If some X's are Y's, does that imply that some X's are not Y's?

  • 9
    There's a part to this that is purely English usage and a part that is stipulative mathematical logic (and they are different).
    – Mitch
    Jun 1, 2011 at 2:12
  • 1
    No, it does not imply that some Xs are not Ys. Jun 1, 2011 at 5:17
  • @Mitch I'd say that even that is an oversimplification. Mar 14, 2017 at 17:41

7 Answers 7


This is bordering on logic rather than language, but the answer is definitely no: Some is "an indeterminate amount", which means it can be all. If I say I have some red M&Ms in my bag, it could be that all of them are red.

But then, depending on inflection, as @codelegant pointed out, I could be using emphasis on some to indicate that not all are red...like if you asked for some red ones and I said I had some, which turned out to be more than one but less than all.

  • 3
    You got my vote, Jeff. :D
    – codelegant
    Jun 1, 2011 at 2:10
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    To follow up on my comment to the question, the 'no' answer is for the logical understanding of 'some' and 'all'; but for normal English users, if you have 4 reds and that's it, they ask "do you have some red ones?", you reply yes, and they can reasonably ask for a blue one and be reasonably upset with you for leading them astray after you admit you don't have any blue ones.
    – Mitch
    Jun 1, 2011 at 2:17
  • Just took discrete math last semester and I would agree with Jeff on this one. I believe you have negated the statement. Only the contrapositive is an equivalent statement for certain. Jun 1, 2011 at 2:18
  • 1
    @ColinFine Consider: "If some of your students have breathing difficulties, keep your class isolated from the rest of the building" Now if some necessarily implied not all, then if all your students had breathing difficulties, it should be ok to let them out. Similarly, if you just had one student with breathing difficulties this is not excluded from the instruction. Some is enough here to cover both eventualities. It clearly signifies an indeterminate amount and does not rule out all in any way - nor one either, it seems to me. Feb 16, 2015 at 14:34
  • 1
    @ColinFine Yes, I agree. But that's why I don't think your downvote's fair! - not that it matters ;) The point is that it's the context that gives the implication, not the word, imo. Some just supplies the minimal meaning of an indeterminate amount. The context does the rest. Feb 18, 2015 at 1:00

Yes. If I offered you some peanut M & M's, I would feel that you misunderstood me if you took them all. :)


For straight English prose, yes. It implies more than one, but not all.

However, for a discrete math homework or test question, I think it would be synonymous with "one or more". It could be just one, or it could be all of them. So if you are asking this question to try to get a couple of points back from your math instructor, sorry. :-)


the answer is No.

b. Equipolence

Closely connected with the theory of opposition is that of the equipollence of propositions with the same terms in the same order but with negative particles variously placed within them. Since contraictories are true and false under reveresed conditions, any proposiltion may be equated with the simple denial of its contradictory. Thus, "Som X is not a Y" has the same logical force as "Not every X is a Y," and vconversely, "Every X is a Y" has the force of "Not (some X is not a Y)," or, to give it a more normal English expression, "Not any X is not a Y". Similarly, "Some X is a Y" has the force of "Not (no X is a Y)" and "No X is a Y" that of "Not (some X is a Y)" -- i.e. "Not any X is a Y." Also, since "no" conveys universality and negativeness at once, "No X is a Y" has the force of "Every X is not-a-Y", and, conversely, "Every X is a Y" has the force of "No X is not-a-Y." Writers with an interest in simplification have seen in these equivalences a means of dispensing with all but one of the signs "every", "Some", and "no." thus the four forms may all be expressed in terms of "every", as follows:

Every X is a Y (A)

Every X is not-a-Y (E)

Not every X is not-a-Y (I)

Not every X is a Y (O)

(emphasis in bold is mine)


Some suggests (but does not require) that there are counterexamples. The reason is that if you say "Some X's are Y's" instead of just saying "X's are Y's", you presumably had cause to use the extra word. The natural reason for you to do so is if saying "X's are Y's" was actually not true--some are not Y's, but some are. So "Some X's are Y's" is then true.

In conventional discourse, if you want to emphasize that you are using "some" because you are not sure (or do not wish to check) that the statement applies to all, then you can use a phrase like "at least some X's are Y's". This longer form no longer carries the implication that some X's are not Y's. (In logic and mathematics, the short form carries no implication; allowing oneself to not check every case is very useful in math and logic. Then again, the phrasing then is usually "there exists an X that is a Y".)


From wikipedia:

All known human languages make use of quantification.

'Some' is a form of quantification and when used in English it's understood that 'some' is 'not all'. In your case, "if some X's are Y's, it implies that some X's are not Y's".

In predicate logic this isn't necessarily the case. The existential quantifier, '∃', may be used to say that 'there exists' some relation or property. That 'there exists' can cover every relation or property though.


"Some X are Y" does not necessarily mean that "Some X are NOT Y", although it does leave that possibility. The only conclusion one can draw from the statement that "Some X are Y" is that group X and group Y overlap, with one or more of the population being both X and Y.

I think it muddles the issue to talk about what this would mean in conversation. Clearly, unless our name was Sheldon Cooper and we didn't have any friends, we would not be talking about "X" and "Y" unless to discuss genetics or to illustrate a principal of logic.

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