The preposition or is used to signify a list of possibilities out of different things. For example-

Which one should I use- apple or banana?

The two fruits are different and the one is required to one among them. But some people do use or for synonyms like:

Mister Narendra Modi or the prime minister of India is very hard working.

This kind of system is known as Q system or fixed order system or reorder system.

This physical quantity is called as the resistor (of the circuit) or the real impedance of the circuit.

In all the three examples above, the terminologies used after or are implying the same thing. The first sentence could be put as:

Mister Narendra Modi or more specifically the prime minister of India is very hard working.

Except this sentence why should or be used for listing the same thing while it is used for selecting from different things.

  • 1
    Some of those are okay, but some of your sentences are full of solecisms. Usually you will want to turn the "or synonym" into a parenthetical phrase, e.g. "Mr. Narendra Modi (or, more specifically, the prime minister of India) is very hard-working.
    – Robusto
    Aug 7, 2017 at 4:06
  • 1
    I can't see synonyms here. Mister Narendra Modi is a person whilst the prime minister is her position, both are refering to one entity but in different ways that's exactly what or is for. You are mistakiing synonyms for variants. You can call me Michael or Mike - both the names are variants, ways to call a person, and not exactly synonyms. or here indeed carries the meanings of more specifically, and also, and also known as. Aug 7, 2017 at 4:15
  • 1
    I agree with the other comments that the sentence about Mr. Modi is poorly written. It reads to me like Mr. Modi and the Prime Minister are different persons and that at least one of them is hard working. But I disagree with the other comments about how to correct the sentence. I believe it should read, "Mr. Narendra Modi, the prime minister or India, is very hard working. I don't think using "more specifically" is appropriate unless there is some group of people named "Mister Narendra Modi" that makes the name less specific than the title.
    – Readin
    Aug 7, 2017 at 4:35
  • @SovereignSun You could try posting an answer. I liked your post.
    – Anubhav
    Aug 7, 2017 at 16:56

2 Answers 2


In the first sentence, or is unnecessary since his rank (Prime Minister of India) is not another way to state his name - it belongs to him, and it's used to clarify who he is.

Mr. Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, is very hard working.

The second sentence is correct because or is used properly: to list alternative names for something.

The third sentence needs to be rewritten a little:

This physical quantity is called a circuit's resistor, or its real impedance.


When you say "is known as" or "is called", you are giving a name for a thing. In these examples you are giving a list of possible names separated by "or".

The Narendra Modi example is incorrect. That sentence means that the hard working one is either Mr. Modi or the prime minister. It does not mean that Mr. Modi and the prime minister are the same person.

You could write:

Mister Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India, is very hard working.

where you are clarifying who Mr. Modi is.

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