3

If someone says "X and Y are different.", does it only mean "X is different from Y."? Is there any chance in which it means "X is identical to Y but both are different from others."?

2

You're right that it's ambiguous. It could mean either of the following:

  1. X and Y are different from each other.  (joint interpretation)
  2. X and Y are different from Z.     (distributive interpretation)

In the joint interpretation you're considering X and Y as a single unit.

In the distributive interpretation, you're considering X and Y individually, so the second meaning can be rephrased as follows:

  1. X is different from Z, and Y is different from Z.

This is a little different from what you said in your question – there is no implication that X and Y are identical. They could be the same, or they could be different. But you're right that it's ambiguous whether X and Y are different from each other or from something else.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.