Learn English – How to express in plain English for instance that “the first N slots are filled, with N between 0 and the number of slots”


I'll use an abstract example: Imagine 10 slots that can each either be filled or empty. I want to communicate the information that the configuration of filled/empty slots is such that the first N slots are filled, with N between 0 and 10, e.g. slots 1, 2 are filled, the rest are empty, or slots 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 are filled, the rest are empty, etc. How can I say this succinctly in plain English?

Here are some attempts:

  • The first few slots are filled (bad: they're not necessarily few)
  • The first N slots are filled, with N between 0 and the number of slots (too algebraic)
  • The slots are filled from the beginning and on (the best I've come up with, but it alludes to the process of filling the slots, which I don't want to need to do)

Best Answer

Saying that some number of slots are filled but that number could be any number between 0 and ALL means, simply, "Any number of slots could be filled. Or not."

The only real restriction you are placing on the description is that any slots that are filled are filled "front to back" or "first to last".

As far as "plain English", one phrase that will help is "so many". This simply means "an unknown number":

  1. The first so many slots are filled. (PROBLEM: Heavily implies at least one.)

  2. Slots should be filled first to last. (PROBLEM: Only notes the criteria.)

  3. If slots are filled, they are the first so many slots. (Satisfies your criteria by specifically noting that none could be filled.)

  4. Any slots filled are filled front to back. (Satisfies your criteria as this implies some number could be filled and it describes the condition.)

I think (4) is the easiest to understand and the most English-y but (3) is technically most similar to your given criteria.

You could also use "first to last" in (4) if that is more accurate.