Generalisations are not Universally True

A general statement is a broad statement or a broad category. People make generalisations because they are generally true.

The trains generally run on time.
Summer is generally hot.
Dogs are generally bigger than cats.
Men are generally taller than women.
Japanese people mostly live in Japan.

A generalisation is a general statement and it is generally true but it is not necessarily universally true. Here are some more examples of generalisations:

All Americans are white.
All Germans are blond.
All melons are sweet.
All Chinese people can speak Chinese.
All women are physically weaker than all men.

Listen to audio of a conversation with a red-headed German in India

Although a statement might be generally true, it might have an exception. If there is one exception to a general statement, then it is not universally true. If you can find one non-white American, one German who is not blond, one melon which is bitter, one Chinese person who can not speak Chinese or one woman who is physically stronger than one man, then the above generalisations are not universally true.

Word Family

Let’s look at the family of words we have used that are related to “generalisation”:

generalisation (noun)
general (adjective)
generally (adverb)
to generalise (verb)


If you reread the above text, you should be able to pick out the following phrases:

a general statement
generally true
generally speaking

These statements are called collocations. Some combinations of words occur frequently.

Strong Collocations

When you come across the word “generally” it will often be followed by the word “true” or the word “speaking”. We say that “generally true and “generally speaking are strong collocations because these words often occur in combination in the English language.

Military Ranks

In the military of different countries there are different systems for describing the hierarchy of ranks. They are not all the same. Generally speaking a general is higher in rank than a colonel, but in Libya Colonel Gadaffi held the highest rank which was the rank of Colonel. This was an exception to the general rule. Look at these military ranks:



Did you do military service?
Do people generally do military service in your country?
Do you frequently generalise or do you try to make specific statements which are less likely to have exceptions?

Compare these two statements:

All women are shorter than all men.

Most women are shorter most men.

The second statement is more specific. It uses the quantifier “most” instead of the quantifier “all”. This gives it more chance of being universally true. It is more specific.


Vocabulary is the Key

Keep studying by following the links:
The History of Universal City


Truth is the Foundation of all Human Virtues

Travel Broadens the Mind
Necessity and Obligation

Links to Free Audio for Listening Practice

Listening improves your understanding and your pronunciation.

Vietnam War
The War in Cambodia

The War in Iraq

Listen to audio of a conversation with a red-headed German in India

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