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The group = John, Adam and Mary

So this is like 'they criticised John' where they=the group, but that doesn't sound right if John is in they, right?

  • Duh. The group elected John as their spokesman. – FumbleFingers May 31 '17 at 13:56
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    The rest of the group criticized John. – Jim May 31 '17 at 14:33
  • It is odd to say "the group criticized John when there are only three people in the group. If there were 25 people in the group, then it would sound OK. Where is the dividing line? I don't know. – ab2 MonicaNotForgotten Jun 1 '17 at 3:44
  • @ab2: I had a professor who said that the answer to questions like that is always 17.  Of course, that was before HHGTTG became a breakout hit.     :-)    ⁠ – Scott Jun 6 '17 at 1:25
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The group criticized John.

It is correct whether or not John is (usually) part of the group.

However, it's likely that even when someone knows that John is part of the group, they will assume you mean "everyone in the group except John".

The citizens of the United States are questioning Donald Trump's decisions.

Although Trump is a US citizen, no one is going to assume that Trump is questioning himself.

But that's okay. You don't need to specify it. If that is the case, what you are saying is correct and will be understood.
However, if you want to stress that John also criticized himself, I would stress that fact:

The group, including John, criticized John.

This way, you prevent people from assuming John did not partake in the criticizing.

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