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  1. I don't want to die yet.

Isn't that sentence ambiguous?

I can see two different meanings. I will present each in a context.

a) I am in pain, but I can take it. I don't want to die yet. But the pain is getting worse and there might come a time when I will want to die.

(Here 'yet' modifies 'want')

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b) I don't want to die yet. I am still young. I want to keep on living for now.

(Here 'yet' modifies 'die')


I think case (a) could also be expressed with:

  1. I don't yet want to die.

Case (b) cannot be expressed with 2.

Is my analysis correct?

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    What is the difference between A and B? Both do not want to die as of right now, but expect to want to die at a later date.
    – Tvde1
    Apr 14, 2022 at 10:42

1 Answer 1

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I would understand the word yet to modify the whole sentence. It gives information on when and if you "want to die" and may be replaced by other adjuncts of time or location "I don't want die today / in France / without seeing my wife" etc.

The sentence could be used in either context that you give. I don't really see that as an ambiguity. In either context it means "I want to live now... I want to die in the future". Whether the speaker can forsee a situation in the future in which they will want to die, or the speaker merely recognises that death is inevitable, is not given.

I suppose you could get slightly different meanings by stressing particular words "I don't want to die yet" or "I don't want to die yet" or "I don't want to die yet." These could provide for constranstive stress.

"I don't want yet to die" is not an idiomatic placing of the word "yet" in either context.

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