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He doesn’t eat a lot like her.

This can mean both she eats a lot and she doesn’t eat a lot, right?

He doesn’t eat a lot unlike her.

Does this have the same problem as the first sentence?

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(He doesn’t eat a lot like her) This can mean both she eats a lot and she doesn’t eat a lot, right?

No. As written, this sentence's primary interpretation is that she eats a lot and he doesn't; "eat a lot like her" is a verb phrase.

In order to state that she also does not eat a lot, there should be a comma separating "like her", similar to a slight pause in the spoken sentence. This would clearly make the phrase "like her" stand out as a relative clause, separate from the main clause.

Note that in speech, the pause/comma may be missed, so there is a potential ambiguity in this sentence. Grammatical English sentences can be ambiguous, but it should be avoided if possible.

Better alternatives to this sentence could be

  • Like her, he doesn't eat a lot. (they both don't eat a lot)
  • He doesn't eat a lot like she does. (she eats a lot)

(He doesn’t eat a lot unlike her) Does this have the same problem as the first sentence? (edited question)

This is less likely to cause ambiguity, because "eat a lot unlike her" is not a valid verb phrase. I'd still say a comma is required to separate the main clause "he doesn't eat a lot" from the relative clause "unlike her".

Even better would be "unlike her, he doesn't eat a lot".

  • Sorry. I’ll make “him” “her” and please explain more about “unlike”. – Yamacure Aug 18 at 21:59

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