If someone was to say, for example:

There should have been more food at the party

From this statement, is it possible to infer that there was no food? Or does the presence of more always indicate that the thing specified was present?

  • From that statement it is not possible to infer that there was no food. It is only possible to infer that someone believes that there was not enough food. Like the use of or to mean both inclusive OR and exclusive XOR, comparisons can be made with a zero base or a fixed non-zero baseline. I.e, there is no necessary default presupposition of existence, though there may be one in a specific context. Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 20:13
  • 6
    I don't think people would use "there should have been more" if there was none to start with. In the absence of food the most common way to say it would be " there should have been food at the party" . If the sentence was uttered by normal people , they would mean there was not enough food, but there was some to start with
    – P. O.
    Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 20:24

3 Answers 3


Generally: No, there was food, and Yes, the word more indicates that food was present.

However, it is possible for someone to use "more" when there is nothing (sarcasm etc.), but you would most likely already know how much there is of what they're talking about.


In the general case you can't infer anything.

The most straight-forward meaning would be that there was food, but not enough. But it would not be unusual for someone, in a sort of reverse hyperbole, to complain that there should have been "more food" when there was none at all.

And someone might very well say "There should have been more food" in an ironic sense, when, in their judgment, there was far too much.

  • Your final ironic sense - where there was already too much food - is a figure I recognise. But the earlier so-called 'reverse hyperbole' is not something I have heard - at least not in this type of context.
    – WS2
    Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 23:52
  • @WS2 - I'll admit to inventing "reverse hyperbole", in a struggle to describe the concept.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 23:55
  • All credit to you for coining the term. But what I meant was that I had never heard anyone say - sarcastically We could have done with more food, when there wasn't any food. I have heard people comment dryly with something like Did you enjoy the food?, or The buffet was great, wasn't it, when there was no food on offer.
    – WS2
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 8:22

There should have been more food at the party.

There was already food at the party. [Food was already at the party.]

When you see a sentence begin with There, understand that the only time There is the subject is when you are referring to the word itself there. The subject usually comes after the verb in this type of construction, and there is used only to introduce and is considered an expletive.

More food should have been at the party.

Now, we easily see that in the original more is used as a noun and it is the subject of the sentence (not an adjective), and food is used as an appositive to describe or identify what more is. The verb is of course a verb phase acting as a single verb with the modal (helping verb) should "making the recommendation or giving advice" about having more food, Where? At the party (adverb prepositional phrase modifying the verb).

There. pron.

See Definition for Students (2)

—used to introduce a sentence in which the subject comes after the verb


Sentences beginning with There or Here

See page 44.



Expletive. n.

a : a syllable, word, or phrase inserted to fill a vacancy (as in a sentence or a metrical line) without adding to the sense; especially : a word (as it in “make it clear which you prefer”) that occupies the position of the subject or object of a verb in normal English word order and anticipates a subsequent word or phrase that supplies the needed meaningful content


More. n.

See definition of more as a noun:


What is an a appositive?


The modal should:


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