Questions tagged [ambiguity]

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

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2
votes
2answers
362 views

What does “twice folded” mean?

A twice folded card. Does this mean that when you open it, it has 4 compartments?
2
votes
2answers
339 views

Ambiguous meaning of “his murder”

Can "his murder" mean two different things? The murder of a male person (him) A man's crime, e.g His murder of someone
1
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1answer
10k views

Ambiguity of 'Blank Paper', 'Blank Lined Paper', and 'Lined Paper which is not blank'

This happened with me. I asked my daughter to get me a blank paper and she gave me this. When I asked this is not the blank paper, she said it is, there's nothing written on this. Whereas I was ...
1
vote
2answers
67k views

If you decrease the AC; does the room become cooler or hotter?

This happens with me many times. And people misinterpret it. But then I thought for a while and now think that I should have some unambiguous sentence to convey my message. Could you decrease the ...
3
votes
2answers
56k 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
279 views

Does 'the same' means opposite in this case?

Check these sentences - I cracked that tough exam and got an admission at the institute. You are my best buddy, I expect the same from you (cracking the exam). Clearly, one friend wants other to ...
2
votes
2answers
398 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
71 views

If you “ride something”, do you control it or simply sit behind/aside?

I remember my friend telling that she rides a bus to go to her office. I also remember my another friend telling that she rides a scooter to go to her office. Does it mean that I need to identify ...
0
votes
3answers
189 views

What does the phrase “minimum of introspection or self-analysis” mean in this sentence?

"These situations are best resolved with the minimum of introspection or self-analysis." This is where I found it: https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/introspection Does it ...
15
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4answers
2k views

Is the sentence “I'm not doing that because I hate you" ambiguous?

I'm not doing that because I hate you This sentence seems ambiguous to me. When I pause (place a comma) between "that" and "because", or add "just" between them, I get the two meanings. Someone ...
2
votes
2answers
896 views

How should I parse “I was going to wait until …”?

I found myself parse this sentence differently on different occasions, (a) (I was going to wait) until (we had finished eating), but my thoughts burst from my mouth: ... (b) I was going to (...
3
votes
2answers
112 views

How to decide which meaning of “careening” is intended?

In Free as in Freedom (2.0) it reads (PDF, page 98): In many ways, the Symbolics war offered the rite of passage toward which Stallman had been careening ever since joining the AI Lab staff a ...
1
vote
1answer
125 views

Converting the past into reported speech

My grammar book says that if somebody says to me something and he uses the past tense, I can report his speech using either the past or past perfect. (In the first case I don't change the tense at all....
1
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3answers
2k views

What does this “which is a shame” mean?

In a piece comparing two poets (Source), an author has a single paragraph that reads: For shame. (As in “because of shame.”) Which is a shame. This is confusing – What does this writer mean by ...
2
votes
1answer
447 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 ...
0
votes
2answers
238 views

Does “came out of X” mean “emerged from X” or “came here from X”?

   "Some say he died. Codswallop, in my opinion. Dunno if he had enough human left in him to die. Some say he's still out there, bidin' his time, like, but I don' believe it. People who ...
3
votes
1answer
193 views

In 'call someone here', is 'here' locative or temporal?

I was looking at the meaning of call, one meaning says (transitive) If you call somebody somewhere, you ask or tell them to come there. One sample usage is My boss called me to his office and ...
0
votes
2answers
110 views

Ambiguous to-infinitive: “Obama rejects G20 pressure to abandon Syria air strike plan.”

Obama rejects G20 pressure to abandon Syria air strike plan. I think this news headline is ambiguous because the infinitive clause could attach to either G20's pressure as its complement(?), or to ...
2
votes
1answer
202 views

“I saw him crossing the road”, a semantic problem [duplicate]

I saw him crossing the road. Before, I asked a question regarding the differences between certain sentences in which "cross" and "crossing" were involved. Now, I have a new question for which I hope ...
2
votes
3answers
135 views

“Juliette came to me laughing” vs. “Juliette came to me, laughing”

The Amours of the Chevalier de Faublas The moment he saw me, he came to me laughing, and without giving me time to say a single word, he threw his arm round my neck: let me embrace you, my dear ...
5
votes
2answers
98 views

In “Steve left Kristina to deal with the creditors,” can Steve be the doer of 'left' and 'deal'?

Steve left Kristina to deal with the creditors. Under a grammatical perspective, could Steve be the doer of both verbs left and deal? If so, can anybody explain what the implications on the sentence'...
4
votes
1answer
512 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 ...
90
votes
11answers
6k 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
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 ...
9
votes
4answers
24k views

Difference between “as” and “because”?

What is the difference between as and because? Which one of these sentences is correct? He stayed home from work as he was sick? He stayed home form work because he was sick? Which is correct?...
12
votes
2answers
2k views

How do I say “gas”?

A friend of mine is working in a gas-mining industry. In a colloquial conversations with English speakers about his work, he uses the word "gas". In English, there are several distinct meanings for "...
8
votes
2answers
812 views

Using quotation marks in direct speech

My native language allows omitting quotation marks in sentences containing direct speech when the borderline between the "wrapper" sentence and the quoted speech is obvious and does not produce ...
15
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5answers
6k 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" ...
8
votes
2answers
16k views

“Do you like me?” or “Are you like me?”

What is the proper use of "do" versus "are" in the phrases: Do you like me? Are you like me? Is there any difference between them?
180
votes
5answers
52k 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 ...
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 ...
142
votes
9answers
41k 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 ...
25
votes
5answers
12k views

How would a native speaker understand “Time flies like an arrow”?

“Time flies like an arrow” is often cited to illustrate problems with computer aided language processing. It is also an example of how ambiguous English can be. But is it really so ambiguous? How ...