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IELTS common mistakes | how do I choose between and, but and or?



To really help the environment we need to change the way we think or behave. (incorrect)
To really help the environment we need to change the way we think and behave. (correct)

Vegetarians don't eat meat and they get their protein from other foods. (incorrect)
Vegetarians don't eat meat but they get their protein from other foods. (correct)

We use and to join two similar ideas:
Would you like some tea and biscuits? (= you can have both of them)

We use but to show contrast between two different ideas:
I have tea but I don't have any coffee, I'm afraid. (I have tea = positive, I don't have any coffee = negative)

We use or to give an alternative:
Would you like some tea or coffee? (= you will choose only one of them)

Note: to join two negative ideas, we use or if the subject and the verb are the same:
I don't have tea or coffee. (not: I don't have tea and coffee.)

After if / whether, we can use or not to suggest the alternative idea:
We decided to go whether it was raining or not. (= whether it rained or whether it didn't rain)

See more IELTS common mistakes


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