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Please, help me to clarify this question.

Assuming that there are many books I owe to a person and some of them are here on my table, is it correct to say:

"The books I owe you are on my table"?

Will it show that those books just belong to ones I owe to the person, and somewhere else are other books I owe him? Or will it strictly mean that these are the only books I owe?

The confusion is because "the" is often used for an exhaustive list.

And if to say: "The book I owe you is on my table" - the same question - can it just show that this is one of those books and there are other books I owe somewhere?

Thanks.

2

The books I owe you are on my table.

I believe the sentence means

All the books I owe you are on my table now.

If you want to say that these are not all the books, you can say

Some of the books I owe you are on my table.
(And there's a couple that I haven't read yet in my backpack).

Note that it would look a bit strange if you said the same without some:

_ Books I owe you are on my table.


Similarly, the sentence

The book I owe you is on my table

Will mean that's the only book you owe. To change the sentence to "one of the books I owe you", you can rephrase it thus:

On my table there's a book I owe you.
or:
There's one book I owe you on my table.
or:
One of the books I owe you is on my desk. (kudos to Henry74)

  • 1
    For the singular, I would also suggest "One of the books I owe you is on my desk." – Henry74 Nov 2 '14 at 22:01

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