She didn’t want to cook because it was her birthday.

I think above sentence could be interpreted in these two different ways.

  1. She wanted not to cook, because it was her birthday.
  2. She wanted to cook, not because it was her birthday.

Are both these right?

  • 2
    Yes, you understand this perfectly: the sentence is ambiguous, and only context can tell you which meaning is intended. Feb 6 '17 at 4:12
  • Yes, the sentence is ambiguous and has multiple meanings, but I'm not sure I understand 2 as it relates to the example sentence.... Feb 6 '17 at 7:04
  • 2
    @TeacherKSHuang Put but in front of the second clause of #2. Feb 6 '17 at 11:43
  • 1
    From a robot's point of view, it could have three interpretations. Hint: "What she wanted was to not cook" and "What she wanted was something other than cooking" are not necessarily the same. Basically, you can associate not with want, with cook, and with the subordinate clause. Feb 6 '17 at 12:11
  • 2
    While the second one is technically a grammatically valid interpretation of the sentence, the number of contexts in which it would be used is vanishingly small. Without a cultural context or tradition of cooking for one's own birthday, there's not a good reason to assume the second meaning unless a prior sentence makes it valid. Unless this is just an exercise to see how many different ways it could be interpreted. Mar 8 '17 at 21:11

I would interpret the two meanings as:

She didn't want to cook for her own birthday (meal).

She didn't want to cook because she felt that she deserved to rest on her birthday.

She wanted to cook for a reason other than it being her birthday.

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