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"You've met Malfoy before?"
Harry explained about their meeting in Diagon Alley.
"I've heard of his family," said Ron darkly. "They were some of the first to come back to our side after You-Know-Who disappeared. Said they'd been bewitched. My dad doesn't believe it. He says Malfoy's father didn't need an excuse to go over to the Dark Side."
(Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

When you say ‘some of’ is the qualifier, does it mean ‘some of’ modifies ‘the first’? Or unlike pre-modifiers, ‘some’ is modified by ‘the first’?

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I don't understand this question. Can you explain what possible difference in meaning (i.e. - "in semantic respect") you might understand, dependent on whether you're told that some of modifies the first, or that the first modifies some? – FumbleFingers May 1 '13 at 22:18
Some of is a quantifier, not a qualifier. Quantifiers come before adjectives, and interact oddly with determiners, since they occur together at the beginnings of noun phrases. – John Lawler May 1 '13 at 22:24
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Some of modifies the first. Here, the first refers to a bunch of people, and Malfoy's family constituted some of that first bunch of people.

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