Like many others, I'm still not sure about the right understanding in such complex phrases as

... your greater success, happiness, and fulfillment.

Does "greater" apply to all of the listed nouns or only to the first one?

  • What is the first part of the sentence? Generally, we wish someone success, happiness and fulfillment, with any adjective. As I wrote and as was deleted: If you insist on that, you have to find a work-around. The dress, hat and shoes, all blue.
    – Lambie
    Feb 26, 2022 at 22:18

1 Answer 1


I would say that in general, yes, the adjective applies to multiple nouns that directly succeed it. However, this is a common mistake that people make when they really only intend for the adjective to apply to one of the nouns in their list. Thus, because people make mistakes with this form so often, this sentence form comes across as ambiguous. People will probably ask for clarification on your meaning.

In some situations, such as in your example, it’s not really important whether we clarify or not. Whether you’re wishing someone “greater success” in addition to happiness and fulfillment or wishing them greater everything, you don’t really need to clarify to the person you’re addressing, nor are they likely to ask for clarification.

But in other cases, the ambiguity does matter. For instance, if you say “find the blue trousers, hat, and shoes,” it could mean that they need to find the trousers that are blue as well as an understood hat and pair of shoes, or it could mean that they need to find the blue version of everything.

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