When attempting to refine a tag search by excluding a keyword, the list of results grows!

I first observed this on Stack Overflow.

Here is an MCVE from Christianity:

It's clear that the extra 38 results are not tagged whith [gospel]. The header confirms that the query has been understood as Results not containing john tagged with gospel

1 Answer 1


What actually happens is this: searching for [gospel] returns all questions tagged with [gospel]. If you search for [gospel] -john you'll get all posts (questions and answers) tagged with [gospel] (in this case, answers inherit tags from their parent questions) and then the results containing 'john' are filtered out. Questions can have multiple answers, and this results in more hits than the filtering excludes.

Compare this with the results for

  • Thanks for the rational explanation. In fact, what I wanted was [gospel] -john is:a
    – grahamj42
    Commented May 15, 2020 at 14:10

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