Read the following sentence:

The lazy people of our family like this car.

Does the word "lazy" in the phrase "the lazy people of our house" only refer to the group of people that are lazy? Or does it refer to the all the people in the family and also call them lazy?

  • Please mind the punctuation.
    – user150280
    Commented May 30, 2022 at 11:14
  • Im sorry ; i just wanted to get the answer so i didn't give much attention to punctuation
    – Bla Bbaa
    Commented May 30, 2022 at 11:19
  • It's ok, I already helped you edit it :) By the way, welcome to ELL!!!
    – user150280
    Commented May 30, 2022 at 11:20

2 Answers 2


"The lazy people of our family...."

  1. First, it should be "the lazy people in our family..."

  2. And it means only those people in our family who are lazy. It does not characterize everyone in the family as lazy.

  3. If you want to characterize everyone in the family as lazy, you can say:

Our lazy family drives to get the mail at the end of the driveway.


Everyone in our lazy family owns a single-story house so they don't have to walk up the stairs.

  • Then how do I describe everyone as lazy
    – Bla Bbaa
    Commented May 30, 2022 at 11:47
  • Not sure why I was downvoted, but I modified my answer to address your question. Commented May 30, 2022 at 12:37
  • It makes it really confusing if people over the same platform have different views on the same language
    – Bla Bbaa
    Commented May 30, 2022 at 12:51

Syntactically speaking, the cited usage is inherently ambiguous. In practice it's incredibly unlikely the speaker is singling out just some of his family as "the lazy ones" (almost certainly he's characterising his entire family as lazy).

But if we just change lazy [people] to, say, younger people or female [members], then suddenly that "specifically defining" sense (only the young / female) becomes the most likely interpretation.


  • I totally disagree with the interpretation. I believe the speaker was talking about only a portion of the family. However, I agree with your assessment that context is everything. Commented May 30, 2022 at 12:39
  • Effectively, it's completely irrelevant that we disagree over what's the most "likely" interpretation of OP's text, because we have no context on which to base our judgements. But would you change your mind if we changed initial The to Those, for example? I take it you agree that if we change lazy people to female members then unquestionably the most likely interpretation is only the females (and not the males). But even that is at least potentially ambiguous (if all (surviving) members of the family are female! :) Commented May 30, 2022 at 12:57
  • Men aren't usually interested in making jam, but the female members of our local WI club find it fascinating. Nothing wrong with that, even if we take it for granted that the WI club rules prevent "male members" from even existing! :) Commented May 30, 2022 at 13:00

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