I’m wondering how to correctly mention things in a specific order along with related other things. For example:

I’ve bought oranges, apples and bananas from New York, Berlin and London respectively.

My goal is to explain to the reader that the the oranges were bought from New York and the apples from Berlin. Does the above sentence convey this? Are there other ways to express that?

  • I'd say it's 'correct' as written, but there is a chance of misunderstanding. It may not be quite as brief or as elegant, but to avoid confusion I'd say "I bought oranges from NY, apples from Berlin, and bananas from London." – JHCL Oct 19 '15 at 9:22
  • Personally I don't see any ambiguity here. The only thing I would change is to add a comma before "respectively" to set it off from the rest of the sentence (as in the APS style guidelines, for example: apsstylemanual.org/oldmanual/mechanics/commas.htm) – Jez W Oct 19 '15 at 13:18
  • It's not ambiguous if both parties know and apply the rules, the ambiguity creeps in when you know what the sentence structure means, but are unsure if the other person does. It can be 100% correct and mean precisely one thing, but if it fails to convey that meaning to the audience, the sentence has failed. That is why I avoid this construction. – Joseph Rogers Oct 19 '15 at 21:56

The construction as written appears to be correct, the speaker bought oranges from NY, apples from Berlin and bananas from London. Seems like a long way to travel for a fruit salad!

However, I've always found this construction slightly ambiguous for general use, like JHCL in the comments I (a native of the UK) would actually say:

I bought oranges from NY, apples from Berlin, and bananas from London.

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