My husband wrote another question on here, and he wrote:

I was watching the movie 'The Fugitive' with Harrison Ford.

I told him:

That means that I am sitting beside Harrison Ford watching the movie.

So what does the phrase mean in this context in the USA?

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    In this context, "with" means "starring" or "featuring". – James May 21 '15 at 0:43
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    It's a perfectly natural expression to say who is starring in a movie. So nothing to change there. It could also mean that Harrison Ford was watching the movie alongside your husband, but what are the odds of that? – user6951 May 21 '15 at 0:51
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    Never assume a little word like with or to only has one possible meaning. It doesn't. Not even close. – J.R. May 21 '15 at 1:05
  • I was watching the movie 'The Fugitive' with Harrison Ford is a genuine example of ambiguity, in my humble opinion. For example, "I saw Jane Austen using binoculars." has two possible readings. Your sentence reminds me of a funny interpretation of They ate the pizza with anchovies. :-) By the way, welcome to ELL! – Damkerng T. May 21 '15 at 1:23
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    For true ambiguity… "I am watching the movie 'The Fugitive' with my husband", said Calista. ;) – gone fishin' again. May 21 '15 at 6:02

This is called PP attachment ambiguity. You have a preposition phrase (PP), with Harrison Ford, and you have to figure out what part of the sentence it attaches to.

  1. Does it attach high, to watching? If so, Harrison Ford is watching the movie with you, like this:

    I'm watching with Harrison Ford.

  2. Does it attach low, to the movie 'The Fugitive'? If so, you're telling the listener that Harrison Ford is in the movie, like this:

    It's a movie with Harrison Ford.

When you have this sort of ambiguity, you have to figure out what makes sense from context. Both of these are possible, but the latter is probably more likely.

If you think the ambiguity might lead to misunderstanding, you can always rephrase:

I'm watching The Fugitive. Harrison Ford is in it.

But native speakers use ambiguous sentences all the time; if they fail to communicate, they just go back and explain what they meant. You can do the same thing, if you like.

  • Or, I am watching Harrison Ford's The Fugitive (InE). – Maulik V May 21 '15 at 4:46

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