I have been to three foreign countries: Germany, Canada, and China.

I have been to three foreign countries, namely Germany, Canada, and China.

I am trying to rewrite the sentences above without using ":" or "namely". Specifically, I would like to use a verb/preposition "include/including" or similar words such as consisting, containing, and comprising. Is such usage acceptable?

  • 17
    Why do you need to avoid using a colon or namely? What about other punctuation, like an em dash or parentheses, or a different word or phrase, like specifically or to wit?
    – choster
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 16:12
  • 6
    except in extremely formal writing, I think you could simply omit 'three foreign countries' and say "I have been to Germany, Canada, and China."
    – Jeutnarg
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 19:57
  • 1
    @sgroves say "I have only been to..." if you are worried about that misunderstanding. I doubt it will be of concern in most contexts as is
    – Jeutnarg
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 20:51
  • 1
    @sgroves True, if that is the original meaning... most of the OP's question seems to imply the list isn't necessarily the only countries visited.
    – TripeHound
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 20:55
  • 4
    @TripeHound What? The OP's question definitely implies those are the only countries visited. Both example sentences have absolutely zero ambiguity.
    – user428517
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 20:56

6 Answers 6


The two sentences you give are the normal way to say this.

The other common way to express this idea is to say, "The foreign countries that I have been to are Germany, Canada, and China." Putting "three" in there would be awkward. But it would flow naturally if you're emphasizing that this is a small number, like, "The only three foreign countries that I have been to ..."

Using "including" would be wrong because "including" is used when you are giving a partial list, not a complete list. You could say, "I have been to three foreign countries, including Germany." But if you list all three, than it's not "including" any more. It's the whole list.

"Containing" is used when the things listed are stored in some bigger thing. Like, "I have a closet in my bedroom containing my clothes and my shoes." It's rarely used to talk about countries because we don't normally think of countries as being inside something. Perhaps you could say, "Europe contains Germany and France", but I don't recall ever hearing someone say that. People do talk about "containing" a country when they mean to restrain it in some way, like "During the war the British navy kept Germany contained on the continent."

"Consisting of" and "comprising" are valid if you talk about the countries you have visited as a list. That is, you can't say, "I have visited three countries consisting of Germany, Canada, and China", because there's no object there to do the consisting. You could say, "Here is a list of countries I have visited, consisting of Germany, Canada, and China." But that seems an awkward way to express the idea.

Why don't you want to use a colon or the word "namely"?

  • I feel using a colon or the word "namely" separates the sentence. Is it possible to say as follows: "I have been to three foreign countries, namely Germany, Canada, and China, where some of my friends live".
    – rama9
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 16:47
  • @rama9: There's no reason to include the (slightly "florid") word namely in such a context. All it does it alert the listener that there's a list coming up that he's expect to pay attention to (a lecturer might use this device to help ensure his students make a note of the elements about to be named). In your specific example the issue is ambiguity as to whether you have friends in just China (or in all three countries), not the "separation" of clauses. Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 17:12
  • 5
    @rama9 You could restructure the sentence to be more along the lines of "I have visited friends in Germany, Canada, and China." Then you say you went to the countries, you say your friends live in all three, you avoid the separation issue, and the end sentence is shorter anyway.
    – cjl750
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 19:13
  • 2
    Or "I have visited three countries where my friends live - Germany, Canada, and China." would also work, if you want to emphasize the visiting of countries more than the visiting of friends. Basically - bring "friends" before the list.
    – Soron
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 20:47
  • 2
    @rama9 or just avoid using the common for the appositive as well as for the list: "I have been to three foreign countries-- namely Germany, Canada, and China-- where my friends live". "I have been to three foreign countries where my friends live" is a little awkward on its own, though. I'd recommend "I have traveled to visit friends living in three foreign countries: China, Germany, and Canada" Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 22:43

Not unnatural as much as confusing. "Including" means what follows is a partial list of what items are included.

Many countries have signed the accords, including Germany and France (and others).

You might follow-up with an example of something not included:

I like many kinds of pasta dishes, including spaghetti and ravioli (and others), but not lasagna.

Your example is confusing because, if you name all three countries, then what other countries would be included in the list? If you used a larger number, it would be fine:

I have been to fifteen countries, including Germany, Spain, Japan, China, and Canada (and ten more).


Make it simple. Start with:

I've been to Canada, China and Germany.

There's a problem here, "been to" might be a bit ambigious. If you were born in the US, have you ever "been to" the US? To avoid this ambiguity you might try:

I've visited Canada, China and Germany.

The disadvantage of the above is that you're only conveying that you've been to the countries above, not excluding you having been to any other countries. So why not try try:

I've only visited Canada, China and Germany.

That might not have the tone that you're looking for though, because it might be perceived as self-limiting. If you're worried about that, drop the "only". If you want to emphasize that further, you can go with "only ever".

The moral of the story is that how to write a sentence has to flow from context, which we've not been given here, and that simple is often better than complete. :-)

  • 1
    The first one is the simplest and for me has no ambiguity. I'm American and I would never say "I've been to the US". Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 15:32

Including only includes part of you list, but since you only have three items in your list, it would be awkward. Also, it is more formal to name the countries in alphabetical order. The best way to say it would just be to imply that you have been to three foreign countries earlier on and then say, "I have been to Canada, China, and Germany".

  • 4
    Welcome to ELL! Please visit the tour and help centre pages to find out how to use this site. Your answer does not add to the previous answers. There is no requirement to list the countries in alphabetical order. If you spent the most time in Germany, or if you liked Germany more than China and Canada, it would be appropriate to mention it first.
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 5:15
  • Or chronological order would be a natural (and quite acceptable) choice. Commented Sep 9, 2017 at 5:02

How about:

The three foreign countries I have been to are Germany, Canada and China.

That's changing the emphasis a bit, but communicates the message that you want to get across.


If you want to be possibly more confusing but still accurate:

I have been to three foreign countries, even Germany, Canada and China.

Even is synonymous with namely in this context.

  • 2
    'Even' doesn't fit at all. The only way 'even' would remotely make sense is to emphasise the extremity of the statement eg 'I have visited all the continents of the globe, even Antarctica.'
    – peterG
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 10:18
  • Actually even is an old fashioned synonym for namely. It looks confusing to a modern reader though Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 10:21
  • 1
    Very old fashioned. I don't recognize 'even' as a synonym for 'namely', and I was born in the 50's. My grandparents (whose speech would naturally be more old-fashioned than mine), were born at the end of the 19th century and I don't recognize it from them either. I think [citation needed]. Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 14:03
  • 1
    "even" sounds very unnatural and I grew up in New Jersey. Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 15:28
  • You will find this use of "even" in the King James 1611 Bible, but not in modern English.
    – alephzero
    Commented Sep 9, 2017 at 6:41

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .