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A man is giving a direction to a woman. You can see the man's front face and the back of the woman's head in the picture.

The woman: How can I get to JK office?

The man: Take the elevator on the left.

This is confusing because we don't know if it is "his left" (elevator B) or "her left" (elevator A)?

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An old man is asking you for the sweet shop as shown in the above picture.

You say to him: walk past the library, the sweet shop is on the right

"On the right" is confusing here because that is "on his right" or "on your right"?

Suppose you mean "on your right", then when the old man faces the library, the sweet shop will be on his left as shown in the picture below.

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Is "on the left/right" relative to how you stand?

1 Answer 1


In the first example, saying "on the left" is ambiguous. Without any further clues, I would guess the speaker meant "on the left" when you are facing the elevator and about to enter... though that might not be what the speaker meant.

The easiest way to eliminate ambiguity is to say "on your left". Alternatively, the speaker could turn to face the elevators and/or point to the appropriate lift.

The second example is not ambiguous. The old man has to walk past the library, and the sweet shop is on the right relative to the direction he is walking as he passes the library. If the old man decides to turn and face the library, that was not part of the speaker's instructions, so the old man will have to imagine walking past the library again, in order to determine correctly what the next part of the instructions mean.

  • 1
    I would definitely assume 'the elevator on the left' to mean 'as you stand facing them'. If the man has his back to them he could point to the one he means. Jun 25, 2021 at 8:16

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