I want to ask a simple question.

One often uses some and and not others or but not others together. For instance:

(1) Why does cancer attack some tissues but not others?
(2) Why do interventions work in some places and not others?

Is and not others or but not others put after some just to emphasize the noun after some?

  • Question isn't clear (is not a real question) because the two examples do not include the characters "(but)", while the question does. Are you asking when to put but in parentheses after and? Jun 13 '12 at 15:07
  • Sorry. No. I'm asking why you use "and not others" or "but not others" after "some". If "and not others" or "but not others" is taken away, its meaning does not change.
    – foolnloof
    Jun 13 '12 at 15:24
  • No, it is not to emphasize the noun after some. Quite the opposite, in fact: it takes emphasis away from the noun and puts it on the word some instead.
    – RegDwigнt
    Jun 13 '12 at 17:04

Yes, for emphasis and also to avoid ambiguity: "Some" does not necessarily mean "some but not all". It can mean "at least one, maybe all". So adding "and not others" ensures that you don't mean it that way.

  • Thank you. I got it. I never knew that if there is only "some", it could mean "at least one, maybe all".
    – foolnloof
    Jun 13 '12 at 15:25
  • Like if you asked, "Can SOMEONE give me a ride home?", you are looking for at least one. If everyone present was able to give you a ride, you wouldn't say that the answer is "no" because it's all and not "just some". But if you said, "Some, but not all, of our employees have college degrees", then if it turned out that in fact 100% had college degrees, this statement would be false.
    – Jay
    Jun 13 '12 at 21:08

Some usually represents an Existential Quantifier. That's one of two types of logical quantifiers (the other is the Universal Quantifier, usually represented in English by each, every, and all).

The existential quantifier asserts the existence of (for count nouns) at least one object, or (for mass nouns) at least some minimum quantity -- and maybe more in both cases -- of whatever argument it binds. The universal quantifier refers to all of whatever it binds.

They are related in the sense that if something is true for All X, then it's clearly true for Some X; while if all we know is that it's true of Some X, we can conclude nothing about its truth for All X. If all Hoosiers were left-handed, then certainly some Hoosiers would be. But all we know is that some Hoosiers are left-handed, so we just don't know about all Hoosiers.

This is logic -- not, strictly speaking, grammar -- but English, like all languages, does have quantifiers as a normal part of speech, and the meanings of these particular quantifiers are modelled fairly well by Quantified Predicate Calculus.

  • Absolutely true, and very obtusely worded!
    – Jay
    Jun 13 '12 at 21:04

This expression is often used where there is clear evidence of both sides of the issue - so there is evidence available that some tissues get cancer, and that others don't.

Just saying "why some tissues get cancer" suggests that some occasions have been identified where this is the case, but none where it is definitively not.

The emphasis is not identifying why some get cancer, but what is the difference between those that do and those that don't. Addressing "Why some tissues get cancer" can be about identifying the reasons for a range of tissues to get cancer, whereas "why some do and not others" is a different approach, to identify what the difference is between the groups that do and the ones that don't.

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