Can we say

A and B have many common interests (I am sure they are going to get on well.)

to mean "A and B have (many) things in common"?

Does it have double entendres or does it have only meaning that " A and B both get benefit from something together" ?

  • Idiomatically we generally say "A and B have much in common". The things which are the same for both could be circumstances, attitudes, personal qualities, or whatever. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Feb 9 '15 at 18:31
  • A and B have things in common, but the meaning does not imply they are done together or at the same time. However, to get on well could have such an implication. Also you need to use a semi-colon or period, not a comma, in your example. – user3169 Feb 9 '15 at 18:43
  • @user3169 Actually I don't see any implication "they are done together or at the same time" in neither sentence. But I added the part " I am sure they are going to get on well" in order to make my question clearer.Normally you can assume this part might not be said. – Mrt Feb 9 '15 at 18:56
  • Every statement you could possibly make in English can be interpreted as a double entendre, especially if you say it in the right tone of voice. "Sally and I are ... studying differential calculus, if you know what I mean, smirk smirk." – Jay Feb 9 '15 at 21:41

John is a hunter. He loves to hunt for small animals.
Jack is the owner of a forest, "Green Forest", where he allows people to hunt for a pay.

Both John and Jack wish for there to be more small animals in the Green Forest. It's in the John's interest because he loves hunting. It's in the Jack's interest because the more animals there are, the more profit he can generate from the forest.

So they have one common interest.

But they both also like painting. Now they have two common interests. They meet to discuss different artists. They don't benefit from this directly, at least not in cash terms, but still it's their common interest.

Now, according to the Cambridge Dictionary,

to have something in common - to share the same interests or have similar characteristics. ("I didn’t think Larry and Patricia had anything in common, but they talked all evening.")

Probably this latter idiom is "wider". It covers not only similar interests, but similar personal traits.

Here's a quote from a book:

Stalin and Hitler had many things in common. Both had alcoholic fathers, were radicals at a young age, and were very ambitious.

Hitler and Stalin had many things in common, including some common interests, like helping each other divide Poland. They get on well until 22 June 1941, when Hitler attacked USSR.

After 22 June 1941, they still had some common interests. They both liked American movies, for example. But they lost some other common interests, and because of that they did not get on well any longer. They still had many things in common, though: in addition to their remaining common interests (loving US movies), they still were very ambitious, they still were sons of alcoholic fathers.

Let's imagine they lost all common interests on June 22, 1941 - including their love for American movies and stuff like that. We would still say that "they have many things in common". We would've said: "They resemble each other in many regards, but they have no common interests whatsoever".

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"They have common interests" is used in two ways:

(a) They like some of the same things. Like Al and Betty both like Impressionist art, therefore, they have a common interest.

(b) They have an "investment" of some sort in the same thing, that is, they both will gain or lose if a certain event happens. To take a trivial example, Al and Betty both own stock in the Foobar Corporation. They have a common interest. However, the term is usually used to describe a situation where the common interest is not so obvious. Like, the Orange Party has said that if they win the election, they will grant independence to Ruritania. They have also said that if they win the election, they will increase subsidies to electric power utilities. So independence-minded Ruritanians and electric companies have a "common interest" in seeing the Orange Party win the election. The interest doesn't have to be financial. You could say two groups have a common interest in certain medical research because it could lead to cures for both their diseases, or that two religious groups have a common interest in an archaeological discovery because it tends to validate claims made by both, etc.

Saying that two people or groups have "something in common" is much broader. We could have something in common that is not an "interest" per se. Like, if Al and Betty both have red hair, they "have something in common". But unless there is some advantage or disadvantage to having red hair, they do not have a "common interest". Or to take the extreme, if Al and Betty are fighting over who gets the car in their divorce proceedings, they have something in common: they both want the car. But they don't have a common interest. Quite the opposite, they have competing interests, they want opposite results.

Perhaps I should clarify that a "common interest" does not mean simply that we both want the same thing. It means that we will both benefit together or we will both lose together.

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