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I am confused about the following two phrases:

  • Generalising them is very easy. If you talk to some of them chosen at random, other largely share their views.
  • Generalising them is very easy. If you talk to some of them chosen at random, others, largely, share their views.

I construct what I thought to be best possible candidates to convey what I mean. By reading them, if you feel that I am missing some basic grammar, then please correct me. Also, comment freely about any better construct in your opinion which is most suitable here.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Generalize, when used with an object, is not referring to people (see "a generalized rash and fever," or "most of what we have observed in this field can be generalized to other fields"). Maybe you mean, "It's easy to generalize what they say."

I am not sure what you are trying to say with the second sentence, though. If I talk to somebody, how do I know what the others are saying? Maybe you mean, "If you listen to some of them, randomly taken, they will tell you the others largely share their views." The same sentence could be written with talk, instead of listen.

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I thought that by talking to someone, one means 'conversing'. Isn't it? –  Dilawar Dec 19 '11 at 13:43
    
-1 sorry. You can certainly generalise people. "Americans talk loudly". "British people have bad teeth". It's not wise, but it's often done. –  slim Dec 19 '11 at 13:47
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The logic is also fine. If I sample 10 people from a pool of 100, the sentence suggests that the 10 people agreed with each other, and that we can infer that the remaining 90 ("largely") would do. –  slim Dec 19 '11 at 13:49
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@DilawarSingh There is a slight different meaning, between talk and converse; converse means there is an exchange of ideas by spoken words, which means all the people participating in the conversation share their ideas. When talking, there could be just a person who speaks. So, if I tell my girlfriend that I must speak her, I mean that I must tell her something, and I am not expecting she replies me back; I could just tell her I don't consider her my girlfriend anymore. –  kiamlaluno Dec 19 '11 at 13:52
    
@slim Are you generalizing people, or what a group of people does? –  kiamlaluno Dec 19 '11 at 13:54
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There are two differences between your candidate sentences:

  • "other" versus "others"
  • the addition of commas

The other people you are referring to are a plural, so it should definitely be "others" and not "other".

The commas are purely a matter of style. The sentence is correct both with and without the commas, and has the same meaning.

There is perhaps a tiny nuance added by the commas: by signalling those tiny pauses, you suggest that "largely" is a more optional part of the sentence, you de-emphasise it a little. "Largely" here meaning "with some exceptions".

  • "others hold their views" - strongest version; no exceptions
  • "others (largely) hold their views" - weaker; there are some exceptions you felt had to be mentioned for complete accuracy
  • "others, largely, hold their views" - weaker still; the exceptions are more numerous
  • "others largely hold their views" - weaker still; even more exceptions
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The second one is closer but not fully correct.

When in doubt, simplify. Here remove the long introductory condition:

It should then be:

Others largely share their views.

The commas are not necessary (and are not good there unless you really mean them, which would be an out of place emphasis. And 'others' refer to other people, a general 'more-than-one', which should be plural.

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