clause can’t use the finished pattern.)

  • A friend of the wise becomes wise; a friend of fools becomes a fool.
  • I’d like to, but I’m busy that night.
  • If you smile, I’ll take your picture.


“And” Series

When you have three or more things in a list, you separate them with commas and put an “and” before the last one.

Here is an example:

  • I like ice cream, chocolate, and pickles.

When you have this type of series, the first items use a rising intonation and the final item uses a falling intonation.

Here it goes normal-to-high for the first items, but it is also common to hear high-to-normal. Both of these mean “unfinished”.

It is only at the last item of the series that you have high-low or high-to-low which signifies that the list if finished.

  • Let’s look at some more examples:
  • She can speak English, Chinese, and Mongolian.
  • He’d like a hamburger, some french fries, and a Coke.
  • One, two, three, four, five, six, seven!

You can hear this intonation in the game Duck, Duck, Goose:


“Or” Series

You can get a similar pattern with a list with “or”:

  • We can eat at McDonald’s, KFC, or Pizza Hut.
  • You can choose between red, white, brown, or green.


“Or” Questions

There are two different kinds of “or” questions and many students of English give the wrong answer because they misunderstand the intonation.

Have a look at these apples:

Looking at each one, let’s ask the following two questions:


Is the apple red or green?

Is the apple red or green?



Can I smoke or drink on campus?

Can I smoke and drink on campus?


Here are some more. Chose the best intonation.

  • Do you prefer pop music or classical music?
  • In the winter do you like to skate or ski?
  • Will you have coffee or tea?
  • Have you ever played volleyball or basketball?
  • Is the traffic light red or green?
  • Which came first, the chicken or the egg?


Final exam dialog

Where do you see today’s intonation in the final exam dialog?


Take the IPA exam on the app again. 50 double sounds. Have you improved?

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