We know the word a "spirit" can mean more than two things. One is a liuqor and another is mind or attitude. Therefore, if I ask "What is the best Chinese spirit?", will it cause ambiguity?


The word spirit can mean dozens of things, actually probably more.

When the word is used to refer to alcohol, it is usually in the plural. But then you could ask whether

What are the best Chinese spirits?

can be ambiguous.

Taken as a sentence, on its own, like just about any sentence in English, it can have a range of meanings and even be ambiguous. Sentences can be ambiguous when you know how you are using a word (when you know which types of spirits you mean) and you have a well-defined context. That's the way it is with language.

  • If usually plural, do you mean I have to say "Erguotou are the best Chinese spirits."? Erguotou is the name of a liquor. – Little_Grass Jun 27 '15 at 8:32

Out of the blue? Maybe, though I would not think of non-alcoholic spirits as having a race/nationality, though that might be a matter of opinion.

For alcoholic spirits, it would be more natural to say:

What are the best Chinese spirits?

See spirit:

12) ([usually pl.]) strong alcoholic liquor produced by distillation

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