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How strange it is that in a city the size of Melbourne it is possible for two people who have lived almost as sister and brother for five years as students to move away from each other without even saying goodbye, to conduct the ordinary business of their lives within a couple of miles of each other’s daily rounds, and yet never to cross each other’s paths. To marry, to have children; to fail at one thing and to take up another, to drink and dance in public places, to buy food in supermarkets and petrol at service stations, to read of the same murders in the same newspapers, to shiver in the same cold mornings, and yet never to bump into each other. Eighteen, twenty years may pass! How strange!

Does it mean:

  1. they have lived for five years like sister and brother when they were students at university?

  2. they have lived for five years like sister and brother just like students?

Source: The children bach by Helen Garner

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  • That is 1. They lived like that when they were students. If I say "As a student, I worked hard" it means "when I was a student..." Commented Mar 21, 2021 at 18:47

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It describes the relationship between two people and the context of that relationship.

They lived like sister and brother (for example sharing a house, in close companionship, but not in a romantic relationship)

And it gives the context: This relationship lasted for 5 years. And during these five years they were students. This is your meaning (1)

It says nothing about before that. We can assume (given how flatshares work for students) that they did not know each other before becoming students.

So they did not know each other at school. But at university they shared accommodation and were close "like sister and brother". This lasted for five years. Then after university, they started separate lives and didn't keep in contact.

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