I've seen a sentence like this.

I have never wanted to die and I will not do that in the future.

My spontaneous reaction was to comment oh, boy, you've got an disappointment heading your way in a few years, since I interpreted it as a cocky joke. Then it hit me that the guy might mean that he won't wish to die and not that he won't die.

I'm curious if it's only me or if that sentence contains misleading referral. Or possibly, if it's a grammatical ambiguity in the expression.

1 Answer 1


In the first part, the main verb is "wanting", not "dying".
The "do" in the second phrase always points to the main verb in such cases, unless specifically stated.

  • Follow-up here. If I say something like this. *I have never wanted to die but I now everybody eventually will.*Grammatically speaking, according to you, it means that everybody will with time wish to die. Correct? And if so - what's the intuitive sensation you get? I mean, it's obvious that the statement regards our mortality rather than death-wish, but what would a NSE here there? A funny mistake, still understandable, or simply a correct reference? Jul 24, 2019 at 16:11
  • "I have never wanted to die but I know everybody eventually will." will mean that everyone will eventually want to die.
    – Bella Swan
    Jul 26, 2019 at 4:41
  • Perhaps my English failed me to ask the right way or I'm misunderstanding your comment. Let me try again. The sentence will mean what you claim it will. Agreed on that. I wonder if it will intuitively be interpreted by a NSE like that as well. Because in such case, people would notice that the message conveyed is so unexpected that they will suspect a grammatical error. And in those cases, many people fall-back to what's a reasonable to assume that the speaker might have intend. Jul 26, 2019 at 10:33

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