Questions tagged [ambiguity]

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

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3
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2answers
4k views

“The best outcome for Spain…” Is there any ambiguity as to the meaning of this phrase?

Consider this sentence: "The best outcome for Spain would be to permit the referendum, and for Catalan voters to reject independence" (Source, In the last paragraph) Would this mean that the best ...
3
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2answers
71 views

One/Two onion rings?

When making an order, is it correct to say the following? If so, Why? If not what is the correct way? Can I get one onion rings? In case you want two servings, Can I get two onion rings?
3
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1answer
551 views

In this sentence, what does the “scarlet cloak” cover?

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 ...
3
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2answers
365 views

I feel so sad that we can't talk tonight

Does the sentence mean that I feel very sad and because of that we can't talk tonight or does it mean that I feel very sad because we can't talk tonight? Or can it mean both?
3
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2answers
58k 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 ...
3
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1answer
200 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 ...
3
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1answer
107 views

Who exactly was sure in “Robin was sure to have done the work”? Robin or some other person?

Robin was sure to have done the work. Who was sure? Was it Robin? Or was it another person who was sure that Robin had completed the work? If this was Robin, why would someone write the following ...
3
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3answers
3k views

Am I making jokes when I speak “please don't miss me”

Last time I expressed the idea "don't pass me" I used the phrase: Please don't miss me. I want to use the meaning of "miss" in this sentence: It would be just his luck to miss the last boat. It ...
3
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1answer
197 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
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2answers
403 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
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3answers
129 views

What precisely is an 'art audience'?

Source: An Interview With David Foster Wallace, by Larry McCaffery [David Foster Wallace's answer to Question #2] ...But now realize that tv and popular film and most kinds of “low” art—which just ...
2
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3answers
632 views

How should I interpret 'that' in this passage from 'Tom Tit Tot'?

If this girl can't spin five skeins, she will be killed by king. However, all of a sudden she heard a sort of a knocking low down on the door. She upped and oped it, and what should she see but a ...
2
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3answers
8k views

“What do you mean by ___? " Is this ambiguous or rude?

Is asking someone “What do you mean by ___?" a rude way to ask the meaning of something you don't understand? For example, when I chat with my American friends, and there is a word I don't know the ...
2
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2answers
252 views

Is “as father was away in France” a reason clause or time clause?

"Mother was worried because little Alice was ill, especially as father was away in France." In the sentence, is "as father was away in France" a reason clause or time clause? Which understanding is ...
2
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2answers
394 views

What does “twice folded” mean?

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

How to understand “Minnie invited Mickey next door.”

Minnie invited Mickey next door. I saw this sentence from a children's book. It's a simple one. But I'm confused by the meaning. In my opinion, it can be understood as: Minnie invited Mickey, who ...
2
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2answers
185 views

Omitting a preposition to avoid repetition

What is correct/better? We consider questions related to analysis of real numbers and to probability theory. We consider questions related to analysis of real numbers and probability theory. ...
2
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2answers
38 views

“Helped with the algorithm” vs “Helped to implement the algorithm”

Let's say I helped my colleague to implement some algorithm (in C# programming language, for example. He didn't know how to write it and I explained that to him). And now I'm writing a daily report: ...
2
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2answers
529 views

I have bought a car this year too

I have bought a car this year, too. What does this sentence mean? "Me, too," or "I have done something else and have bought too," or "I have something else and a car too," or "this year too." And ...
2
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2answers
71 views

very soft and sweet

a. The fruit I tasted was very soft and sweet. It seems to me that (a) is ambiguous. It could mean The fruit I ate was very soft and very sweet. or The fruit I tasted was very soft and it was also ...
2
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2answers
75 views

Book Title Meaning

So if a book's title is "I love you,Nora Jane" What does it mean? Does it mean that Nora Jane is saying she loves him or the boy is saying he loves her.What about the ','(comma) that comes. Doesn't ...
2
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2answers
1k views

How to avoid ambiguity in the sentence“This is a little used car”?

Here’s a sentence which is open to two interpretations and therefore can’t be grammatical: “This is a little used car”. To avoid the ambiguity of the meaning, would it be enough just to insert a ...
2
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3answers
53 views

claim one's autonomy

Is the phrase "claim one's autonomy" ambiguous? Could it mean "say one deserves autonomy" and "achieve or gain one's autonomy"? Suppose someone said the following: The teenager claimed his ...
2
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1answer
104 views

adverbial phrase ambiguity/ with her in a blue dress

Which of these sentences work if Jane was the one wearing the blue dress? a. I went to the party with Jane in a blue dress. a1. I went to the party with her in a blue dress. b. I went to the party ...
2
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1answer
190 views

What is the meaning of “<movie-title>” with “<actor-or-actress>”?

My husband wrote another question on here, and he wrote: I was watching the movie 'The Fugitive' with Harrison Ford. I told him: That means that I am sitting beside Harrison Ford watching the ...
2
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2answers
331 views

'To whom it may concern' : What's 'it'?

'To whom it may concern' : I've always thought that it referred to this current writing (directed at the party whom this writing may concern). Am I right? If so, then technically, does it lack an ...
2
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1answer
37 views

When do “empty” and “full” require another adjective to remove the possible ambiguity?

Does "full" and "empty" always mean "completely" full and empty? Isn't it ambiguous to say: The variable X represent the weight of the container when it is full. when we are talking about the ...
2
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3answers
21 views

Having problem comprehending “need to be used occasionally”

I cannot understand the exact meaning of this sentence in the following: Remember, too, that the words "I love you, I like being in a relationship with you. ..." are not demands and need to be said ...
2
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2answers
83 views

Does “Three students were given two notebooks. ” mean that each student was given two?

The three students were given two notebooks. I created the sentence above in order to describe that one student could not get the notebook. I am afraid whether this sentence may be interpreted as ...
2
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2answers
92 views

Who's the subject of this predicate in this letter? (1575 Late April, UK)

Source: p 101, Lives and letters of the Devereux, earls of Essex, by Walter Bourchier Devereux [p 100 states that this letter was undated, but the penultimate sentence on p99 (ie the last sentence ...
2
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2answers
444 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 ...
2
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2answers
90 views

Take An Interest

I am not sure about the meaning of "take an interest" here: link The main concern is the financial interest that the American government has taken in the dairy industry, promoting milk as the ...
2
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1answer
10 views

Does the phrase “fit in” make sense to non-native English speakers?

I was planning to use the expression "fit in" in a presentation -- as in "how do you fit in [to the group]?" The audience will include people who speak English as a second language. There will be a ...
2
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2answers
46 views

Does “to John and Henry” mean to each separately, or to both together?

a. She gave John and Henry seventy dollars. b. She gave John and Henry a knife and a flashlight. c. She gave twenty dollars to John and Henry. d. She gave a knife and a flashlight to ...
2
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2answers
90 views

Does “and” indicate which event came first: “I had an accident and woke up in 1977”

My name is Edward Ball. I had an accident and I woke up in 1977. Is this sentence a bit ambiguous? Because of and we could understand that he woke up first and then had an accident. What comes first, ...
2
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1answer
60 views

Is the sentence below ambiguous?

I have two sentence: Diurnal fluctuation of temperature exists at the downstream location in River A. Diurnal fluctuations of temperature exists at a location in River B. I combine them into one ...
2
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2answers
417 views

How do you distinguish possibility “can” from ability “can”?

To make my question more understandable, I quoted a student's essay. I have emphasized the instances in bold type. I feel confident enough to tell the difference with some but less so with others. ...
2
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1answer
100 views

Allege Fraud Against

I have a question about the usage of the phrase "allege...against" here: Under the False Claim Act, individuals alleging fraud against the federal government can sue, technically for the ...
2
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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
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3answers
514 views

plural or singular

When I have two meetings: one at 1pm and the other at 3pm, which one is more appropriate? I have (two) meetings at 1pm and 3pm. I have a meeting at 1pm and 3pm.
2
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2answers
65 views

How to determine which opposing meaning of 'circumstantial'?

1. Pointing indirectly towards someone’s guilt but not conclusively proving it: (Of a description) containing full details: Doesn't 1 contradict 2? How to conciliate them? There are 'full ...
2
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1answer
256 views

Meaning of “Updated As Reported”

I am not too sure about some particular sentence: link (move mouse over the blue question mark) Choose the ID that matches the office you want to visit. This information is reported by the ...
2
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4answers
5k views

refund vs rebate

I'm learning some vocabulary in the context of shopping and I have found some ambiguity between some words. Could someone please explain the difference between them? refund VS. rebate
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2answers
921 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 (...
2
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1answer
457 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 ...
2
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1answer
203 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
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3answers
136 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 ...
2
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2answers
35 views

A boy didn't read every book

In my opinion, "A boy didn't read every book"is ambiguous, it can express"a boy didn't read any book" or "Not every book were read by the boy".Am I right?
2
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1answer
85 views

“Hiding in a wardrobe, I have finally found you!” - Who exactly is hiding in a wardrobe?

You can either think about this way: Someone was hiding in a wardrobe and you found them. Here "hinding in a wardrobe" is used to emphasize our disbelief that this particular person was hiding in ...
2
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1answer
85 views

Scopal Ambiguity that arises from 'one of our…'

Before you read on, I just want to let you know that this question is one that relates to the balance of logic and grammar. So I know that are multiple ways to describe a first-cousin relationship. I ...