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"We're staying with friends."

When I read the sentence, I thought The friends have come to our house, so we are with them in our house.

However, as the story goes, I understood that it was just the opposite. I found out that the speaker was in their friends' house.

So, I wondered whether this misunderstanding is caused by my native language. So, I want to confirm: Does "We're staying with friends." always mean speaker is in their friends house? Or could it be just the other way around?

In other words, is it me or is it because this sentence is ambiguous without the context for native speakers, too?

2 Answers 2

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Stay with someone:

  1. To remain next to or in the company of someone or something, especially in custodial capacity. Stay with the kids while I go check us into the hotel.

(...)

  1. To stay overnight in someone else's house for some length of time. I'm staying with my dad while I'm back home.

So to stay with someone can either mean that you remain in place with that person/people, or to stay over at that person's place. It's a little ambiguous, but most people would assume that you're idiomatically using meaning 3) unless given some context about staying in place (eg. My girlfriend went home early, but I'm staying with friends).

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  • I would interpret the example sentence as a slightly non-sequitur example of 3, meaning "My girlfriend left early, but I am habitually overnighting at the house of some friends." Without a context that establishes custodianship, definition 1 feels impossible.
    – YonKuma
    Commented Jan 11 at 15:13
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There is no ambiguity. If the friends were visitors to your house, you would say We have friends staying with us.

Maciej points out that stay with someone can also mean 'remain near to them'not in the context of 'offering hospitality', but if that sense was meant it would be obvious from the context.

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