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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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145
votes
9answers
45k views

How should I refer to a friend who is a girl but not a girlfriend?

When I'm talking about my friend, who is a girl, but not a girlfriend, what word or phrase should I use? If the gender was unimportant, it would not be a problem. But if I want to note that the friend ...
22
votes
6answers
110k views

Is “until” inclusive or exclusive?

I sent an email to someone and got an auto-reply saying: I am out of the office until 09/15/2014. Does this mean he will be available on the morning of the 15th?
3
votes
5answers
139 views

The department shredded all the files from the inquiry[,] 'which'/'that' contained embarrassing material

The department shredded all the files from the inquiry which contained embarrassing material. After having read the sentence above, I was wondering if the department destroy every file, or only those ...
188
votes
5answers
54k views

How does the “Dalai Lama walks into a pizza shop…” joke work?

On YouTube, there's that famous joke the Dalai Lama didn't understand — and neither did I. It even made headlines in my part of the world, and on some of the sites I frequent, yet nobody ever ...
38
votes
8answers
12k views

How to say something like “my company” without sounding like I own the company?

How do I say something like "my company," "my plane," "my bus", etc. without making it sound like I own the company/plane/bus/etc? "Our company" makes it seem like both me and the person/people I'm ...
46
votes
4answers
11k views

What is understood if I say “I'm an English teacher”?

What is understood if I say "I'm an English teacher"? "I teach English", or "I'm a teacher coming from England"?
7
votes
2answers
2k views

The ambiguous “he is buried”

In a sentence taken from the Oxford Dictionary: ‘The inscription on his tombstone in Groombridge Church, where he is buried alongside his three children, bears his original name and no reference to ...
5
votes
2answers
1k views

Are “after” and “until” inclusive or exclusive?

The article is as follows The new area code is scheduled to be put into service next September. From that time until the following July, there will be a "permissive dialing period" when callers can ...
2
votes
1answer
459 views

The nuance of “could have done”

I think I could have failed this time as well. Could the above phrase mean two things? First it means that I could have failed without your help or something. So with help I could have been ...
15
votes
5answers
7k views

using “next” to days of the week

This question reminded me of a debate I have with non-native English speakers. If today is Thursday and I say that something is to happen "next Saturday", does that mean the "Saturday in two days" ...
4
votes
1answer
541 views

Certain kinds of fish or certain kinds of fishes? [duplicate]

Below is an excerpt taken from the passage given at Passage Comprehension page. Many scientists are working on safer and better ways to kill mosquitoes, but so far, there is no sure way to ...
1
vote
2answers
12k views

Does “She had a brother” mean that her brother is dead?

My Friend has sent me this riddle to solve: "If you solve this, then you are a genius. Mr.Smith has 4 daughters🙍‍♀🙍‍♀🙍‍♀🙍‍♀ and each daughter had a brother. How many children does Mr. ...
92
votes
11answers
7k views

Free as in “free speech”, not as in “free beer”

Free software is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of free as in free speech, not as in free beer. — Richard Stallman Translating free to my language (...
3
votes
2answers
59k views

What does “What have you been up to lately?” mean?

What have you been up to lately? Can 'lately' be replaced by 'recently' because with lately, it makes me feel that the sentence means what someone is doing till late night Isn't it? Or to make that ...
12
votes
2answers
1k views

Does “hardly” have a unified meaning?

“Hardly”, “hardly ever”, and “hardly even” seem to mean different things and I can hardly distinguish between them. There's this page, listing 2 very similar meanings for hardly, and which seems to ...
12
votes
4answers
1k views

Meaning of “(assessing) points to nowhere”

A previous question post by a new user was put on hold because five people, incuding me, voted it to be "primarily opinion-based" because (or despite) it asking about one line in a song. Therefore I ...
4
votes
3answers
192 views

3 ambiguous pronouns by Justice Antonin Scalia

Source: *Agency For International Development Et Al. v. Alliance For Open Society International, Inc., Et Al, Justice Scalia's dissent [Start from last para on p 19 of 25 of this PDF.] The First ...
4
votes
2answers
612 views

Do you count the current one?

For example, if I had 3 girlfriends before, and now I have 4th one that I am dating and somebody would ask: How many girlfriends did you have / have you gotten? Would it be correct to count in the ...
4
votes
1answer
10k views

What does 'form' mean in grammar?

linguisticsgirl.com: ... In my mind, grammatical *form**(what a word looks like) is clearly separate from grammatical function (what a word does). From ODO: 2.1. Any of the ways in which a word ...
3
votes
2answers
503 views

“What is the age of marriage in your culture?”

Some time ago, I had an IELTS exam and my examiner asked me: What is the age of marriage in your culture? I thought he simply is mentioning the culture that I grow up with so I said: It varies ...
3
votes
3answers
820 views

In this sentence, who are sitting on the bench?

Consider: She spoke with him sitting on a bench. I think it is likely to mean she is sitting on the bench or he is sitting on the bench. So, I wonder if there is a way to eliminate this ...
1
vote
1answer
646 views

Is a verb omitted in the second independent clause?

The basic task of the court is to ascertain and give effect to the true meaning of what Parliament has said in the enactment to be construed. But that is not to say that attention should be ...
3
votes
1answer
202 views

Omission of subject after “such … as”?

I consulted Is there subject missing in as-clause? but here is only the subject missing? In that other question, another as was omitted, but in this question, only one as is necessary? No court ...
2
votes
4answers
4k views

“The finer points”

According to definitions 1 and 6 for "point" in this dictionary: def 1: a single fact, idea, or opinion that is part of an argument or discussion def 6: a particular quality or feature that ...
2
votes
2answers
409 views

A third-grade teacher/student! Does it speak of her quality or designation?

Whilst we all know that grade also refers to the intensity/degree of quality, I got this doubt looking at Jim's comment here. Although, looking at his sentence, it's clear that he's talking about the ...
2
votes
2answers
453 views

Break a Cup of His Own

For this sentence: He broke a cup of his own. Does it mean that he broke a cup of unknown ownership after someone else had broken a cup, also of unknown ownership, or that, after breaking a ...
1
vote
2answers
4k views

I haven't eaten since yesterday

Is "I haven't eaten since yesterday" ambiguous? Does it mean I haven't eaten from yesterday until now (i.e. I didn't eat anything yesterday and I haven't eaten anything ever since), or I haven't ...
1
vote
2answers
135 views

How to distinguish country between the meanings of nation and countryside?

Which country do you come from? What is the meaning? Which countryside do you come from? or Which nation do you come from?
0
votes
2answers
68 views

gave them each a phone and a computer

a. I gave a phone and a computer to my two best students. b. I gave them a phone and a computer. c. I gave a phone and a computer to both of them. d. I gave them both a phone and a computer. Can ...
0
votes
0answers
107 views

are there two meaning?

Other studies, including in the United States, have shown this same pattern, with girls who begin developing earlier than their peers vulnerable to depression in adolescence. Without context, are ...
-1
votes
2answers
82 views

What does '‘end of the Eastern Bloc’ suggest? - Test 3, Q21, p 143

The 95 Theses were written in 1517 and by 1521 [Martin] Luther had developed these ideas and burned the Book of Canon Law and the Papal Bull Exsurge Dominie. Four years in the C20 would be considered ...