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Does “I ate a hamburger twice” mean two meanings?

  1. I ate the same hamburger.
  2. I ate the two hamburgers.

I ate half of a hamburger, and I ate half of another hamburger. Can I express this as "I ate a hamburger twice".

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    It doesn't really have one meaning! I doubt a native speaker of English would say this. Where did you hear this?
    – James K
    Aug 2 at 8:09
  • @James K Haha, I made a sentence on my own!
    – user141460
    Aug 2 at 8:12
  • @James K I doubt, why are only syntax questions welcomed, but not semantics questions.
    – user141460
    Aug 2 at 8:15
  • It makes me think about what dogs do when they barf. They eat something once, they throw it out and then they eat it twice... Not a nice thought Aug 2 at 8:15
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    Semantic questions are welcome, but the context is missing. Why did you come up with this sentence? What were you thinking of? Do you want to use this exact sentence or is there another sentence? People don't normally think of sentences unless they have something to say... what do you want to say?
    – James K
    Aug 2 at 8:22
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It doesn't really mean anything. It would have to mean different hamburgers, but that is based on what we know about the impossibility of eating food that has already been eaten. That is the literal meaning, but it is impossible so you would have to assume some kind of non-literal meaning, or that the speaker is not competent at English and has made a mistake.

You shouldn't express that idea in this form. Instead you would say "I ate two hamburgers."

Or in your case:

I ate two half-hamburgers.

(and then go on to explain how this odd situation occurred)

I was at McDonalds and ate half my hamburger, then when I went to the toilet my mate Kensuke ate the rest. I was mad at him so I made him buy me a second burger. But after eating half of it I was full so I ate two "half-hamburgers"!!

I suppose it would be possible to say

I've eaten hamburgers twice.

But that would need a plural, and works better as present perfect. It means on two occasions, not always two burgers.

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  • Actually, I ate half of a hamburger, and I ate half of another hamburger.
    – user141460
    Aug 2 at 8:20
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Without more context, I think I would take this to mean that you've eaten two hamburgers in your life. I would probably then wonder "wow, only two ever?" Maybe you're a vegetarian?

The more natural way to say that would be "I've (only (ever)) eaten two hamburgers" or "I've eaten hamburgers twice."

You can't really eat the same hamburger twice - sure, you could regurgitate it, but is it still called a hamburger the second time? - so that meaning is unlikely.

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"I ate a hamburger twice" could only possibly mean that you ate two hamburgers, perhaps on two occasions. It couldn't mean you ate the actual, same item of food twice - how could it possibly? Even using the definite article it would be fine - "the same hamburger" could refer to the same menu item - that you ordered the same type of hamburger twice.

"I ate a hamburger twice" isn't great English, although I can imagine some American English speakers might say it in colloquial speech. - a better way to say it would be "I have eaten a hamburger twice".

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