I'm starting a course and our teacher gives us cards with a bit of information about each student in the class, maybe to mingle the group. Then I said the following to explain a friend what was going on:

"The teacher gives you conversation starters to mingle with people you don't know but whom you are going to spend some time with".

Is that phrase grammatically correct? It seems to me that it does, but no body understand me, and this time I'm sure it was not caused by my pronunciation.

  • 1
    Hi Ruben - what did the people you told this to say that made you think they didn't understand you?
    – ColleenV
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 0:49
  • Hi @ColleenV, They told me explicity they can't understand me. One of them was a native speaker I just texted. If the sentence is correct and clear for you, maybe the context was missing for them.
    – Ruben
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 1:42
  • 2
    I understood it perfectly (as a native speaker). Strictly speaking the conversation starters do not themselves mingle with people (it is you that does) and so there's an ambiguity which comes close to making the sentence fail, but only just if so. As Peter says, it may be rather involved. Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 18:25
  • @FrancisDavey: No, there's no ambiguity. Precisely because conversation starters do not themselves mingle with people, as you point out. As a rule, native speakers neither notice nor care about such "hypothetical" ambiguities. Especially in English, which over time has tended to do away with syntactic / morphological elements whose only purpose is to comply with "disambiguating" rules of grammar. Anglophones usually let the semantics of the context do the heavy lifting of disambiguation. That's nearly always enough, and it allows use of "simpler" constructions overall. Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 17:13
  • ...that's to say, as a rule, wherever to... means in order to... (for the purpose of...) it's probably fine to just use the shorter form unless the context (the containing sentence) is so long and complex the relation between the syntactic elements is potentially unclear. For native speakers, that doesn't apply to the cited example here. Bear in mind that ordinarily, native Anglophones have no reason to make their choice of phrasing easier for non-native speakers to understand. Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 17:20

1 Answer 1


Your sentence is understandable, but thinking like an English student, maybe

The teacher gave us conversation starters so we can mingle with the other students we don't know but with whom we are going to spend some time.

might work better since it is more literal and less is assumed. It could also be the length of your sentence is throwing them off.


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