"Though the prosecutor's fallacy typically happens by mistake, in the adversarial system lawyers are usually free to present statistical evidence as best suits their case; retrials are more commonly the result of the prosecutor's fallacy in expert witness testimony or in the judge's summation".

What does "more commonly" mean here? Just "most commonly"?

  • 3
    "Most commonly" is a much stronger statement than "more commonly". The first one says that if there was a formal statistical analysis of data it would show that the "most common" occurrence would have a clear if not overwhelming lead. "More commonly" implies a much less clear statistical result.
    – BoldBen
    Mar 22, 2020 at 22:12
  • @BoldBen so, using "most" would imply that the number of such retrials is bigger compared to the number of retrials all the other types of retrials compile, and using "more" implies that the number of such retrials is bigger than that of any other type of retrial, but not necessarily all of them combined together? Here by "type of retrial" i mean the type of cause that led to a retrial Mar 22, 2020 at 22:42
  • 1
    @NickTheDick, no, it doesn't have to be more than all other types to be "most common". For example, if duck is the most expensive item on a restaurant menu, that doesn't mean it's more expensive than all the other items on the menu, combined. (If we said "most retrials are due to <reason X>", that would mean that reason X causes more retrials than all the other reasons. But in your example, most is modifying commonly, not specifying the portion of the retrials.)
    – The Photon
    Mar 22, 2020 at 23:30

2 Answers 2


We use "more" when we're comparing two things, and "most" when comparing more than two things (and one of them is superlative among those things).

In this case, the writer used "more" because they were (implicitly) comparing two things: retrials due to a prosecuting attorney presenting the prosecutor's fallacy to the jury and retrials due to expert witnesses or judges presenting the prosecutor's fallacy to the jury. The claim is that the second situation more commonly results in a retrial than the first one.

If they said, "retrials are most commonly the result of the prosecutor's fallacy in expert witness testimony or in the judge's summation", they would be claiming that this is the most common of all reasons for a retrial, not just that it is more common than one other cause under consideration.


Technically, if there are 4 options, A, B, C, and D, with statistical occurrences of 30, 25, 23, and 22%, then option A is "more common", while if the percentages are 55, 20, 15, and 10 then A is "most common".

However, in less technical contexts "most common" simply implies that the "winning" choice is significantly more common than the next choice (whatever that may mean in context), while "more common" implies that it's just the "winner".

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