Here is the situation: Jack lives in a country, in which COVID-19 is still raging. A two-week lockdown has already been lifted, which had been imposed due to several cluster infections in Jack's town (in total 7 clusters had been identified by the local authorities, 12 infected people in each cluster), but the government still keeps strict restrictions on how many people can gather together in one eatery at one time. Jack has been invited by his friends to a café. Jack is aware of his friends' light attitude toward government's restrictions; however, he himself is very serious about it. Jack is aware of the fact that the government still keeps some gathering restrictions for the residents of his town, but he doesn't know precisely (that is, he doesn't know exactly how many people are allowed to gather together in one eatery at one time). So Jack enters the café that he has been invited to and sees all his friends sitting around one table and cheerfully reacting to Jack's arrival (they know about Jack's serious attitude toward observing the government's restrictions and, therefore, suspected that he might've not come). Jack, however, is not that excited. Instead, he asks his friends, "Can this be considered a cluster?"

All Jack wants to know in this question is whether or not the number of gathered people around the table (that is, all his friends and Jack himself) falls within the limits allowed by the government.

Is Jack's question clear in this example? Is it clear from his question what he wants to find out? Is usage of the word "cluster" correct in this case? Or, perhaps, it still needs to be modified by some adjective or maybe even replaced with some other term?

1 Answer 1


You are using cluster in two different senses.

The first sense applies it to a group of infections that have occurred together, in some sense. That is, they are in geographical proximity, or traceable to the same social event, or related in some other way.

In your proposed use, you are applying it to a group of people gathered for a social occasion, when you have no reason to think that any of them have been infected.

The second use doesn't seem at all appropriate for cluster. You might just ask whether the size of the assembled group is allowed under the government restrictions.

  • Thank you for your answer. I have two small further clarifying questions. First one is: If you were Jack, what question would you, as a native speaker, ask your friends then in that situation (wanting to find out exactly what Jack wanted to find out)? And the second one: If you were given the freedom to only replace the word "cluster" in Jack's original question, which word(s) would you substitute for it then? For example, would you replace it with something like "permissible gathering number" (Jack asked, "Can this be considered a permissible gathering number?")?
    – brilliant
    Oct 17, 2021 at 6:39
  • As to replacing one word, if you could quote a distinctive word or phrase from the original announcement setting limits, that would fit. For myself, I might ask "How many of us can get together here? Will we still be legal if I join you?" Oct 17, 2021 at 7:11

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