Suppose there are 3 options available to the President. He is going to choose to wear a blue tie, a red tie, or a green tie. Those options are "mutually exclusive", because he can only realistically wear one tie at a time.

Consider 3 other options available to the President. He can watch television, call the secretary of defense, and/or cut his toenails. Those are options which are "not mutually exclusive". He can do any combination of those things at the same time. He can do all three (not that it would be the best idea to watch television while talking to the secdef and clipping his nails!), or he can just pick one to do, or he could pick two.

Is there a better way to say "not mutually exclusive"?

If you want an example sentence:

"Mr. President, will you now watch television, call the secretary of defense, or cut your toenails?" asked Joe Biden.

"I might do two of those things at once: those choices are not mutually exclusive!" said the president.

  • He can perform these tasks in parallel. They are compatible or even mutually compatible. However I think we need a sentence from you with a gap where the phrase would go to show how you want to use it. Otherwise you will just get a lot of inaccurate or unsatisfactory guesses. Commented Oct 16, 2015 at 23:52
  • 2
    There are 3 "items in his action list", but the most urgent of all is to arrange an earlier appointment with his psychiatrist.
    – Graffito
    Commented Oct 17, 2015 at 0:25
  • Try nonconflicting - from the list of antonyms in this dictionary link merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mutually%20exclusive.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 21:42
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    Looking at the several answers given, I'd recommend people to stick with 'not mutually exclusive'. Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 8:10
  • My biggest problem with the phrase, "mutually exclusive", is that nobody uses it consistently, and it can easily become ambiguous, to where you don't know if the person is using the phrase correctly ("X and Y exclude each other and cannot occur at the same time"), or as a way to say "X and Y can only occur at the same time, exclusive to everything else". E.g: "sexuality and speech patters are not mutually exclusive" as a clunky way to say that they "can occur separately"--to discourage stereotyping--even though what that sentence is actually saying is that they "can occur at the same time" Commented Apr 8, 2018 at 20:35

6 Answers 6


Orthogonal or independent. Because they are independent, nothing prevents them from occurring at the same time or place.

(Of course, it might depend on the President. President Gerald Ford was said not to have been able to walk and chew gum at the same time. ;-))

  • Would you really expect 'These choices are orthogonal' from a politician? Merriam-W lists the statis usage 5th and last in its pecking order. And the others are strange birds also. 'Not mutually exclusive' is not bettered in general usage by 'orthogonal'. My opinion, but reflected in these Google Ngrams. Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 8:09

Use one of the following words:

  • simultaneously

  • conjointly

or simply:

  • together

You might say "Those choices can be done concurrently."

From Merriam-Webster:

Concurrent (adj.): Operating or occurring at the same time.

  • I like this answer but please add a definition for "concurrently" to make this a full answer
    – Yeshe
    Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 0:27
  • Gave it a shot. I'm new to English SE so let me know if MW is not an acceptable link.
    – fj57
    Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 21:59

One doesn't necessarily exclude the other.


Surprisingly, the phrase mutually inclusive is defined in some places as having the possibility of both (or more) options at the same time, while in other places it is defined as requiring both (or more) options at the same time.

If you clearly define this term when you first use it, you should be able to use it throughout your scenario.

  • 1
    As you point out, these definitions of 'mutually inclusive' are mutually exclusive. That, and the fact that the term is so rarely used, make 'not mutually exclusive' a better option. Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 8:00

"Mutually exclusive" is ugly, but it's shorter than "can't all [or 'both'] be done at the same time" or "can't be done concurrently *."

Actually, "mutually exclusive" means more than that. "I can't comb my hair and tie my shoes simultaneously" has the simple meaning "not at exactly the same time," but "combing my hair and tying my shoes are mutually exclusive" implies that if I do one I just can't do the other, simultaneously or not.

  • or "simultaneously"

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