2

Which phrase in bold would you suggest to use? I hope it is clear what I am trying to say, but I am not sure about the word choice. Or perhaps I should use a different construction?

Also, I hope that I use the construction "not only ... but also" correctly here.

  1. We will study discrete particle systems. They are not only of great interest on their own, but also represent an important intermediate step toward analysis of continuous systems.

  2. We will study discrete particle systems. They are not only of great interest as such, but also represent an important intermediate step toward analysis of continuous systems.

  3. We will study discrete particle systems. They are not only of great interest per se, but also represent an important intermediate step toward analysis of continuous systems.

  4. We will study discrete particle systems. They are not only of great interest by themselves, but also represent an important intermediate step toward analysis of continuous systems.

  • It's all a matter of opinion. They are not only inherently / intrinsically of great interest are both better than any of your suggestions, imho. – FumbleFingers Feb 13 '15 at 14:36
  • Please don't vote to close this. If they're all clear and which one is best is a matter of personal preference, then that's the answer. If some of these are unclear or awkward, then that's the answer. Neither of those answers is a matter of personal preference. And whichever is the right answer is good information for an EFL learner. – Ben Kovitz Feb 13 '15 at 20:16
1

(Native American English speaker here.)

They're all clear, they're all normal English, and it's nearly impossible to say which one is best.

These are also equally good:

They are not only of great interest for their own sake, …

They are not only of great interest for themselves, …

If you want some factors to consider in making a choice, which might also shed light on other word choices in other situations, here are some:

  1. These days, it might not be a safe bet that your audience knows what per se means. For an academic audience, though, per se is fine. Note that since per se is Latin in the middle of an English sentence, it should be italicized in writing.

  2. The meaning of “as such” is correct, but in this context it's less immediately clear than the other (all-English) versions. Other people may differ, of course. But I go through a moment wondering “as such what?

  3. An explicitly reflexive wording—“their own”, “themselves”—adds weight to the meaning you intend here, and probably makes the sentence clearer and easier to read.

3

Per se is Latin for by itself and is exactly identical in meaning to as such and by themselves. So I'm only going to compare the meaning between per se and on their own:

We will study discrete particle systems. They are not only of great interest on their own, but also represent an important intermediate step toward analysis of continuous systems.

Meaning: Discrete particle systems are of great interest without studying anything else, but the fact that they're an intermediate step toward analysis of continuous systems makes them even more interesting

We will study discrete particle systems. They are not only of great interest per se, but also represent an important intermediate step toward analysis of continuous systems.

Doesn't make sense (neither do the remaining two examples), this isn't how you use per se. Here's a correct example:

We will study discrete particle systems. They aren't of great interest per se, but they represent an important intermediate step toward analysis of continuous systems.

Meaning: Discrete particle systems aren't exactly interesting, but they become interesting when we consider the fact that they're an important intermediate step toward analysis of continuous systems.

Per se, as such, and by themselves should all be used in the negative. "They aren't interesting per se, but when we consider the following example they are interesting."

  • per se is used closer to latin for "in itself", not "by itself" - this is a significant difference. This sets per se apart from by themselves and on their own, these latter two meaning the same thing ("by itself"). Your conclusion about per se is correct, but your reasoning is not. Since your reasoning incorrectly equates per se with by themselves, your conclusion about by themselves is also incorrect - both by themselves and on their own work equally well in the asker's sentence. as such does share meaning with per se ("in itself"), so you did get that right. – talrnu Feb 13 '15 at 19:25
  • @talrnu Indeed it's misleading to translate a preposition in one language to a single preposition in another language, though I think "by itself" is one meaning of per se (e.g. Nemo adhuc per se viam e labyrintho ferentem repperit / No one yet has found a way out of the labyrinth by himself; or the title of this book). But the phrase as used in English doesn't have all the meaning it has in Latin. Of course, it could be a good question to ask on this SE, which you could help start (hint, hint!). – Ben Kovitz Feb 13 '15 at 20:06
  • Are you sure that per se can only be used negatively? "They're of great interest per se" sounds reasonable to me (native AmE). A quick google turns up "Whether an article is libelous per se is a matter of law for the court to determine." (here, admittedly a little dated (1964) and from a legal opinion). – Ben Kovitz Feb 13 '15 at 20:12
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I believe the last one is the right one to use. 1- on their own is not appropriate to the subject discrete particle systems. 2- as such would mean as discrete. Is that what you mean ? 3- per se would have been right if the subject had been singlular. However,may be you should make a radical modification by saying : ... The subject is not of great interest in itself, but ... Hope this helps.

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