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How could I express the following sentence implying that only one option can be chosen?

I don't know ( X ) Carla will go for juice, water or alcohol.

3 Answers 3

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To this US English speaker, the simplest and probably best way to phrase it is

I don't know whether Carla will go for juice, water or alcohol.

because whether is used to introduce two or more alternatives. The normal implication here is that she will choose only one. If you absolutely had to make it clear that one and only one has to be chosen, I guess you could say

I don't know which one of juice, water or alcohol Carla will go for.

but that seems more awkward than the first choice.

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To express the idea that only one option out of possible multiple options can be chosen, we use the construction either ... or.

Example:

If you win, you will either receive a computer, a house or a car. Only one of those, but not all three together.

But in your particular situation, you'd be probably better off using a simple if conjunction:

I don't know if Carla will go for juice, water or alcohol.

It is also possible to use whether instead. Technically speaking, the only difference between the two is that the latter sounds a bit more formal. But that's rather a technical detail. Realistically, they can be used absolutely interchangeably.

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  • Here either is not an adverb, it is a correlative conjunction used with or.
    – Aanchal S
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 17:31
  • I don't know if Carla will go for juice, water or alcohol... or if she will decide not to.
    – Davo
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 19:56
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Adding the conjunction if or whether would make the sentence grammatically correct. The choice of the option has already been implied by another conjunction used by you - or. However, it does not guarantee the person necessarily choosing only one drink. For that you could use the correlative conjunction either... or.

I don't know if Carla will go for juice, water or alcohol.

Carla could either choose juice, water or alcohol.

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