Ya sea/ya fuera... o... to express whether... or...

In Spanish we can express a choice between two alternatives by using the conjunctions:

ya sea.../ya fuera...  + o... 

See the following examples:

No tengo más remedio que pagar la multa, ya sea todo de golpe o a plazos.I have no alternative but to pay the fine, either in one go or in installments.

Tienes que comer algo ligero, ya sea una tortilla o una ensalada.You need to eat something light, either an omelette or a salad.

Tenía que conseguir cualquier trabajo, ya fuera de día o de noche.I had to get a job, either a day job or a night job.

Te dije que mi hijo iba a la universidad, ya fuera de forma voluntaria u obligado.I told you my son would go to university, be it by choice or by obligation.

We use:

  • ya sea with actions that refer to the present or the future
  • ya fuera with actions that refer to the past

Sometimes "ya" is omitted, and the structure admits some flexibility, for example, you can also use:

sea..., sea...

fuera...,fuera...

sea..., o...

fuera...,o...

Sea por dinero o por amor, ella terminará casándose con él.Whether driven by money or by love, she will end up marrying him.

Fuera intencionado, fuera accidental, el caso es que me han destrozado el coche.Whether intentionally or by accident, the thing is they destroyed my car.

Note that "sea" and "fuera" agree with what they refer to, i.e. they change to the plural form "sean" and "fueran" if what follows is a plural noun or plural adjective. For example:

A Maribel le gustan los hombres fuertes, ya sean altos o bajos.Maribel likes strong men, whether they are short or tall [lit: tall or short].

Todos eran bienvenidos al taller de costura, fueran chicos o chicas.They were all welcome to the sewing workshop, whether they were boys or girls.

Here is a list with other correlative conjunctions in Spanish.

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Examples and resources

Tienes que comer algo ligero, ya sea una tortilla o una ensalada.You need to eat something light, either an omelette or a salad.
Todos eran bienvenidos al taller de costura, fueran chicos o chicas.They were all welcome to the sewing workshop, whether they were boys or girls.
No tengo más remedio que pagar la multa, ya sea todo de golpe o a plazos.I have no alternative but to pay the fine, either in one go or in installments.
A Maribel le gustan los hombres fuertes, ya sean altos o bajos.Maribel likes strong men, whether they are short or tall [lit: tall or short].
Sea por dinero o por amor, ella terminará casándose con él.Whether driven by money or by love, she will end up marrying him.
Te dije que mi hijo iba a la universidad, ya fuera de forma voluntaria u obligado.I told you my son would go to university, be it by choice or by obligation.
Tenía que conseguir cualquier trabajo, ya fuera de día o de noche.I had to get a job, either a day job or a night job.
Fuera intencionado, fuera accidental, el caso es que me han destrozado el coche.Whether intentionally or by accident, the thing is they destroyed my car.
I'll be right with you...