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To find a moment with her.

To find a moment to be with her.

To find a moment with her help.

How can you make explicit that the first phrase is meant to have a meaning similar to the second phrase, but not the third? Also, does the first phrase have an ambiguous meaning that can be synonymous to the third and second phrase?

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  • You don't need to make it explicit. Nobody would ever think it means the third.
    – phoog
    May 21, 2021 at 4:36

2 Answers 2

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To find a moment with her unambiguously means To find a moment to be (or talk) with her. To make it even more explicit, you could say "a moment alone with her".

You might be able to construct a context that would suggest the third phrase, but it would be artificial.

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Grammatically, either of your two interpretations is valid. But if I read this phrase I would almost surely assume the first: to find a moment to be with her. The second meaning might be called for by context.

If someone said, "I have a crush on Sally. I want to ask her out on a date. I just need to find a moment with her", he presumably means "find a moment alone with her".

If someone said, "After I invented the time machine, my assistant Dr Sally Miller and I searched for the best time to which to make the first trip. I tried to find the best moment with her", well then he presumably means that she was assisting him in finding the right moment.

But in general, people don't help each other "find a moment", so the first sense is much more likely. I think you have to struggle a bit to come up with a sentence where the idea of assistance would make sense.

Note that if we were looking for something other than a "moment", the idea of assistance might be the more obvious meaning. Like, "I talked to the clerk at the pet store, and I tried to find a dog with her." Well now you almost certainly mean that she is helping you find a dog, and not that you are searching for a dog that is accompanying her.

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