Sometimes you'll see various assertions or claims made which go something like:

Doctors say that eating chocolate is good for you.

Does this imply "all doctors" or "nearly all doctors"? I instinctively think that it does but I want to see whether this is a widespread interpretation in English or something that I made up. Could it, on the other hand, reasonably be read as meaning "some doctors" or "a few doctors"?

  • 3
    Many who use this construction would like you to take that more-general interpretation. I never do: I always take it to mean "There are doctors who say..." without specifying a number at all. It's basically spin [noun ODO sense 3].
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 11:42
  • Or even what they're doctors of. Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 13:13

1 Answer 1


In regular usage, it means doctors as a class; doctors in general.

As for advertisers, spin doctors, flacks, and so on, it is their business to stretch English to the absolute limits. This is a question more for lawyers (what can they get away with saying?) than for this group (what do people usually say)?

  • If someone is going to get persnickety about it, 'doctors' can mean as few as two, and one of them actually holds a PhD in petrology, rather than an MD. Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 15:06
  • In regular usage, if you meant "two doctors", you would have to qualify the noun with a word like "some" or "two". And when used as a noun in the context of medical advice, the word "doctors" would be taken to mean "MDs".
    – Pitarou
    Commented Apr 11, 2013 at 0:33

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