Include but not limited to – Meaning and punctuation explained

In the incredible world known as the “office” there are certain phrases that will get said a lot. Most of them will go right over our heads, and we won’t even think twice about them. But here at Grammar How, we like to think about the phrases and the words that we use.

One phrase that you may very well have heard spoken in your office in the past is “include/including but not limited to”.

This phrase will usually be said before giving a list of examples. You may use a comma in this sentence; however, it is optional.

Today, we’ll be looking at when to say it, why to say it, the rules about the grammar, and where it comes from.

Include vs Including

Firstly, let’s start off by looking at the difference between two words. These two words sound very similar to one another, and they even have almost the same meaning.

The two words I’m talking about are “include” and “including”.

“Include” should be used when you’re giving instructions. For example, you might say, “today, your jobs will include but are not limited to sorting the paper, answering the emails, and talking to our customers”.

“Including” should be used when describing something. For example, you may wish to say “There’s been a few issues, including but not limited to costs, workplace relations, and laziness”.

Where you’ll find it


The first place you might find the phrase “include but not limited to” is in contracts. These are what we sign when we first join a company. They’re the set of rules that we agree to follow and if we say “I don’t want to “our boss can say “but you agreed to”.

In the segment of the contract that lists our duties, it may say “including but not limited to”. This is so if we were to ever say “this isn’t in my contract” the response could be “but the contract made it clear they wouldn’t be your only duties.

Listing Facts

It could also be used when listing facts. When we tell people facts, they seem more believable if we’re able to give clear examples.

A few examples are below.

“Many have become rich from social media, these include but are not limited to Zoella, Kylie Jenner, and Charlie D’Amelio”.

“We’ll be having a few days this year where some people can be given the day off including but not limited to MLK day, Eid, and bank holiday monday”.

“The area has lots to do, including but not limited to visiting the fair, going to the disco, and shopping”.

What’s the point?

Is there a point in this phrase? Why don’t we just say “including”? What use does adding “but not limited to” serve?

The issue with “including” is that at the end of the list, many will think that those are all the things that could possibly be on the list. For example, if I were to say “There’s lots to see in London including Big Ben, the London Eye, and the river Thames”, some might think that those are the only three things in London worth seeing.

But if you say “including but not limited to”, people will know there are plenty of other things to see in London.

Do you need a comma?

Allow me to remind you of your third grade English teacher for a minute.

Should you be putting a comma after “include/including”? In some documents, you might find it there, and in other’s you won’t. But who’s right?

Some people will put it there because it’s a point where most would naturally take a breath. And if you want to put the comma there, you can, and you wouldn’t be breaking any rules of grammar.

However, when you look at the rules of the comma, you’ll find that you are under no obligation to put a comma in this phrase.



As with almost every word in the English language, the word “include” does not begin in England. Instead, it comes from Latin.

When the Romans invaded, they took a lot of their words over with them.

Include used to be “includere”. This comes from “in” which meant “into” and “cludere” which meant “to shut in”.

It wasn’t until Middle English that “includere” became “include”. So to “include” something means to shut it into somewhere. ‘


The word keyword in that phrase “limit” also has its origins in Latin, but it went through France before turning up in the English Language.

In Latin, when you want to limit something, you would have used the word “limitare”. However, when the French took this word, they changed it to be “limiter” which would mean to set a boundary. Which is precisely what you’re doing when you limit something.

When something is “not limited to” there is no boundary there.

Funny how the word went from Latin to French to English.


Of course, as with all common phrases and idioms we use, “include but not limited to” is not the only way of saying you’re about to give a list, but a list that does not cover everything.

“A few of many examples are” is showing that while there are many examples, you will only be giving a few.

“A snippet of which includes”. By using the word “snippet” this creates a small cutting in the listeners’ mind.

And “some of which are” is a more casual way of saying it. This one shouldn’t be used in a professional setting.


When a list is “including but not limited to”, it means what is written on the list are not all the options that could potentially be written on the list.

But we’re busy people, we don’t have time to be reading long lists all day. And that’s why this phrase is so useful.

Usually, we would find it when we’re reading a contract or listing facts.

It’s a great way to tell whoever you’re talking to that your list is not the end.

Both “include” and “limit” come from Latin originally but have been changed and adapted to the English language. And as for the comma, well, that’s up to you.