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a. I don't know the whereabouts of any given employee at any given time.

Does that mean

  1. I am not suppose to know the whereabouts of any given employee at any given time.

or

  1. I have no idea where any of them are, no matter what the time.

I think it is (1). However if we had

b. I don't know the whereabouts of any given employee.

the meaning would be

  1. I don't where any of them are.

Many thanks

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    Are you asking how that sentence would likely be used or interpreted in a common context or do you want its literal meaning? Your first guess suggests you're asking the former, but your second looks like the latter.
    – gotube
    Jul 23, 2023 at 5:14
  • 2
    The default meaning is neither of your suggestions. At any given time the speaker might just happen to know the locations of all employees, whereas at some other time he might not know where any of them are. The actual sentence simply asserts that if you randomly pick one employee at some random time, speaker won't necessarily be able to tell you their current location. It's not really relevant what speaker is expected to know - only what he does or doesn't know. Jul 23, 2023 at 10:32
  • Thank you all very much. I wanted to know all possible meanings of (a) actually, both literal and otherwise. I think it means what FumbleFingers has said. But if it could be interpreted in a different way as well, I'd like to know.
    – azz
    Jul 23, 2023 at 20:23

1 Answer 1

1

The sentence "I don't know the whereabouts of any given employee at any given time" is somewhat ambiguous and can be interpreted in both ways you've suggested depending on the context. However, without any additional information, it most commonly implies:

  • I am not aware of the location of any particular employee at any particular time.

This could mean that the speaker isn't expected to know (your interpretation 1), or simply that they don't know (your interpretation 2).

On the other hand, the sentence "I don't know the whereabouts of any given employee" without the time clause generally suggests:

  • I am not aware of the location of any particular employee.

Again, this could be because the speaker isn't expected to know, or simply because they don't know.

In both cases, the speaker is stating a lack of knowledge about the location of employees, but whether this is due to expectations or lack of information would depend on the context in which the statement is made.

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    – Community Bot
    Jul 23, 2023 at 7:56

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