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I recently heard someone saying “They have the same towel.” That person wanted to say someone has exactly the same towel as someone else has. To me it sounded a little strange because it sounded like they share and use the same one towel. Isn’t it better to say “they have the same towels”?

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    If they really did only have one towel between them, we'd say They share a towel or They have a shared towel, so it's extremely unlikely a native speaker would say or interpret that meaning from They have the same towel - which would more naturally be understood as meaning their towels look the same (probably because they're "identical" items from the same supplier). If the usage sounds "strange" to you, you'll just have to accept that this is one of those areas where English doesn't work exactly the way you think it "should". Mar 5 at 15:16
  • Thank you for your answer. I understand what you say. But do you actually say they have the same towel meaning their towels look the same? Or how does this sound to you if someone say “they wear the same shirt”? Mar 5 at 15:33
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    I feel sure I have heard 'the same X' used to mean 'Xs of the same brand and style'. It could be humorously misinterpreted as meaning 'they share the same one', but I don't think anyone would seriously misunderstand it. Mar 5 at 15:39
  • @FumbleFingers I speak four languages, and this "We have the same X" works in every one of those languages. I think you might try and be a bit nicer to newbies and also younger participants. This question has zero to do with anything inherent to the English language so maybe you could have explained that to her rather using all that formatting which is probably arcane to her.
    – Lambie
    Mar 5 at 15:52
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    Obviously it's bordering on impossible to interpret They wear the same shirt as meaning there's only one physical shirt, and on the other hand I'd say it's totally impossible to interpret We live in the same town as implying My town and your town are extremely similar. So at the end of the day I'd have to say there isn't really a "default" interpretation for same in such constructions - the meaning will always be determined by context. Mar 5 at 16:21
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Yes, in English, we very often say:

We have the same x to mean: the same type of x, the same brand of x, etc.

So, "We have the same car." means: the same brand of car.

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They have the same towel is idiomatic and correct (at least in US English). It basically means they have the same kind of towel.

As FumbleFingers says in a comment, if we wanted to say that they jointly have one towel, we would say they share the same towel.

If we said they have the same towels, that would mean that each of them had more than one towel, but all of the towels were the same.

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