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What does “Some” Mean on the LSAT?

If you’re an adult and a native English speaker, and you’re asking this question, there’s a pretty good chance you’re studying for the LSAT.

Some is an extremely common word that, like most extremely common words, we largely take for granted in daily usage. But when it comes up over and over and over again in surprisingly difficult questions on an exam, you might start to doubt your understanding of this tricky little word.

One or More

Fortunately, it’s really not that tricky at all. Some means one or more. If we really wanted to get technical, we could say that it means any amount except none or no. Thus, when I ask you to give me some Skittles, you can technically satisfy my demands with one measly lemon Skittle, though we all know that isn’t what I’m hoping for. If I ask you to pass me some mashed potatoes, it would be rather difficult for you to pass me one or two or three mashed potatoes, so you can just give me a spoonful or a bowlful–or even a handful, which again is technically correct but also disappointing. Basically, anything more than no mashed potatoes would be fine.

One and All

One important thing to remember about some is that it can mean both one and all. Overlooking these two possibilities is the most common some-related mistake that people make on the LSAT. Here’s an example of where you might be led astray:

    All widgets are gadgets and one particular widget is also a gizmo. Therefore, some
    gadgets are gizmos.

In this case, it’s true that some gadgets are gizmos because there is at least one particular widget that is both a gadget and a gizmo. At least one fits the definition of some, so this works out.

Obviously, the above example is not as nuanced as some of those you’ll find on the actual LSAT, but hopefully it gives you an idea of where mistakes might occur. Specifically, most test-takers who misconstrue some assign it an overly-specific definition. They think it means more than one and less than all. That’s limiting the definition just a bit too much.

If I told you that I hid $1,000,000 in cash at an office building, and that the money was above ground level, would you completely skip over the bottom floor and the roof? I sure wouldn’t. Any good lawyer knows that “above ground level” just means the money isn’t sitting on the floor in the lobby. It could, however, be sitting on a table at the security guard’s desk. It could also be taped to the ceiling of the top floor, or stuck inside an air conditioning unit on the roof. That’s still technically “at” the office building.

In other words, interpret words as inclusively as possible on the LSAT. Some doesn’t mean none or no, but it can mean pretty much any other amount.
For more on language like this, check out the posts on many and most, or vs. and, and various other formal logic topics, starting with If/then statements and contrapositives.

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