The whole purpose of using “several” to describe how many of something that you have. For this, the case is so that you do not have to specify exactly how many.
In different contexts, it can mean different numbers. The adjective “several” is subjective, meaning that it really only has meaning in comparison to other number words.
Therefore, if you are comparing several animals in the zoo to several grains of sand on the beach, you can use several even though you would expect the number of animals to be far, far fewer than the number of grains of sand on the beach.
Usually, several means about 3 – 5. When you have less than that, it would be better to say one, two, or a couple. Even though a couple does not always strictly mean that there is only two, most of the time that is how it is used. A little bit more than that and you can say several.
Usage and nuances of Several
In general, several of something is a number that is not too many to be able to keep track of them, but is probably more than you really want to spend your time thinking about.
For example, if the manager of a zoo is asked how many different species they have, they could answer, “We have several different species, and they all come from different places.”
In this case, you know that you have more than 5, but it is not so many that you would need someone whose sole job it is to keep track of all of them.
Note, however, a nuance of several is that it sounds like more. Even though there are several synonyms for several, using those synonyms makes it sound like there are less things than if you say several. For example, having a few slices of cake will make people nod their head and agree.
However, you could also say that you had several pieces of cake. In this case, they will start to wonder exactly how many you ate. This is because, even though few and several could be used to describe the same number of things, it gives the impression that there is more when you say there are several of something, rather than just a few.
In general, if you use several, you should assume that other people will think that there is more. Whether or not that is what you intend, it is how most people will hear it.
Synonyms of Several
A few, a number, a couple, a lot, various, assorted, diverse