would you help take a look at this passage from an LSAT:

A study of 30 years of weather pattern records of several industrialized urban areas found that weekend days tend to be cloudier than weekdays. Thus it can no longer be denied that human activity has appreciable, large-scale effects on weather, because the few seven-day cycles that occur naturally are of too little significance to cause measurable weather patterns.

I understood the meaning. However, what confuses me is why does the author use "the few" instead of just "few"? Had "few" been used, would the second sentence thus mean any different?

Thank you very much for your time.

1 Answer 1


The few seven-day cycles... are of too little significance refers to the specific seven-day cycles that were observed in the data. "The few cycles" is a way of indicating the number of cycles observed. While is not strictly defined like "the three cycles" or "the twelve cycles" would be, it is considered countable: The one (meaning one), then the couple of (two), then the few of (three to five or so), then the handful of (six to ten). The exact numbers are not necessarily well-defined and will change based on context and dialect, but indicate generally a limited and small quantity.

Few seven-day cycles... are of too little significance would mean that some seven-day cycles are not relevant, but most seven-day cycles actually are relevant.

The second version is almost exactly the opposite of the actual meaning in context: The author really means all of the observed seven-day cycles (of which there are some small number, which is not made specific) are not significant enough to cause larger weather patterns.

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