The Grammarphobia Blog

Several interpretations

Q: If someone tried to get in touch with me several times, was it a few times or many times? In other words, how hard did he try?

A: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.) defines “several” as “more than two or three but not many” or “an indefinite small number; some or a few.”

But as for your question, it all depends.

If someone says, “I tried to reach you several times,” he probably means two or three, but that may seem like a lot to him. He may think he tried very hard, but you may think it was a half-hearted attempt.

I’m sorry I can’t be more definite. This is one of those words that have to be interpreted.

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