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Below the first sentence is from one LSAT. My confusion is how 1. differs from 2., which I made for comparison.

  1. Works of art in the Renaissance were mostly commissioned by patrons.
  1. Most works of art in the Renaissance were commissioned by patrons.

I am wondering whether "1." means the same as "2."

Could someone explain the difference, if any?


P.S. Please see another sentence below, also from an LSAT, with similar construction as 1. above.

  1. New species primarily threatens disturbed areas.

Considering the action verb and the difference between "primarily" and "mostly", so this sentence only means:

All New species primarily but not entirely threatens disturbed areas.

Is my interpretation correct? Any comments or help would be really appreciated.

Leon

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  • I further mentioned another LSAT sentence with similar construction. – Lenny Feb 6 at 2:02
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  1. Works of art in the Renaissance were mostly commissioned by patrons.

  2. Most works of art in the Renaissance were commissioned by patrons.

In this example, it is very difficult to perceive any difference in meaning between the two sentences.

However, the constructions don't always mean the same. For example:

  1. Paintings in this period were mostly in colour.

  2. Most paintings in this period were in colour.

One interpretation of (1) is the same as (2), but (1) has an alternative reading: that each painting was mostly in colour but not entirely.

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As rjpond says, it is difficult to draw a distinction in meaning between the two sentences. But consider this.

The second sentence has the unambiguous meaning that most works of art were entirely commissioned by patrons. Some were, some weren't. However, the meaning of the first sentence could be taken to mean this, but it could also be taken to mean that all works of art were mostly commissioned by patrons, and, therefore, that no works of art were entirely commissioned by patrons. So, it's ambiguous.

This is analogous to rjpond's example, which is a good simplification of the idea. This is also just the sort of thing that lawyers run into all the time in disagreements over the meaning of contracts, so it doesn't surprise me that it is from an LSAT.

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