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What's the meaning of this question:

Would you like to play in a public garden or park?

This is an IELTS speaking test question I saw on the Internet. It's not from IELTS's official materials, so the phrasing might be odd. My question is: does this question mean 'Which do you prefer to visit, a public park or garden?' or 'Do you love to play in public gardens and parks?'? Thanks!

2 Answers 2

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It is asking the person to make a choice now. It isn't asking about their general preference or what they usually love. It is asking about what they want right now. It is implied that the speaker has the potential to fulfil the person's wish. It is offering a choice.

Now the options depend on context, and there are two main ways it might be interpreted. Either

  1. Please choose between "going to a public garden" or "going to a park", and we will go there.
  2. Please choose between "going to a public garden or park" or "not going to a public garden or park", and we will go, if you choose it.

Both interpretations are possible, but the first is the usual interpretation. However there is insufficient context to be sure.

This is slightly odd phrasing. Using "play" suggests that it is begin asked to a child. Adults might play a sport at a park, but adults don't just "play". On the other hand the phrasing "public garden" is rather formal, and not how you would speak to a child.

It is also odd to ask such a question in a speaking exam, unless you are roleplaying, as the examiner can't actually take the candidate to the park! (and I don't think IELTS has a roleplaying section).

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  • A couple of thoughts - 1. I find the question, as stated, ambiguous. If I asked it, if I were requesting a choice between two kinds of public open space, I would use (at least) an article, e.g. "Would you like to play in a public garden, or [in] a park?" 2. Where I live, most people would regard a 'public garden' and a 'park' as more or less the same thing, which is why I perceive ambiguity. Kensington Gardens and Victoria Tower Gardens are two of London's eight Royal Parks. Commented Jan 30, 2022 at 12:22
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The use of the word or in Would you like to play in a public garden or park? suggests that it is a choice between a public garden and a park. So the question is basically asking - Choose whether you would like to play in a garden or would you like to play in a park. Hence the second option - "Which do you prefer to visit, a public park or garden?" makes more sense here and seems like the right option.

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