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She sat beside him on the bank covered in his scarlet cloak with only her chin showing under his helmet.

I am confused: What does the "scarlet cloak" cover? "her", or the "bank"?

How can I choose the correct interpretation? What rule(s) of grammar and/or semantic concept(s) do you use in interpreting the sentence?

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This is a good example of a sentence where commas should be used to clarify phrase boundaries.

It's entirely possible that the writer means that the bank is covered by his scarlet cloak OR that she is covered by his scarlet cloak. The sentence is a bit ambiguous.

I'm about 75% sure the writer means she is covered in his scarlet cloak because it'd be unusual for a bank to be covered in a nice scarlet cloak, but the rest of the story this taken from could prove me entirely wrong. Also since a bank is a flat surface, it'd be more appropriate to use the preposition on, but in wouldn't be entirely incorrect.

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    I'm about 98% sure. The phrase "with only her chin showing under his helmet" is a clue that indicates she, rather than the bank, is covered. The helmet can cover the rest of her head, but something else must cover her body. If not the cloak, then what? – Gary Botnovcan Nov 4 '15 at 16:06

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