One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1‘several people arrived early’
some, a number of, a few, not very many, a handful of, a small group of, various, a variety of, assorted, sundry, diverse
a lot, many
2‘the two levels of government must sort out their several responsibilities’
respective, individual, own, particular, specific
separate, different, diverse, disparate, divergent, distinct, discrete
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