In this paper we aim to show that there is no simple structural rule which will enable us to predict the assignation of a 'holistic' or a 'partitive' reading to the lexical items in certain sentence structures. We look at specific examples from the literature, e.g. 1. (a) John sprayed the wall with paint. John sprayed paint on the wall. 2. (b) Bees were swarming in the garden. The garden was swarming with bees. and examine these from the point of view of polysemy, definiteness and pragmatics. These are issues which we feel are crucial to the holistic/partitive debate but which have either been ignored or passed over in the literature.