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Consider the following castes:

  • Ali has a house in Tehran. John has a house in Paris.
  • Ali has two houses in Tehran. John has two houses in Paris.
  • Ali and John share a house in Paris.
  • Ali and John share two houses in Paris.

Which of the following sentences could follow each of above sentences:

  • Their house is big.
  • Their houses are big.

Similarly, what does this sentence implies: "Their cars are clean": Each one has one or more cars or there are some cars that belonged to all.

  • 1
    I think we should use the plural form when there is more than one house. So 1, 2, 4 use their houses are big. The only thing the sentence conveys is the number, that overall there is more than one house. Their cars are clean can mean either each has one or more car or there are some cars that belonged to all. – Fantasier Apr 11 '14 at 5:41
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"Their house is big." canNOT be used distributively. In other words, that sentence cannot mean that *"they each have a house, and each house is big." Instead it can only mean "They share/live in/own a house, and it is big."

On the other hand, "Their houses are big" CAN be used distributively OR collectively. "Their houses are big" means "They each have a house, and each house is big." OR "They share/live in/own multiple houses, and those houses are big."

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