• I don't like him because he is rich.

Could it be interpreted in two ways?

  1. I dislike him because he is rich. (I don't like rich people.)

  2. The reason why I like him is not the fact that he is rich. (I like him because he is a good man.)

I'm sometimes confused when I hear this kind of expression. Does it depend on the context? Is there a good way to avoid being ambiguous?

  • 4
    Yes, the sentence is ambiguous
    – gotube
    Aug 4, 2022 at 1:11
  • I wrote about this ambiguity on ELU.
    – Laurel
    Aug 4, 2022 at 1:25
  • 3
    in context, usually only one meaning will make sense, but of course there can be a situation where the meaning is still ambiguous. It's easier when spoken, because the inflection would be different.
    – Esther
    Aug 4, 2022 at 2:40
  • Note that a comma before "because" would rule out the second interpretation (in standard English, at least). May 13, 2023 at 17:16

1 Answer 1


Either of the suggested meanings is possible. But in the absence of clarifying context, the meaning

< 1. I dislike him because he is rich. (I don't like rich people.)

is significantly more likely.

  • Not sure why you reckon that interpretation is more likely. Maybe you just hang out with a lot of anti-capitalists, and if you hung out with a lot of people who dated rich people, you'd tend towards the opposite ("I like him for his personality not his money").
    – Stuart F
    Aug 5, 2022 at 13:02

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