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Stackoverflow is a question and answer site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

I believe

for professional and enthusiast programmers

can naturally mean "for programmers who are both professional and enthusiast". Can this phrase mean, on the other hand, "for both professional programmers and enthusiast programmers" (the latter doesn't have to be professional)? If it can, which is the preferred interpretation?

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Your second interpretation is more correct. It is for professional programmers - those who program in exchange for money - and enthusiast programmers - those who program because they are interested in programming, whether or not they are paid to do so.

Your first interpretation is exclusionary:

  • Oh, you're a professional programmer who just views it as a job, not because you're interested? Stay away.
  • Oh, you're interested in programming but you don't get paid for it? Stay away.

Added from comment:

To avoid confusion, you will sometimes see the "[noun]-s that are both [adj1] and [adj2]" case written as "[adj1], [adj2] [noun]-s". For example, "professional, enthusiast programmers."

This interpretation implicitly adds "also" to the meaning. For example, "programmers who are professional and [also] enthusiasts."

  • So, if we leave out any context, "[adj1] and [adj2] [noun]-s" can be interpreted as "[adj1] [noun]-s and [adj2] [noun]-s" as well as "[noun]-s that are both [adj1] and [adj2]", and which to choose depends on the overall meaning of the sentence. Am I understanding correctly? – Yosh Apr 9 '15 at 13:48
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    @Yosh exactly, context is king. To avoid confusion, you will sometimes see the "[noun]-s that are both [adj1] and [adj2]" case written as "[adj1], [adj2] [noun]-s". For example, "professional, enthusiast programmers." – GalacticCowboy Apr 9 '15 at 13:57
  • Thank you, and another thanks for the use of comma. (I can't give you another +1 but I think adding that to the answer will make it even more valuable.) – Yosh Apr 9 '15 at 14:11

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