Example 1

Select people who like to eat burgers and who like to paint.

Example 2

Select people who like to eat burgers and like to paint.

Do they mean the same?

I think Example 1 can mean I am allowed to select people who only like to eat burgers or people who only like to paint.

However, Example 2, to me, means that I can only select people who like both eating burgers and painting. Example 1 can probably be interpreted this way as well.

  • 4
    Both versions are potentially ambiguous, but #2 is more likely to be interpreted as "inclusive" (i.e. - only select people who meet both criteria). In a real-world spoken context, you'd encourage that interpretation even more strongly by placing heavy stress on and, but even that wouldn't completely remove the ambiguity. To do that, you'd need something more like Select people who like to both eat burgers and paint (with optional heavy stress on and if you specifically want to emphasize the intended sense, in addition to being "non-ambiguous"). Apr 22, 2023 at 12:31
  • @FumbleFingers If I add definite articles to before the two examples, does that influence the interpretation? For example, #1 "Select the students who like to eat burgers and who like to paint." and #2 "Select the students who like to eat burgers and like to paint."
    – vincentlin
    Apr 22, 2023 at 13:53
  • 1
    You can fiddle around all you like. Most people will say some variations entail more (or less) ambiguity than others. But they won't all agree which variations are more (or less) ambiguous, so it's not worth spending too much time on it. About the only "bulletproof" disambiguation sticking with the basic sentence structure is the one I gave before - you put both immediately before one verb (eat), and lay heavy stress on and before the other verb (like / to paint). Apr 22, 2023 at 14:11
  • @FumbleFingers Thank you. So, basically, adding a definite article does not really change anything, but using "both" or other means can really impact the meaning, right?
    – vincentlin
    Apr 22, 2023 at 14:36
  • 1
    In the real world, when real people speak to each other, their main purpose is to be clearly understood. Your sentences would be considered unclear. Suppose I run a dating agency. I can try to find you a partner with features you specify. You say 'choose me someone from people who like to eat burgers and who like to paint.' I will immediately ask (because I don't want any trouble later when I ask you to pay the bill) 'Do you mean both, or either?' Apr 22, 2023 at 14:57

2 Answers 2


If you use and rather than or, the implication of both sentences is 'people who like both those things'. To make the meaning absolutely clear, include both in the sentence.

  • 1
    Using and rather than or doesn't unambiguously force one meaning or the other for me, with OP's example. Apart from anything else, though, there's the possibility that or means EITHER all the selected people must meet criterion #1 OR they must all meet criterion #2 That's to say - you can't have a mixture of type #1 and type #2 people (and feasibly, you can't even include any individuals who meet both criteria! :). Apr 22, 2023 at 12:41

As FumbleFingers says in his comments, both sentences are ambiguous. Adding a second "who" doesn't really resolve the ambiguity.

To be clear, you should say something like, "select people who like to eat burgers and who also like to paint" if you mean that both criteria must apply to each person. Or, "select people who like to eat burgers, and also select people who like to paint" if you mean you want two sets of people.

This kind of ambiguity is often used for the punch line of jokes. Like I recall a club I was a member of years ago boasting, "More people are members of our club than are Democrats and Republicans combined. Because we took a survey and found that there are very few people who are Democrats and Republicans combined."

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