What is breaking on the shore? The sea foam or the waves?

We watched the sea foam made by the waves breaking on the shore.

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    The waves break, the foam washes [up] onto the shore. "When large blooms of algae decay offshore, great amounts of decaying algal matter often wash ashore. Foam forms as this organic matter is churned up by the surf." oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/seafoam.html – chasly - supports Monica Oct 28 '15 at 7:37
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    If it was in fact the foam that was breaking then I would probably write the sentence as We watched the sea foam, made by the waves, breaking on the shore. – User112638726 Oct 28 '15 at 9:19

It's the waves.


Sometimes only context can tell how to parse the sentence. (You have to kind of know beforehand that waves can "break" at a shore, so on.)

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As the quote says, waves break on the shore. From the OED:

Breaker: A heavy sea wave that breaks into white foam on the shore or a shoal.

These waves are also called breaking waves.

The breaking action of the waves creates sea foam.

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