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This is the main sentence, "The computer on the desk broken by my little sister is mine."

Does it theoretically have two meanings?
What is broken by my little sister is the computer, or the desk?

It seems to me that both are theoretically possible.

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  • Theoretically, yes. It would be possible to use commas to make the intended meaning clearer. May 3, 2021 at 15:33
  • What if I say "The computer that my father put on the desk broken by my little sister is mine.", does it still have theoretically two meanings like "the desk broken by my little sister" or "the computer that my father put on the desk is broken" ? I know this sentence is unnecessarily pushed into clumsy structures but I'm curious about possible meanings and the flexibility of the clauses.
    – Jawel7
    May 4, 2021 at 6:57
  • "The computer that my father put on the desk, broken by my sister, is mine." - but I can't imagine anyone actually saying it that way in real life. May 4, 2021 at 8:09
  • What if I don't use commas there, then?
    – Jawel7
    May 4, 2021 at 8:17
  • Without the commas I don't think anyone would understand the computer to be broken. May 4, 2021 at 8:58

1 Answer 1

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Yes, it could have either meaning. Although I would expect that a 'broken' desk would no longer be in condition to have a computer on top.

Honestly, putting all these ideas (that the computer is yours, that the little sister broke it and that it is on the desk) into a single sentence is either going to be ambiguous or awkward. Any two of them wouldn't be too bad but all three is different.

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  • My computer, which my little sister broke yesterday, is on the desk in Mom's office.
    – ColleenV
    May 3, 2021 at 15:38
  • 1
    "Desk for sale by lady with one loose leg" was a correction exercise in a school book when I was 9. May 3, 2021 at 15:39
  • What if I say "The computer that my father put on the desk broken by my little sister is mine.", does it still have theoretically two meanings like "the desk broken by my little sister" or "the computer that my father put on the desk is broken" ? I know this sentence is unnecessarily pushed into clumsy structures but I'm curious about possible meanings and the flexibility of the clauses.
    – Jawel7
    May 4, 2021 at 6:57

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