Is the following definition correct?

Fiction is something that is not real or true and imaginary.

Does the not modify imaginary as well as "real or true" thus say that fiction is "not" "imaginary"?


I suppose that the intended meaning of the example sentence is:

Fiction is something that is imaginary, not something that is real or true.

The construction "not real or true and imaginary." is ambiguous. The form "Not X or Y and Z" could mean:

  • Neither X nor Y, but always Z
  • Neither X, nor Y and Z (Y and Z considerd as a unit)
  • Neither X, nor Y, nor Z (careless, but possible)

Since it is at best awkward, a different construction would be better.


No, "Fiction is something that is not real or true and imaginary" is not correct. The not does modify the 'imaginary' here.

So, it should be rephrased as something like 'Fiction is something that is not real or true; it is something imaginary'.

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