I was thinking, couldn’t “I didn’t do it on purpose” take on two meanings or be interpreted two ways?

1) The act was unintentional, I did not mean for it to happen.

2) I specifically chose not to do it, it was a concious decision.

I feel like number two isn’t as ifiomatic as number one, is that right? But otherwise how do you determine which meaning is intended?

  • 1
    It is pretty much a set phrase, and always takes the first meaning. – Mick Nov 17 '17 at 10:52
  • 2
    There are plenty of phrases in English that can be interpreted in two ways. How do you know which is intended? Context. – J.R. Nov 17 '17 at 10:52
  • @J.R. There are some real corkers there. I couldn't stop laughing. :-D – Mick Nov 17 '17 at 11:05
  • In theory the cited text could be seen as ambiguous, but in practice any halfway-competent native speaker would say I deliberately didn't do it or similar (since the "natural" position for the adverb would be I didn't do it deliberately, the reader/listener would know to assume the non-standard meaning when presented with a non-standard sequence). Note that on purpose doesn't really work for this "transposition", but I don't know exactly why that's so. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Nov 17 '17 at 14:52

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