How many is 'several'? If I said to you I'd posted on this blog several times this week, how many times would you think I meant?
Personally I use 'several' to mean a very small number, three to five perhaps - for me it is almost synonymous with 'a few'. But I realise that a lot of other people use 'several' to mean a higher number than this.
One person I spoke to yesterday believed 'several' to mean 'a number around seven', perhaps because of the similarity between the words 'several' and seven'. Although the two words have different etymologies, making connections like this between similar-sounding words is quite common and understandable.
To my surprise the OED agrees with me on 'several', defining it as "more than two but not many". 'A few', in comparison, is "a small number of; not many". So I wouldn't say that 'several' is bigger than 'a few', at least according to the dictionary definition. But then, I would love to hear what you think...
The ambiguous Oxford comma
6 days ago