in general
usually; in most cases; most of (a group of people etc).

  • People in general were not very sympathetic; People were in general not very sympathetic.

Source: https://www.thefreedictionary.com/In+general

It looks as if "in general" could be moved elsewhere in the sentence.

Never mind that a host of actual election and cybersecurity experts have repeatedly investigated and found baseless the claims by election deniers that Dominion’s machines are corrupt tools that threw votes from Trump to Biden, or that voting machines in general are unsafe.

Source: https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2023-03-03/lies-about-dominion-are-the-real-election-threat-in-california

  1. When "in general" is placed after "voting machines", is "in general" adjectival and does "in general" modify "voting machines" and is "voting machines in general" a noun phrase?
  2. When "in general" is placed after "are", is "in general" adverbial and does it modify "are"?
  • 2
    In general is adverbial. It means the same as generally. Its referent will to some extent depend on context. Here I think it refers not to voting machines or to are, but to the whole idea that voting machines are unsafe. And I think it would have that same meaning irrespective of the position of in general. If you wanted to say otherwise, you would use a different term such as Most voting machines are unsafe. (But some are OK.) Commented Jul 9 at 5:42
  • 1
    Position doesn't affect the meaning, but context can affect the meaning. "In general" can be used to mean "I'm fairly sure that this is true although there may be one or two exceptions that I don't know about", or "This is often true but I'm going to tell you of some important cases where it's not true". But position doesn't determine which meaning applies.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jul 9 at 9:08
  • @StuartF In "For example, subtitling technology, which originally started out to help deaf and hard-of-hearing television viewers, had a positive impact on people in general, and has become useful for the masses", could "in general" be substituted with "generally"? Source: bbc.com/news/technology-63828617 Commented Jul 9 at 9:14
  • 1
    Yes, in general and generally mean the same thing. (Although word order may be slightly different. I'd be more likely to say had a generally positive impact on people.) Commented Jul 9 at 9:42

1 Answer 1


Yes, you can place the phrase differently but it does affect the meaning. I don't think that either of your examples are ideal.

I would have placed the adverbial phrase first:

In general, people were not sympathetic.

Because it is placed first, it modifies the entire sentence. It suggests that, broadly speaking, people were sympathetic. The emphasis is on the overall tendency or pattern of people's behaviour; in other words, most people were sympathetic but perhaps some were not.

Placing it further into the statement could suggest that the generality lies with the individuals behaviour - that individuals were mostly not sympathetic, but perhaps had some sympathy.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .