My question concerns the logic of language, as it is used in the following sentence:

The main idea was to find some possible solutions.

If something is possible, such as finding a solution to a problem, can't we assume the solution is already from the domain of some solutions (i.e., from the domain of an infinite number of possibilities) and not the (meaning only) solution?

Thinking logically, should I remove the word some from the sentence for being redundant? In other words, is the word some unnecessary or does it function in my sentence as an article, thus losing the meaning of being an undetermined or unspecified solution?

  • The pleonasm is not between 'some' and 'possible' but between 'some' and the plural. Logically, 'solutions' captures everything that 'some solutions' captures. But the nuance with 'some' prescribes against 'many'. – Mitch Apr 11 '17 at 16:36

"Possible" and "some" need not have such strict boundaries to the effect of canceling each other out, but in this case, they do both appear to be functioning as adjectives, so I'd argue you don't need both. It depends on how you want to modify "solutions".

For example, if someone was specifically looking for possible solutions, they could be expected to dispatch people in order to go get some possible solutions.

But if you're writing an academic essay or a report, it may be best advised to dispense with any unnecessary words, not because "some" and "possible" are exclusive, but just in order to be absolutely clear with your reader.

  • "Some" is an indefinite determiner. Determiners are not modifiers; they serve to mark an NP as definite or indefinite, a completely different job to that performed by adjectives like "possible". In the OP's example "some" marks the NP "some possible solutions" as indefinite. – BillJ Apr 11 '17 at 18:28
  • That's interesting. Just to circle back around though, if we can apply this to the OP's question, would this be a case for leaving both "some" and "possible" in, because they're performing different jobs? And would "some" not be a quantifier rather than an indefinite determiner? – christopher m. Apr 11 '17 at 21:14

It's not redundant. Consider it this grouping:

  1. The main idea was to find all possible solutions.
  2. The main idea was to find some possible solutions.
  3. The main idea was to find a few possible solutions.
  4. The main idea was to find a couple possible solutions.
  5. The main idea was to find a possible solution.

In sentence #1, the task was to find every possible solution. In sentence #3, the task was to find 3 to 5 solutions. In sentence #4, the task was to find 2 to 3 solutions. And in sentence #5, the task was to find only 1 solution (more would probably be okay, but only 1 is required).

By using "some," we know the task was to find an undefined (but more than 1) number of possible solutions. "Some" is purposely vague; in this case, I would interpret it as "a satisfactory number"--whatever that may be.

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