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How To Diagram "Unless" and "None" On The LSAT

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

We use the word "unless" and "none" often in our everyday lives, yet when it comes to the LSAT almost everyone gets royally confused as soon as they see either of these terms. Like many other test takers, I would second guess myself as I tried to diagram or interpret any statement that contained this word. Here's the good news--the LSAT is VERY consistent with how this term is used. All you need to do is memorize a specific process.


First off, we need to make sure you understand the foundations of conditional reasoning and how to diagram statements in general for the content of this post to make sense. If you haven't already, make sure to read through my post on the basics of LSAT conditional reasoning.


If you already have a solid foundation for this concept, great! Now, let's make sure we understand these tricky terms.



 

Why can't I just use my intuition to diagram?


It is true that in some cases, you can just use your knowledge of the use of the word "unless" or "none" and its surrounding content to set up your diagrams. However, in other instances you might not be able to apply the statement to everyday life, making it much harder to understand the conditional.


For example, most people would probably have an intuitive understanding of the statement "I'm going to be happy today unless something bad happens". But if you saw the statement "X goes in group 3 unless P goes in group 4", that's a bit harder to diagram using common sense alone.


Also, as mentioned before, these terms are meant to be understood in a very specific and consistent way on the LSAT. The slightest misunderstanding of one word can make a seemingly manageable question seem much more difficult and confusing.





 

Diagramming "Unless", "Except", "Without"


"Unless", "except", and "without" are all diagrammed in the EXACT same way.


Here is the process for diagramming these terms...

Step 1: The idea IMMEDIATELY following "unless", "except", or "without" becomes the necessary condition (meaning it follows the arrow)

Step 2: The rest of the statement becomes NEGATED and becomes the sufficient condition (meaning it goes before the arrow)


Does that still sound confusing? Don't worry--we will go through a few example statements to see how this works.



Statement #1:

Jerry wants to cook unless he has to do the dishes.


Now, let's go through the process...


Step 1: Whatever immediately follows "unless" becomes the necessary condition, which in this case would be "he has to do the dishes". Therefore, this should FOLLOW the arrow.

Conditional Reasoning diagram

Step 2: The rest of the statement becomes the sufficient but we must negate it first. In other words, we need to make this particular part of the statement untrue. In simpler terms, you simply add a 'not' if there is not one already included in the condition. Since the rest of the statement is "Jerry wants to cook", the negation becomes "Jerry does NOT

want to cook". Hence, our final diagram becomes...

Conditional Reasoning diagram unless

Refer to my post on conditional reasoning basics if you want to learn more about the implications of this statement.


Sound good? Okay, let's try out another one!



Statement #2:

Unless the weather is nice, I will not go to the park.


Unlike Statement #1, "unless" is in the beginning of the statement. But this in no way changes the process. Just make sure you are not assuming one part of the statement is the necessary condition based on the order alone.


Step 1: This is where the 'IMMEDIATELY' comes into play. The idea immediately following 'unless' is 'the weather is nice'. That becomes the necessary condition.

Conditional Reasoning diagram unless

Step 2: The rest of the statement is 'I will not go to the park'. This portion of the statement needs to be negated and then becomes the sufficient condition. To negate this, all we need to do is remove the 'not'. Our final diagram therefore becomes...


Conditional Reasoning diagram unless


 

Diagramming "No" and "None"


You may have seen from the conditional indicators list that 'None' is a sufficient condition indicator. But, like with 'unless', there is a little bit more than that. Here are the steps...


Step 1: The idea IMMEDIATELY after 'no' or 'none' becomes the sufficient condition

Step 2: The rest of the statement gets negated and becomes the necessary condition



Suppose you read the following statement:

None of the teachers will be at the convention


Step 1: 'Teachers' is immediately following 'None', so that becomes the sufficient condition.

Conditional Reasoning diagram none

Step 2: 'Will be at the convention' is the remaining portion of that statement, so it becomes the necessary condition and gets negated. The final diagram therefore becomes...

Conditional Reasoning diagram none




 

What if you have both?


In some cases, you can have both 'No'/'None' along with 'Unless' in the same sentence. Take the following statement, for example:


None of the teachers will be at the convention unless it is required


In situations like this, we can diagram 'none' in a slightly different way, even though its meaning technically remains the same. Here are the steps:


Step 1: Use 'none' to negate the entire conditional IMMEDIATELY after it, rather than diagramming it as a full conditional statement.

Step 2: The idea IMMEDIATELY following 'unless' becomes the necessary condition, and the rest of the statement becomes the sufficient condition and is negated.


I know...this one is a bit harder to digest. But if we go through some examples it should make more sense!


Let's take the original statement. Here it is again...

None of the teachers will be at the convention unless it is required


Step 1: The statement immediately following 'none' is 'teachers will be at the convention'. To negate this, simply add a 'not' in there. So, this would become 'The teachers will not be at the convention'

Step 2: The idea immediately after 'unless' is 'required', so that becomes the necessary condition. Then, we need to negate the rest of the statement, which we established in Step 1 is 'The teachers will not be at the convention'. But to negate a statement with 'not', you just need to remove it. Therefore, the sufficient condition becomes 'The teachers will be at the convention.


Here is the final diagram...


Conditional Reasoning diagram none unless


Let's try out another, slightly different example.

Unless none of the star athletes decide not to play, our team will lose.


In this example, 'none' is paired with 'unless'. But it does not change our process at all.


Step 1: The statement immediately after 'none' is 'star athletes decide not to play', so if we negate that statement, we can simply remove the 'not'. So, the statement becomes 'the star athletes decide to play'.

Step 2: The statement immediately following 'unless' is the very same statement from Step 1. So, 'Star athletes decide to play' becomes our necessary condition and the rest of the statement 'our team will lose' becomes the sufficient condition and is negated. Our final diagram therefore becomes...

Conditional Reasoning diagram none unless

If you haven't already, I would strongly recommend trying to memorize these steps so that you will be prepared for any conditional statement they throw your way!



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Stay motivated!


Sincerely,

Cho from Impetus LSAT


If you are interested in learning more about how to study, check out more free LSAT tips or read my book on how to study.

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