In an interview last year he recalled that he had been asked to identify the owner of everything found at the scene, but had failed to find a match for a piece of cloth that seemed to be of military origin, or for a pair of glasses, a pair of skis and a piece of a ski, leading him to suspect that the military had found the tent before the volunteer rescuers. (telegraph.co.uk)

It seems there needs to be ‘and’ instead of ‘or’ in semantic respect. Why is there an ‘or’?

  • 7
    Or is preferred to and in distributing a negative over two or more elements, and fail to find is semantically negative: "He did not find this, or this, or that." And would be used if there was such a close relationship between the elements that they could be regarded as a 'set'. Apr 30 '13 at 1:53
  • @StoneyB: +100. Boolean logic != English. Computer scientists and mathematicians need to be careful not to confuse the two.
    – Matt
    Apr 30 '13 at 19:00
  • @StoneyB: Could a "nor" be used? He was not able to identify the owner of A, nor the owner of B, nor the owner of C meaning that A, B, and C where found and either had been left by some person not belonging to the group of students, or had been left by the students but Yuri Yudin just did not remember to whom of them these things belonged.
    – Stephen
    Apr 30 '13 at 20:33
  • 1
    @Stephen Use of nor seems to be getting looser these days. Certainly you can use nor here, but I wouldn't: I reserve nor for a) neither ... nor and nor ... nor constructions and b) use as a clause-level conjunction. But I'm old, and my literary tastes are older. Apr 30 '13 at 20:39
  • @StoneyB: Thus: but he found a match neither for A nor for B nor for C is preferable. Thanks!
    – Stephen
    May 1 '13 at 20:01

If he had used "and" here, it would sound like he may have found some of the items, but not all of them.

It might make more sense if you think of it like this: if they found "a piece of cloth that seemed to be of military origin", "a pair of glasses" or "a pair of skis", that would imply that at least one of them had been found. But the "not" means that this is false, so none of the items were found.

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