During a conversation about programming, I meant to say:

I've seen a lot of programmers using that pattern.

I accidentally omitted the object and wrote:

I've seen a lot using that pattern.

For some reason that doesn't sound wrong to me. From context it is clear that I'm talking about software engineers without explicitly mention them, thus I don't need it for understanding. Quite the contrary, it would even be fine without repetition.

However, is that sentence OK without the object or should I use one of the following sentences?

I've seen a lot of them using that pattern.

I've often seen the use of that pattern.

  • You might consider adding a ',' after the word 'lot' i.e: I've seen a lot, using that pattern. But make sure it is contextually relevant. – Playmaker Jul 26 '12 at 14:18

Your original sentence as is would be naturally interpreted as:

I've seen a lot (of people) using that pattern.

So grammatically, you don't really need to add anything (such as the pronoun "them") to it. But context matters. You also said though that "from the context it's clear that I'm talking about software engineers." So that takes care of it.

It is reasonable to use active voice, but if you decide to use passive voice (slightly shifting the focus or emphasis) you'd write:

I've often seen that pattern (being) used.
I've seen that pattern used a lot.
I've often seen the use of that pattern.

  • I do like the alternatives, quite a good idea. They sound much better. – Em1 Jul 26 '12 at 14:19
  • Wait. Did you make up your mind to go with the passive? I mean, do away with the "people/ software engineers" part altogether? – Cool Elf Jul 26 '12 at 14:24
  • Absolutely fine. Actually while phrasing the sentence I had a passive sentence in my mother-tongue in mind, but wasn't able to create that sentence in English at once. The result was the sentence I came up in my question and if I use passive or not in the end isn't relevant since I just wonder if that sentence does match the English grammar. – Em1 Jul 26 '12 at 14:28
  • I see. Well, it's up to you. I just thought that at first you wanted to talk about software engineers "in the act of using" of "resorting to" the pattern – Cool Elf Jul 26 '12 at 14:36

Context is everything. In "I've seen a lot using that pattern." you would need to have clearly established in the preceding sentences that the anaphoric use of "lot" would refer to a "lot of programmers". E.g. "Programmers seem very fond of MVC. I've seen a lot using that pattern." Or it could be a reply to such a statement. The last case is slightly different as it changes the emphasis from the programmers to the pattern and could mean that a small subset of programmers use it extensively.


In my opinion, if you are already in mid conversation about software developers, leaving out the subject should be ok, as it would be inferred from the earlier conversation.

That being said, both of your proposals are fine alternatives, and if there is no previous context to what you want to say, one of those will be favourite.


It's fairly common to use an adjective that indicates a number or quantity while omitting the noun as understood, when the context makes it clear what the noun is. "We had hundreds of customers in the store today. Two actually bought something." Two what? Two customers of course.

That example may be simplistic in that the assumed noun comes straight from the subject of the previous sentence. Sometimes it's more obscure. Like, "The voters don't trust Senator Jones any more. Many think he will not be re-elected." Many what? Well, maybe "many voters". But more likely "many political analysts", even though we may never have mentioned this group before.

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