Taken from Quora.com...

This sentence, among many others, plays on our association of parts of speech when we read the sentence: "The complex houses married and single soldiers and their families."

"Complex" is the noun as well as the main subject of the sentence. The sentence is about the complex. The first interpretation of "houses" is almost always as a noun, but here it is a verb, which means "accommodates". It is the same case with "married" which usually acts as a verb, is an adjective to the soldiers, which surprisingly comes after another adjective "single".

To sum it up, the sentence is trying to describe a complex (an apartment complex, perhaps) where both single as well as married soldiers and their families reside.

My question is: Is there a name for such sentences?

P.S. I would really enjoy reading a few more of the kind.
  • Once on an April Fools' day, I asked this question: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/20304/…. The term is "garden path". (I'm not sure; we can regard this question as a duplicate, perhaps?) Dec 13, 2016 at 10:07
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    It should be pointed out that this "garden path" phenomenon occurs in reading. In spoken English, the intonation patterns and other prosodic features would make clear that "complex" is a noun, not an adjective,that "houses" is a verb not a noun, and that "married" is an adjective not a verb.
    – TimR
    Dec 13, 2016 at 11:16
  • @TRomano I agree. That's why I said read and not listen to. Intonation makes a difference. Dec 13, 2016 at 13:25

1 Answer 1


Yes, there is. Garden path sentences are sentences that are grammatically correct, but the first reading of them is likely to be nonsensical. The term comes from leading someone down (or up) the garden path which means to trick or mislead them.

  • Answers that consist solely of links are discouraged. See Your answer is in another castle.
    – ColleenV
    Dec 13, 2016 at 15:32
  • @ColleenV, I gave the answer to the question, and as a courtesy I provided a link to an article about it. What more would you have?
    – Colin Fine
    Dec 14, 2016 at 10:44
  • I thought the best way to explain would be by example - if I've really misrepresented your answer, feel free to roll it back.
    – ColleenV
    Dec 14, 2016 at 12:47

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