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## Modifier Inferences

General questions relating to LSAT Logical Reasoning.
elbism
• Posts: 26
• Joined: Mar 21, 2016
#22547
Hi,

I'm having some trouble with detecting which modifier words are synonymous. For example, I have understood 'most' in the general sense to mean, in numbers, more than 50. So 51/100 or more = most.

In several powerscore LSAT questions, the term 'usually' appears to be synonymous in meaning and will yield a correct answer. Eg, if the stimulus contains "most instances -" then an answer choice that paraphrases the same statement in a must be true question can replace "most instances" with "usually" and potentially be correct (granted all other reasoning is correct)

However, I recently came across a question in the powerscore LR book which used the term "most" and the answer choice which i believed to be correct was deemed inaccurate because of the word "often" which was apparently not sufficiently interchangeable with "most".

I looked up the term 'often', and it indeed depicts instances generally occurring over 60% of the time. The same source sited 'usually' as instances generally occurring 80% or more of the time.
The 60% instance of often, however, falls within the 'most' region which, if based on 51/100 would amount to at least a 51% occurrence rate or more, which 'often' more than satisfies.

Can you explain why 'usually' is an acceptable inference from most, but 'often' is not?
Robert Carroll
• PowerScore Staff
• Posts: 723
• Joined: Dec 06, 2013
#22550
elbism,

As you pointed out, "most" means "more than half", so if "often" is going to be synonymous, it has to cover exactly the same range. While arguably 60% incidence qualifies as "often", the range is much broader than that. "Often" just means "happens many times", which means the range includes incidences below 51%.

If someone said something happens "most of the time", it would have to happen 51+% of the time. If someone said something "often" happens, that doesn't mean it happens "more often than not" or that it "most often" happens - "often" alone includes a larger range, and it's synonymous with "many times".

While your source was correct that something happening 60% of the time could probably correctly be described as happening "often", the issue is whether "often" covers exactly the same range as "most" or "usually". If there is a percent incidence that "often" covers but "most" doesn't (or vice versa), then the terms are not synonymous. It's not about whether 60% qualifies as "often" but about whether, say, 30% qualifies as often.

"Usually" means more than half the time. Thus, it's synonymous with "most" because it covers the same range - 51+%.

Robert Carroll
elbism
• Posts: 26
• Joined: Mar 21, 2016
#22551
I understand, but if often is indeed understood to be occurrences over 60%, then surely incidences below 50% could not justifiably be deemed as often and thus the scope of 'often' becomes narrowed to occurrences that would only fall into the 'most' bracket?

In other words, an incident occurring 30% of the time by justifiable standards should not be rendered often at all.

In the dictionary, 'often' is described as 'frequently or in great quantities', to which its synonym is 'much', to which much's synonym is 'most'. (conditional reasoning, bypass middle variable, often -> most ? )

Sorry for being difficult, it's just that the wording is so unbelievably subjective that I can't allow myself to understand any of these modifier words in remotely vague terms. That'd be LSAT suicide.
Robert Carroll
• PowerScore Staff
• Posts: 723
• Joined: Dec 06, 2013
#22552
elbism,

The source that claimed "often" means 60+% and nothing else is just incorrect. "Often" is a broader term than that, so we can't fix a range so precisely. It may be that the source is saying that 60% qualifies as often, but that's not a definition - it says that 60% is a sufficient incidence to show that something often happens, but it's not a necessary condition. Thus, it doesn't describe the range's limits, but merely shows one example of something inside the range.

"Frequently" does not mean "most of the time", nor does "in great quantities". Synonyms in a thesaurus are not going to be precise! The kinds of synonyms you get there will not meet the logical standards of what you see on the test - sometimes it will just give a related word that's similar in most instances, which for conversational purposes is fine, but remember the test is more logically rigorous! I think the definition of "or" is a good example - on the test, it means "one or the other or both" unless otherwise specified, but in conversation people often use "or" when they tacitly mean "but not both".

The short of it is that "often" is a word like "many" - its range extends from somewhere above 0 all the way up to 100. "Most" is more precise than that - it extends from 51 to 100. Because the ranges don't precisely overlap (they overlap at 51 and above, but not below, where "most" is false but "often" can be true), they are not synonymous in test terms.

Robert Carroll
elbism
• Posts: 26
• Joined: Mar 21, 2016
#22556
Okay, thank you for the explanation
litigationqueen
• Posts: 12
• Joined: Sep 23, 2020
#80956
elbism wrote:Hi,

I'm having some trouble with detecting which modifier words are synonymous. For example, I have understood 'most' in the general sense to mean, in numbers, more than 50. So 51/100 or more = most.

In several powerscore LSAT questions, the term 'usually' appears to be synonymous in meaning and will yield a correct answer. Eg, if the stimulus contains "most instances -" then an answer choice that paraphrases the same statement in a must be true question can replace "most instances" with "usually" and potentially be correct (granted all other reasoning is correct)

However, I recently came across a question in the powerscore LR book which used the term "most" and the answer choice which i believed to be correct was deemed inaccurate because of the word "often" which was apparently not sufficiently interchangeable with "most".

I looked up the term 'often', and it indeed depicts instances generally occurring over 60% of the time. The same source sited 'usually' as instances generally occurring 80% or more of the time.

The 60% instance of often, however, falls within the 'most' region which, if based on 51/100 would amount to at least a 51% occurrence rate or more, which 'often' more than satisfies.

Can you explain why 'usually' is an acceptable inference from most, but 'often' is not?
Hi,

I also had a similar issue in wondering whether the terms "usually" and "generally" are synonymous. I am completing questions from the Must Be True/Most Strongly Suuported chapter in the LR Bible and got a question incorrect because I chose the "reverse" answer. Not only were numerical values reversed but the "logical position" was also reversed as the stimulus said "generally" and the answer choice said "usually". Does this mean that generally and usually are logical opposites? Please advise, thanks!