Questions tagged [ambiguity]

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

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1answer
24 views

Is “Should I…?” appropriate here?

Joseph puts a gun to the man's head, and looks to Angelo. Joseph: Should I shoot him? Joseph is basically asking: Do you want me to kill him? - Is that conveyed through "Should I shoot him?"...
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1answer
16 views

the reason he left the country

a. The reason he left the country was not to deal with this problem. Is that sentence ambiguous? I see two possible meanings: The reason he left the country wasn't to deal with this problem. The ...
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2answers
31 views

'Hold him' and 'hold his hand'

If I hold someone's hand, I can express it as 'I hold him.' Then, how can I exactly describe I only hold someone's hand, not the other parts of his body? Is just saying 'I hold his hand' enough?
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1answer
21 views

all those who were overweight and not agile

a. All those who were overweight and not agile were exempted from participating. b. All those who were overweight, and not agile, were exempted from participating. Which should be used if the ...
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1answer
37 views

“She is my only friend” or “she is my friend only” - place of “only”

I have a female friend called Alice (fake name). Someone else asked me if she is my girlfriend. I want to tell them that she is not my girlfriend but only friend. By "only" I want to mean ...
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2answers
22 views

when he was under the influence of

a. A discussion of his behavior when he was under the influence of medications was helpful to him. b. A discussion of his behavior, when he was under the influence of medications, was helpful to him. ...
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1answer
31 views

more greasy food

a. I eat more greasy food than he does. Is that sentence ambiguous? I think it could mean I eat food that is more greasy than he food he eats. and I eat a bigger amount of greasy food than he does. ...
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1answer
51 views

In this comparison, how, according to the writer, does Latin relate to French rap? [duplicate]

The Arabic of “Frozen” is frozen in time, as “localized” to contemporary Middle Eastern youth culture as Latin quatrains in French rap. — Translating “Frozen” Into Arabic by Elias Muhanna Please ...
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2answers
36 views

Differences between “English novel” and “novel in English”

Is there a difference between "English novel" and "novel in English"? Needless to say, what it's at stake are two aspects: the language of the novel, and its country of origin. To ...
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1answer
44 views

Which word is “they” referring to?

Which word is they referring to in the following sentence? Children make circles because they are perfect. Is it referring to Children or circles? And why?
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1answer
15 views

employed 20 workers last week

I am not sure if "to employ" means "to have someone on the payroll" or "to put someone on the payroll." Is it ambiguous? Consider the following sentence: The company ...
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0answers
8 views

What does “leading” imply here?

"He was a leading spirit in the conference." Does the statement infer that the subject was leading as if an influential or in a mere literal sense?
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1answer
10 views

meaning of “not for today only”

I heard, "The store will be having a sale, not for today only" What does "not for today only" mean in this sentence? Does the "only" modify "not for today" or ...
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1answer
30 views

twice I married a French woman

a. Twice, I almost married a French woman. b. I almost married a French woman twice. Do those imply that it was the same woman? Do those imply that I married a French woman once and almost had a ...
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2answers
33 views

dated two women in two cities

a. He dated two women in New York and Los Angeles. b. He dated two women, in New York and Los Angeles. c. He dated two women in New York and in Los Angeles. d. He dated two women, in New York and in ...
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0answers
14 views

How should I interpret this ambiguous sentence?

I came across the following ambiguous sentence that I don't know how to interpret: The student completed more than one program from an eligible DLI within 2 years Context: an international student ...
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2answers
11 views

“X increases with Y”

I wonder how do native speakers interpret the following sentences. Are they ambiguous? Is Y decreasing or increasing in the following examples (1-4)? The strength of X increases with Y. The strength ...
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0answers
35 views

I sent “ballistic” in official meeting and I am from the middle east!

First I am not a native english speaker Today there was a meeting with the tech hardware department where i work One of that department suggested that I should have another meeting with the title of &...
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1answer
32 views

Does the word “apparent” have ambiguity?

I'm learning the word "apparent" which has two apparently different meanings: (1) obvious (2) looks true, but not. How do people solve the ambiguity here? For example, republicans could ...
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1answer
28 views

“for only” vs. “only for”

I'm confused about how a placement of "only" can change the meaning of a sentence. A real life text from the document I'm working on: If possible, use the shorthand syntax: # for an ID, . ...
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0answers
25 views

there is no question of . .

The noun "question" has two meanings: "doubt" and "possibility." I'd like to know when "There is no question of . . ." has one meaning but not the other.
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1answer
29 views

“X do not have an alternative” - whether X a thing/situation or a person who makes a descision?

Whether to use a plus sign or an open block for list continuations is up to you. However, since open blocks cannot be nested, it is better to preserve them for those cases where they do not have an ...
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2answers
81 views

Are parts of speech sharply defined categories? Can a single word be included in different parts of speech?

I have been trying to figure out how words are categorized into parts of speech. The way I understand it, words can only be included into various parts of speech depending on their meaning and usage ...
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4answers
2k views

Ambiguity in “his son killed his mother”

Consider that Alex is the son of Bob. Alex's mother (wife of Bob) is Caren and the grandmother of Alex (mother of Bob) is Deb. Now Alex (son of Bob) killed Deb (mother of Bob), if I want to say that ...
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0answers
20 views

Ambiguity between “you are” and “you would be”

Is it possible in English to create ambiguity between the expressions "you are" and "you would be" as an equivalent of the Italian expressive construct "saresti"? This ...
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1answer
22 views

it isn't impossible for me to be swindled by anyone

a. It isn't impossible for me to be swindled by anyone. b. It is possible for me to be swindled by anyone. I think the meaning of (b) is clear. It seems to be saying that anyone can swindle me. ...
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2answers
38 views

Confused by partial negation

Live bacteria are not present in all yogurt brands. Does it mean "live bacteria are present in some yogurt brands, but not all" or "there is no bacterium in any yogurt brand"? Or ...
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5answers
1k views

Go back home vs come back home

I'm arguing with my girlfriend (we are not native English speakers), what is the proper form, go back home or come back home. For example, consider two versions: I will go to the office and then go ...
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1answer
24 views

an article he wrote

a. He showed me an article which he wrote last night and which was about whales. Could 'last night' modify 'showed'? Could the sentence mean: Last night he showed me an article which he wrote and ...
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2answers
73 views

to share something eatable with someone

If I wish to eat some of the chocolate my friend is eating. Can I say: Give me a bite. Share me a bite. Let me take a bite. Can you share a bite? Important: Does it have any taboos meaning too?
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1answer
76 views

were “the cylindrical wooden fastenings” horizontal or vertical?what does “wrenching asunder” mean?

were "the cylindrical wooden fastenings" horizontal or vertical? how can i imagine it? what does "wrenching asunder" mean? (...)The parts broken were at least five feet removed ...
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2answers
42 views

Does “it is true” and “is quite customary” refer to “explanation”?

Does "it is true" and "is quite customary" refer to "explanation"? and what does it mean? does it mean the "explanation" is both "true" and "...
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1answer
43 views

“I'm caught by the tail.” (I = a tiger) Does the wordplay work? Is it ambiguous?

"catch/have a tiger by the tail" is an idiom we all know. I'm writing some quotes for a character, who is a tiger. Can the tiger say "I'm caught by the tail"? The sentence somewhat ...
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1answer
11 views

Correct future tense of flying

By ear I feel that the answer is "I'm going to fly", but the more I think about it and the more I see "will fly" to Paris as a legitimate option as well, can you guys help me out ...
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1answer
19 views

when he was fouled

a. It wasn't only Tom who was furious when he was fouled. I was too. b. Tom wasn't the only one who was furious when he was fouled. I was too. Could those be used if the intended meaning is Tom was ...
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0answers
16 views

Adjective noun and use of AND

“Blue shirt and pants“ Does this grammatically mean: A blue shirt and blue pants or a blue shirt and ALL colors of pants? And if known, why is that the answer and what is the rule here?
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1answer
34 views

Why does Crookes want to “avoid inquiry” despite “pursuit of truth”?

Why does Crookes want to "avoid inquiry" despite "pursuit of truth"? It's a bit confusing. He writes: "It argues ill for the boasted freedom of opinion among scientific men that they have so ...
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14answers
4k views

How can I avoid ambiguity in the sentence “I cut the middle of the hose”?

How do I describe exactly in what way this hose was cut? We have at least two ways to cut a hose in the middle. To simplify it, I'll use a bottle as an example. 1) Cutting the hose from the opening. ...
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1answer
80 views

When using “until”, is the time mentioned inclusive or exclusive? [duplicate]

Examples: "I'm going to study until 8PM" Is he going to stop studying at 8PM sharp or 8:01PM? "I'm not going to study until 8PM" Is he going to start studying at 8PM sharp or 8:01PM? "I'm working ...
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2answers
41 views

Distinguishing between subject and object of sentence when the clause seems ambiguous

Looking past the literal meaning of the sentence; I'm struggling to identify which is the true subject and object in the following sentence. "The mother beats up her daughter because she was drunk." ...
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1answer
41 views

Conflicting feedback on my paraphrase: “on the grounds that X should be shared with Y” = “so that X [would/could] be shared with Y”

This is not a question about the meaning of "could" and "would". This is a question about which word fits the context. I got conflicting remarks on my paraphrase of a few sentences. I am not sure ...
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3answers
73 views

How to remove the ambiguity in this sentence?

Let's see a dialogue between a father and a son : (1) Son : Dad, I've got the job. Father : I know you didn't get the job because of your qualification. It's due to the recommendation of the ...
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0answers
23 views

some confusing expressions with number

When I want to express one of the series in harry potter, which one is better? ex) Third episode is my favorite among whole series. Third episode/ episode three Are all of them can be used? If not, ...
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0answers
44 views

“The way” vs “how”?

'The way' and 'how' are not used together. I know the way how he did it. (Incorrect). I know the way he did it. (Correct) Or, I know how he did it. (Correct) But "I know the reason why he did ...
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1answer
98 views

Instead of be or instead of being?

I know after 'instead of' verb-ing is used. But I have found a sentence : "My father wants me to be bold instead of be cautious". Is it correct? Can we use 'instead of being cautious' in the ...
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2answers
27 views

Difference in meaning : [duplicate]

These are a defining and a non-defining relative clause :- (A) He deleted the picture that upset me.  (B) He deleted the picture, which upset me. Could you please explain the difference ...
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1answer
87 views

Connective preposition or subordinate conjunction?

I know that a Subordinating Conjunction or a subordinator serves as a marker for the Subordinate Clause : Other children are annoyed because John raises his hand constantly. Here 'because John ...
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1answer
77 views

What is 'but' in “nothing but”?

"It did nothing but make us ridiculous." It means : "It did nothing but It did make us ridiculous." Here, 'but' seems to be a conjunction. But I know, 'but' is a preposition (meaning 'except') in ...
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2answers
29 views

what is the meaning of “Smiling upon”?

what is the meaning of "Smiling upon"? Mr. Somes said: "Mr. President, would it be improper for me to inquire whether there has been any pressure brought to bear upon you to defer the enforcement of ...
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1answer
22 views

Possible ambiguity in “In addition to the 3 main reasons, there is a 4th reason that has not been widely cited”

I am wondering if my sentence is ambiguous. In addition to the three main arguments, there is a fourth argument that, although important, has not been widely cited. The "three main arguments" are ...

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