As I know, when saying "the + plural", it can often mean "probably most" of the items (Like in "The students of my university are fine" - The size of the group is large enough to have some exceptions to general statement (so there can be some students that are not fine).

But what happens when we use the second mention of items? Does this rule still work?

There are sentences:

There are a lot of goods in this shop. The goods are good.

I got several thousand new instruments. The instruments are good. (Assuming the listener knew nothing I would get any)

Can it mean that most of them are good?

Please, help. Thanks.

1 Answer 1


'As I know, when saying "the + plural", it can often mean "probably most" of the items (Like in "The students of my university are fine"' Nikolay Komolov/ .

I don't agree that your sentence means 'probably most'. Common sense may lead us to infer that not every student is fine, but if the speaker wished to make it explicitly clear that this was not the case, s/he would have used some such expression as 'Most of the students', 'Nearly all of the students', "The vast majority of the students'.

Of course, if s/he wished to stress the fact that every single one of the students was fine, s/he might well say 'All the students', but we cannot allow the absence of 'all' to be taken as suggestion that 'most' is inplied. It's the same with the goods and instruments

  • +1 for pointing out that "The students are working hard" doesn't actually "mean" most students are conscientious. After all, someone might reasonably counter such a statement by saying "That's not true. Every week at least some students fail to do their homework". Nov 16, 2014 at 15:00
  • Well ... Broad statements like "X are Y" routinely mean, in real life, "most" or "in general" or "stereotypically". It can be ambiguous if you mean literally 100%, or some lesser percentage. Like, "Dogs have four legs." Well, of course there are dogs who have birth defects or lost a leg in an accident. "Men are pigs." Most women would concede that a few are not. Etc. People often get into silly arguments about this. "How can you say that ALL X are Y!! What about this exception and that exception?"
    – Jay
    Apr 4, 2018 at 15:26

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