Can we say that "inclusive or" can mean one element or any two elements or even more (like 3 or 4 elements if the list is long) in a list?

Does it depend on the context?


1. Can this mean I can have one, any two, or all of them?

You can have a tomato, a durian, or a banana.

Can this mean I can just do one of them, any two, or all?

If you liked this video, please thumb up, like, or share the video.

  • 1
    Yes, it depends on context. If it's a restaurant menu, they will probably charge more if you have the tomato, the durian, AND the banana. In the second sentence, you can do any of the three, or none of them, unless the software prevents you. Commented Aug 5, 2020 at 3:00

1 Answer 1


Yes, the number of elements chosen can be less than the total number in the list. To use a modified version of your second example:

If you liked this video, please give it a thumbs-up, share, or subscribe.

In other words: "Please do some or all of the following actions." If you clicked the "like" button but didn't share the video or subscribe to the channel, that still counts as fulfilling the request.

It does depend on context, though. Without any additional information, your first example sounds more like a case of exclusive or. Unless it was explicitly stated that I could choose any number of items, I would assume that I was being given a choice of one out of the three.

While still dependent on context and tone of voice, you'll sometimes see English speakers indicate non-exclusivity by repeating the word "or" before each item in the list:

Welcome to the fruit stall! Would you like a tomato, or a durian, or perhaps a banana?

The repetition of "or" here is a poetic technique, meant to highlight the fact that you have several options. However, this makes the sentence sound a little more poetic/dramatic, in the way that a fruit seller might enthusiastically welcome a potential customer, so it may not be appropriate in all contexts.

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