almost all

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almost all

Post by azz » Sat Sep 18, 2021 7:09 am

a. I can eat almost all the fruits on that table.
b. I can eat almost every one of the fruits on that table.
c. I can eat almost any of the fruits on that table.


a1. I can eat almost all the fruits you mentioned.
b1. I can eat almost every one of the fruits you mentioned.
c1. I can eat almost any of the fruits you mentioned.


I think (a1), (b1) and (c1) all mean the same. The idea is that maybe I am allergic to a couple of the fruits you mentioned, or have a dislike to them, or something of the sort, but I can eat all the rest.

However in the case of the three first sentences things seem to be different. (a) and (b) mean I can almost finish all the fruit on that table. (c) is telling us that I can eat any of them, but not necessarily all of them.

Am I correct?

Many thanks.
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Re: almost all

Post by tony h » Sat Sep 18, 2021 12:18 pm

There is an ambiguity in all, some more so than others. I suspect the context would have made it clear eg the question to which this is a response. However, without making the response over long changing the various forms of "almost all" to "most" seems to work better.

1) I can eat almost all the fruits on that table
2) I can eat most the fruits on that table
or
3) I am OK eating most of the fruits on that table
or
4) I am fine with most of those fruits on that table
5) I am fine with eating almost any of the fruits on that table
6) I don't have a problem with eating almost any of the fruits on that table

I think 6 is the most complete and unambiguous statement.
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I'm puzzled therefore I think.

Re: almost all

Post by Phil White » Sat Sep 18, 2021 6:01 pm

In the way in which you stated the sentences, they are not really ambiguous in the way you suggest. And intuitively, you know why. You write:
However in the case of the three first sentences things seem to be different. (a) and (b) mean I can almost finish all the fruit on that table.
All of the original sentences use the plural "fruits", and this implies "individual types of fruit". This pretty well eliminates the ambiguity. In your explanation, you use the singular "fruit" to refer to the total quantity of fruit. This would be a natural distinction, although we generally avoid the plural "fruits" and would use something like "kinds of fruit" if we mean ... er ... "kinds of fruit".

The problem does arise, however, if you were to use the singular "fruit" in your example sentences insofar as it is possible:

a. I can eat almost all the fruit on that table.
This is ambiguous.
b. The singular is not possible in sentence b.
c. I can eat almost any of the fruit on that table.
This is grammatically unsound, but I have no doubt that you will hear "fruit" used like this. It is not ambiguous, as "any" indicates the fact that we are talking about kinds of fruit.

a1. I can eat almost all the fruit you mentioned.
If you try very hard, you could see this as ambiguous, but you would have to construct a very strange conversation indeed in order to do so.
b1. The singular is not possible in sentence b1.
c1. I can eat almost any of the fruit you mentioned.
The same applies as for sentence c.
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Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

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