a. Most of the students entered the building but Tom, Pete and Hank didn't.

b. Some of the students entered the building but Tom, Pete and Hank didn't.

Would you say that Tom, Pete and Hank were the only ones who didn't enter the building?

I don't think it is clear. There might have been others both in (a) and in (b),

I don't even think this is a legitimate case of ambiguity. Something has simply not been stated.

Many thanks

  • 2
    For clarity, you could say "All the students entered the building except Tom, Pete and Hank." Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 20:15
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    @WeatherVane Yes, unless it's phrased like your example, it is impossible to say if there were any other students who didn't enter the building. Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 20:31

2 Answers 2


Yes it is simply not stated. There are many things that are not stated

Tom might have red hair or he might be blonde, or have brown hair.

Pete might be older than Hank, or younger.

Some other people might have entered the building, or no other people entered the building.


In both cases, some number of people other than the three mentioned may have stayed outside. "Most" could mean everyone went in except these three, but it doesn't always.

The difference is in what the word implies about the split. "Some" would indicate anything from "about half" down to just a few. By contrast, for "most", the total number of those who didn't go inside is expected to be small compared to the number who did. We expect "most" to mean a large majority.

This is one of those places where writers can be sneaky to give a false impression. A newspaper might report that "most people believe...", and if they have a poll that says 52% of people think that, well, technically that's "most" because it's over half, but when we say "most", the expectation is that we're talking about 70% to 90%, a supermajority.

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