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The following is an item in a questionnaire.

Only one of my parents has spent at least 12 years between the ages of 0 and 18 in one or more of the countries in the list below, and he/she has always used English with me at home.

I wondered if some respondents might read the sentence as '(no other members of my family but) only one of my parents has ....'

I would like to include both:

  1. I meet the criteria. And only one of my parents meet them. and
  2. I don't meet the criteria. And only one of my parents meet them.

Therefore, I was thinking of putting it, to call the respondents' attention only on their parents here, as:

Between my parents, only one of them has ...

In fact, I designed the questionnaire as the following to see respondents' nativity of the English language:

Which of the following describes your background? (Please click all that apply)

  1. I have spent at least 12 years between the ages of 0 and 18 in one or more of the countries in the Country List below.
  2. Only one of my parents has spent at least 12 years between the ages of 0 and 18 in one or more of the countries in the Country List below, and he/she has always used English with me at home.
  3. Both of my parents have spent at least 12 years between the ages of 0 and 18 in one or more of the countries in the Country List below, and at least one of them has always used English with me at home.
  4. None of the above

I wondered if a respondent's case was where 'I spent so many years in the countries, and between my parents, only one of them spent so many years in the countries and has always used English with me at home,' he/she might only click (1) but not (1) and (2). (Because he/she thinks (2) means '(no other members of my family but) only one of my parents has ....')

  • The use of has spent is wrong in that sentence. It should be: spent, simple past Where is this questionnaire from? The US government by any chance? – Lambie May 27 '19 at 13:58
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In your example, maybe you should not use the word "only" if you are worried about it being misunderstood. It would also sound more natural.

One of my parents has spent at least 12 years between the ages of 0 and 18 in one or more of the countries in the Country List below, and he/she has always used English with me at home.

In the case of parents, if one but not both do something, than only one is implied.

Your progression is

You
One of your parents
Both of your parents

to account for all three of you.

  • has spent is wrong in the first sentence... – Lambie May 27 '19 at 13:57

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