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Questions tagged [ambiguity]

This tag is for questions about the multiple meanings of a word, or phrase.

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4 answers
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Where should I put a comma in this sentence?

The original sentence: The president of the association, spoke about how devastating it was to see something she has dedicated so much of her life to becoming unrecognizable in a matter of minutes. ...
user avatar
-2 votes
2 answers
51 views

How to interpret ambiguous phrases like "John knows the father of Sam and Leon" with no context?

I was frequently puzzuled by sentences with the following structure: John knows the father of Sam and Leon. I suppose there are two different understandings: John knows one person who is the father ...
Xavier Z's user avatar
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1 vote
2 answers
34 views

Is the statement “I listen to music on my phone” about the location of the music files or about the device that is used to listen to the music?

When a person says “I listen to music on my phone”, do they mean that they listen to music that is stored on their phone or that they use their phone to listen to music, whatever its source is? Is the ...
Skab's user avatar
  • 11
1 vote
1 answer
21 views

"Are not ... and ..." grammar confusion

I recently read this sentence: Compared to other emotions, such feelings are not treated as special and strong. and wasn't sure if it was ambiguous or not. Which of these are correct interpretations?...
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0 votes
1 answer
32 views

Ambiguity in "my old co-workers are all here"

My old co-workers are all here but the new ones aren't. Isn't that sentence ambiguous? Those people who have been my co-workers for a long time are here, but those who have been my co-workers for a ...
azz's user avatar
  • 2,971
3 votes
1 answer
6 views

Other <object> <qualifer> ambiguity?

I see two possible interpretations of a phrase like English and other languages in which I'm not fluent First, "other" could imply that the qualifier applies only to the unenumerated ...
user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
20 views

you both talked to him during many a dinner party

a. You have both talked to him during many a party. b. They have all talked to him during many a party. c. You have both talked to him during many parties. d. They have all talked to him during many ...
azz's user avatar
  • 2,971
2 votes
0 answers
56 views

Is it possible to use "look down on" in a phrase without meaning disdain?

Is it possible to use "look down on" in a phrase, without meaning disdain? Example: (if I'm standing on the moon) Can I use "look down on Earth", to describe a physical act of ...
Viviane's user avatar
  • 23
-1 votes
2 answers
69 views

my younger brother was there with me

a. My younger brother was there with me. Can I use that if I have only one brother, who is younger than me? Can I use that if I have only one younger brother, and one of more older ones? Can I use ...
azz's user avatar
  • 2,971
0 votes
1 answer
2k views

Which antecedent does this pronoun refer to? ("John killed David in his car") [duplicate]

John killed David in his car. Who owned the car? In other words, which antecedent does the pronoun "his" refer to? John or David? Or you think this this sentence is actually so ambiguous ...
leeyuiwah's user avatar
  • 101
0 votes
1 answer
44 views

You can be famous but not be a celebrity

This is from a school task: You can be famous but not be a celebrity. What they mean is: You can be famous without being a celebrity. Can some people (depending on prosody?) interpret (1) to mean (...
Didyougo's user avatar
0 votes
1 answer
69 views

Meaning of "A/B and C/D" -- clear or ambiguous?

I saw this sentence in Cypher, in which game you try to break various cyphers. Swap columns 1/2 and 3/4 of each block. I didn't know whether it meant "Swap the 1st column for the 2nd column and ...
rei727's user avatar
  • 313
-1 votes
3 answers
57 views

Is more always an adjective when it precedes what it modifies?

The title is an answer in this forum repackaged as a question. Is it always so clear? Consider the statement “There were more intelligent physicists than Albert Einstein.” Some physicists were even ...
Okhariatane's user avatar
0 votes
2 answers
43 views

I had just missed your call

When John walked in, I had just missed your call., Does that mean When John walked in, I had missed your call by a very narrow margin. I almost managed to get it. or I had missed your call a moment ...
azz's user avatar
  • 2,971
5 votes
3 answers
3k views

Can "he used to smoke with me" mean either we smoked together or he smoked but I didn't?

a. He used to smoke with me. Can't (a) have two meanings? He used to smoke together with me. He and I smoked together. He used to smoke when with me. (I didn't smoke)
azz's user avatar
  • 2,971
0 votes
2 answers
53 views

waited for them to arrive

a. I waited for the police to open the door. b. I waited until the police arrived to open the door. Can we tell who is going to open the door, the speaker or the police? Many thanks
azz's user avatar
  • 2,971
-1 votes
1 answer
28 views

the files on Kennedy and Marilyn

a. They are going to publish the CIA files on Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe. Can't that sentence have two meanings: They are going to publish the CIA files on Kennedy and those on Marilyn Monroe. They ...
azz's user avatar
  • 2,971
1 vote
2 answers
37 views

Is "Disabled badge holder electric vehicle recharging point only" ambiguous?

Is there any confusion about the following sign text? Disabled badge holder electric vehicle recharging point only Is the wording ambiguous? Could it be interpreted as: Disabled badge holder or ...
b.deak's user avatar
  • 27
1 vote
0 answers
162 views

Is was shocked adj or passive voice.?

Is was shocked adj or passive voice.? As she was shocked by the sad news,she didn't know what to do next. I really confused was shocked in this sentence is whether adj or passive voice.
Suzzy Suzzy's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
104 views

Semantically vague sentence (I think?)

I spotted it in a junk shop in Bridport, a roll-top desk. The man said it was early nineteenth century, and oak. I think the author can use "be+of" here, but why only "be"???
Sam's user avatar
  • 1,925
1 vote
1 answer
46 views

"I don't believe anything that he says is true"

a. I do not believe that anything he says is true. Isn't that sentence ambiguous? First meaning: I believe that nothing he says is true. Second meaning: I do not believe that just anything he says is ...
azz's user avatar
  • 2,971
0 votes
1 answer
35 views

Janet is going on a vacation. (is this progressive or future?)

Janet is going on a vacation. I saw this sentence on internet. Is Janet now, at this moment, going on a vacation? Or, does Janet have a plan to go on a vacation very soon?
gomadeng's user avatar
  • 4,416
0 votes
0 answers
42 views

Can I rephrase this sentence like this?

Plants die if there's no oxygen because plants need oxygen. Because plants need oxygen, plants die, if there's no oxygen. If there's no oxygen, plants die, because plants need oxygen. Can I ...
user476510's user avatar
7 votes
3 answers
2k views

Is "the Fed sells government bonds" ambiguous?

Source Why is the Government Buying Long-Term Bonds? When Fed policymakers decide that they want to raise interest rates, the Fed sells government bonds*. the Fed sells government bonds Does that ...
Gamal Thomas's user avatar
  • 2,099
0 votes
1 answer
53 views

accused me of lying justifiably

a. He accused me of lying justifiably. Is the above sentence ambiguous? I think that in theory it means: b. He accused me of justifiably lying. but I think in practice it can also mean (people use it ...
azz's user avatar
  • 2,971
1 vote
1 answer
32 views

I'd risk my life for any of you

a. I risked my life for Jeff, and I want you to know that I'd risk my life for every one of you. b. I risked my life for Jeff, and I want you to know that I'd risk my life for each of you. c. I risked ...
azz's user avatar
  • 2,971
1 vote
1 answer
59 views

Is “should” sometimes ambiguous between “if” and “ought to”?

I know that nowadays in American informal English “should” almost always means “ought to”, as in “I should treat my family well”, but that it can also mean “if” or “in the event that”, as in “Should ...
user354948's user avatar
6 votes
1 answer
639 views

"How do you [do something]?" but asking about the listener's case specifically

For example, I want to ask how to use a device, not about its general usage, but for the listener's case specifically. If I say "How do you use the device?", the listener would explain the ...
For Memo's user avatar
  • 135
3 votes
2 answers
961 views

Two questions about the 4th verse of "The Star-Spangled Banner"

4th verse of "The Star-Spangled Banner": O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand Between their loved home and the war’s desolation. Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued ...
Zhang Jian's user avatar
  • 1,073
2 votes
1 answer
87 views

Is the comparison "There are no people in this room as in that room." ambiguous? [closed]

There are no people in this room as in that room. Out of context, I want to know if this structure is ambiguous. Can "As in that room" be read as either: there are people in that room ...
ForOU's user avatar
  • 1,677
5 votes
2 answers
1k views

Who had a happy look in "I saw Julie sitting beside her mother with a happy look on her face"?

In the following sentence, who has the happy look on her face, Julie or her mother? I saw Julie sitting beside her mother with a happy look on her face.
technophyle's user avatar
0 votes
1 answer
17 views

Financial returns for nothing or anything

You owe me nothing in return vs. you don't owe me anything in return Could there be a difference in meaning between those? That is, might the first sentence have the cunning sense of "since I was ...
Peter's user avatar
  • 43
0 votes
0 answers
18 views

was gladly sent to Italy

a. He was gladly sent to Italy. Could one use that sentence is he was the one who was glad about his being sent to Italy. As far as I know, the adverb refers to the doer of the action, but I don't ...
azz's user avatar
  • 2,971
0 votes
2 answers
69 views

Usage of "of" followed by "and"

Here is a sentence. "They’ve asked how your diary looks at the end of this week and next." Does it mean they are asking how my diary looks at the end of this week and at the end of next week?...
peru1612's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
181 views

Why are the abstract nouns in the following examples countable or uncountable? There seems to be no applicable rule

I read through this website forum and others regarding abstract nouns and whether they are countable or uncountable. This link Abstract nouns: countable and uncountable provides an answer but it doesn'...
Emmet's user avatar
  • 11
0 votes
1 answer
23 views

Is this use of "protect from" ambiguous?

For this sentence boys fighting to protect their own insecurities from the world I think it means "insecurities" has to be hidden away from the world [1] However could it also be ...
lulalala's user avatar
  • 101
1 vote
1 answer
39 views

Is this sentence ambiguous? "He told me when to leave."

"He told me when to leave." At first sight, I interpreted this sentence as " He told me when I should leave." in case "told" means 'to order." However, at a second ...
Yujin Kim's user avatar
0 votes
1 answer
18 views

for three thousand dollars

Have you ever turned down job offers? a. Yes. If I don't like a job, I won't take it. I have turned down many job offers. As a matter of fact, yesterday, I turned down one for three thousand dollars a ...
azz's user avatar
  • 2,971
0 votes
1 answer
23 views

as our enemies are joining forces

a. As our enemies are joining forces, so should we. b. We should join forces as our enemies are. c. We should join forces, as our enemies are. Which could mean We should join forces because our ...
azz's user avatar
  • 2,971
0 votes
2 answers
82 views

How to identify ambiguous sentence?

'The theoretical arguments regulating home schooling begin from this point.' I have no idea why this sentence is ambiguous. Although the answer says 'It leaves the reader guessing whether the ...
Jokerjh777's user avatar
0 votes
2 answers
33 views

doesn't know if one of his neighbors

a. He doesn't know if someone has entered his apartment in his absence. b He doesn't know if a neighbor has entered his apartment in his absence. c. He doesn't know if one of his neighbors has entered ...
azz's user avatar
  • 2,971
-1 votes
1 answer
30 views

Is “When you exit the gate, on the right hand side, a homeless person is there” a well formed sentence?

Settling a debate about the following sentence: “When you exit the gate, on the right hand side, a homeless person is there.” The sentence was spoken verbally, if that changes things. I feel that at ...
Billy Cao's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
79 views

Why "It was a secret, of which no one knows." ⇏ "No one of this secret knows."?

[2iii] It was a secret, of which no one knows. ​= [2iv] No one knows of this secret. (NOT: No one of this secret knows.) In his answer above, why did Damkerng T. eliminate No one of this secret ...
user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
66 views

didn't know that one of my friends was

a. She didn't know that one of my friends was a policeman. b. She didn't know that two of my friends were policemen. Is it possible that I had other friends who were policemen but she knew about them? ...
azz's user avatar
  • 2,971
-1 votes
2 answers
31 views

each of us might get fired [closed]

a. Each of us might get fired tomorrow. b. We might each get fired tomorrow. ================ c. All of us might get fired tomorrow. d. We might all get fired tomorrow. =================== e. Every ...
azz's user avatar
  • 2,971
0 votes
1 answer
627 views

How to interpret this movie title: "Live is Life"?

There is a Netflix title: "Live is Life". I can't wrap my head around it. Would that be something like: 1 - "to live means life"? OR 2 - "energic is the life"?
Lynera pintcho's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
227 views

repetitive actions: present perfect or present perfect continuous?

I have a question about repetitive actions. I've read in many books and article that we use Present Perfect for repetitive actions. like: I have eaten squid 3 times. but today, when I was reading ...
Mohammad Mehdi Sarfejoo's user avatar
0 votes
1 answer
39 views

Pete's and Tom's computers

a. Pete's and Tom's computers were stolen. Could the sentence be used if each had one computer? Could the sentence be used if one had one computer and the other had more? Could the sentence be used if ...
azz's user avatar
  • 2,971
1 vote
1 answer
25 views

his guests would notice it

a. Jeff's friends went to Sally's place and talked to her father. Does that necessarily mean all of Jeff's friends went to Sally's place and talked to her father? b. I knew that if I gave the flash ...
azz's user avatar
  • 2,971
1 vote
3 answers
40 views

a priest and a historian

a. He was the son of a priest and a historian. Could one use that sentence if his one of his parents was both a priest and a historian? Or would that have to be b. He was the son of a priest and ...
azz's user avatar
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