The sentence in the title has two, almost contradicting interpretations. (1) that you are not obligated to do the task "work until you're 30", or (2) you are not obligated to do the task "work" until after you turn 30. What's the easiest way to clear up this ambiguity?

  • Until you're 30, you're not obligated work vs. You're not obligated to work to age 30. Assuming we don't have context to disambiguate.
    – TimR
    Commented Jul 21, 2018 at 20:30

1 Answer 1


Without any more context, I suspect most people would interpret it as meaning (2). I did, and had to think for a few seconds until I saw the ambiguity to which you refer! You could remove the ambiguity by rephrasing in various ways. Here is one:

Your obligation to work begins at age 30.

although if you want to retain the specifically negative aspect of the original, the following would be better:

Your obligation to work does not begin until age 30.

If meaning (1) was actually what was required, then one way of saying that is:

Working until age 30 is not an obligation.

  • Hmm yeah number 2 seems like the normal interpretation, but I was actually trying to say number 1, which is when I noticed the ambiguity in the first place, and couldn't quite clear it up. You provided a good alternative, thanks!
    – woojoo666
    Commented Jul 22, 2018 at 5:24

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