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Example 1

Tom swims, plays table tennis, or goes hiking in his free time.

Can the "or" mean an "inclusive or", which means the activities Tom does in his free time can be any one, any two, or all three?

Example 2

Tom swims, plays table tennis, and goes hiking in his free time.

If the "or" in Example 1 is inclusive, how is it different from Example 2?

Does Example 2 mean Tom does all three in his free time?

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  • I am sure this is the same thing in your language, especially if it is western language.
    – Lambie
    Nov 2, 2022 at 17:11
  • I'm sure it's an inclusive 'or'. If Tom didn't do all three at different times, why mention the ones he doesn't take part in? Nov 2, 2022 at 17:44

1 Answer 1

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There's a difference in how those two example sentences are used

You are correct that your first example means Tom is expected to participate in one or more of the listed activities during his free time.

Without any other context, you are also correct in your conclusion that your second example means Tom would participate in all three activities in his spare time. However, that is not how a native English speaker would use the phrase because, unless specifically intended by the speaker, it's not a useful thing to say. Tom would not try to participate in all three activities simultaneously (at least we hope not, right?). For this reason, using "and" suggests a different meaning or reason for saying the phrase.

Consider the following:

What are Tom's preferred free time activities?

Tom swims, plays table tennis, and goes hiking.

That example doesn't imply that Tom does all three things during his free time. It only lists the things he enjoys doing during his free time.

I'm over-simplifying the grammar to focus only on the context of your question because you have not provided sufficient context for the examples, but in this case, you can think about it this way:

  • A native speaker would use "or" to directly identify what Tom would do. The phrase expects to find Tom participating in one or more of the listed activities during his free time. The purpose of the list is to inform the reader about Tom's actions.

  • A native speaker would use "and" to indirectly identify what Tom could do. There's no expectation that Tom will be doing anything during his free time. The purpose of the list is to inform the reader about Tom's preferences.

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