To express an approximate quantity of something — a quantity of time, how many, how much, or how long – native speakers of English often use “or so” and “about”.
For example, with “or so,” the phrase goes after the quantity:
- When is the webinar going to be?
- In three weeks or so.
- How many people are attending the webinar?
- A hundred or so people have signed up.
- How long is your talk going to be?
- I think 45 minutes or so. OR: I think 45 or so minutes. (Both are correct.)
When using “about,” place the word before the quantity:
- When are you going to France?
- In about two weeks.
- How long will you be gone for?
- About a month.
- And will you have to quarantine when you get back?
- Yes, probably about two weeks.
In all these sentences, “or so” and “about” mean that the exact quantity is just an estimate, not a precise figure. The words “roughly” and “approximately” can also be used (“roughly 3 weeks,” or “approximately 10 minutes”) but “or so” and “about” are shorter, simpler, and more common for everyday conversations.
In fact, it is even natural to use “about” and “or so” together in the same sentence!
- Are you going out?
- Yes, I’ll be gone about an hour or so.
- Is this your daily exercise?
- Yes, every day I try to walk about 4 miles or so.
- How many steps is 4 miles?
- About 8,000 or so steps. OR: About 8,000 steps or so.
You might be tempted to use “approximately” or even “roughly.”
- “There are approximately three weeks from the annual meeting.”
- “We can have the project completed in roughly 2 months.”
However, there are a few shorter words or phrases that are a little more natural. The first is the phrase, “OR SO,” which we place after we say the quantity or amount of time.
When is the webinar going to be?
In three weeks or so.
Watch me explain all of this in the video below: