1

Let's see a dialogue between a father and a son :

(1) Son : Dad, I've got the job.

Father : I know you didn't get the job because of your qualification. It's due to the recommendation of the minister that you got the job.

(2) Son : Dad, I haven't got the job.

Father : I know you didn't get the job because of your qualification. It's really difficult for you to get a job with such a poor result in graduation.

From the two dialogues given above, the sentence "I know you didn't get the job because of your qualification." means (1) he got the job for a completely different reason, or (2) he didn't get the job and his qualification (which is quite low) was the reason.

Is there any way to remove the ambiguity in this sentence ?

  • In British English we speak about a person's "qualifications" – Mari-Lou A May 15 at 6:18
  • Okay, but what's the way to remove the ambiguity in the sentence? – Sandip Kumar Mandal May 15 at 6:58
  • It sounds like built-in ambiguities. Else, there is no reason for the father to give such answers. – Ram Pillai May 15 at 14:13
0

Quick answer: Use a comma before "because".

If you want meaning no. 1 (see below), don't put a comma before "because" (keep the dependent clause as restrictive). If you want meaning no. 2, use a comma before "because".


Ambiguous sentences are the best, no?

Is there any way to remove the ambiguity in this sentence?

Yes, there is. Okay, let's assume the full sentence is just "I know you didn't get the job because of your qualifications"

1. Something did not happen because of event A but happened because of event B.

Son : Dad, I've got the job.
Father : I know you didn't get the job because of your qualifications.

Here, what you want to say is that the son got the job because of some other reason.

Father : I know you didn't get the job because of your qualifications; you got the job due to the recommendation of the minister.

The ambiguity is gone because of the semicolon and the part in italics, which adds clarity. Even without the clarification (i.e., the part in italics), the sentence would have this exact meaning. Why? Because the dependent clause, that is "of your qualifications", is restrictive and has not been set off by a comma.

The dependent clause is restrictive:

I know you didn't get the job because of your qualifications. {Note the absence of comma before "because"}

The Chicago Manual of Style Guide (17th ed.) gives an example:

A dependent clause that follows a main, independent clause should not be preceded by a comma if it is restrictive—that is, essential to fully understanding the meaning of the main clause

  • He wasn’t running because he was afraid; he was running because he was late. {Note the absence of the comma before "because"}

6.25: Commas with dependent clauses following the main clause

Now let's get to the other meaning.

2. Something did not happen, because of event A.

Father : I know you didn't get the job because of your qualifications; you've got a really bad GPA.

Here, a comma before "because" is not necessary because the part in italics adds clarity. If the part in italics is not provided, then you should use a comma. If this is the meaning you want, then you need to set off the dependent clause as a non-restrictive clause; that is, you need a comma before "because".

Father : I know you didn't get the job, because of your [poor] qualifications.

Alternatively, you could rephrase it:

Father : Because of your [poor] qualifications, you did not get the job.

Here is the example from the Chicago Manual of Style:

If the dependent clause is merely supplementary or parenthetical (i.e., nonrestrictive, or not essential to the meaning of the main clause), it should be preceded by a comma. Such distinctions are occasionally tenuous. In the ... example below, the meaning—and whether the subject is running or not—depends almost entirely on the presence of the comma:

  • He wasn’t running, because he was afraid of the dark.
  • Because he was afraid of the dark, he wasn’t running.

Therefore, if you want meaning no.1, don't put a comma before "because" (keep the dependent clause as restrictive). If you want meaning no.2, use a comma before "because".


If you still feel hesitant about the comma or the whole thing, you can just fully rephrase the sentence. You could say it like this:

The fact that you got the job has nothing to do with your qualifications.
It is not your qualifications that got you the job, but the letter from the minister.
The only reason you got the job is the letter from the minister.

| improve this answer | |
1
  1. "You didn't get the job thanks to your (high/excellent) qualifications."

The conversation is between a father and son, and the person who has earned the job is either a school leaver or a recent graduate.

However, even with the adjectives "high" or "excellent" there would still be room for misinterpretation, a casual observer might think the speaker was being sarcastic. Were the listener's grades so bad that it goes without saying that the job was given because of the family's connections or recommendations?

Only context, which the OP supplied, can clear up the ambiguity. That is why the written language needs more words and background information than words spoken between two friends or family members who know each other well.

Here's a different version, that clears up any remaining ambiguity

  1. It had nothing to do with your qualifications that you got the job.

have/be nothing to do with somebody/something

if you have nothing to do with someone or something, or if someone or something has nothing to do with you, you are not involved or connected with it

| improve this answer | |
0

In no 1. 'I know you got the job NOT because of your qualification' will remove all ambiguity.

| improve this answer | |
  • Welcome to English Language Learners! Please explain why your answer is correct; answers without explanation don't teach the patterns of English well. – Glorfindel May 15 at 16:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.