Questions tagged [ambiguity]

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

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3answers
5k views

Have you not seen this movie? No

Have you not seen this movie? I'm confused as to what to say, my first reply was: No, I haven't seen it. Is this answer correct for this question or do I reply by answering the following: a. No, I ...
3
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3answers
2k 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 ...
3
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5answers
151 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 ...
3
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1answer
16k 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 ...
3
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2answers
529 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
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1answer
204 views

“maintains his army had to buy the mortars”

Source: Putin's 'Gunman' Demanding More Russian Support in Ukraine Further, the ministry insists that Strelkov's troops got all the weapons they needed from Russia, but Strelkov maintains his army ...
3
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2answers
120 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 ...
3
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3answers
545 views

Is it necessary for “which” to indicate the word before it?

1) Puche restored IGF-I circulating levels, which normally decline in serum with age, in aging rats. 2) Puche restored IGF-I circulating levels in aging rats, which normally decline in serum ...
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
37 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 ...
3
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2answers
129 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
760 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
405 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
71k 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
365 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
124 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
5k 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
269 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 ...
3
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3answers
149 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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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 ...
2
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2answers
424 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
165 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
243 views

What does “we learned” mean here?

I am wondering what "we learned" means in the following sentences: I notice Will and Dad sizing each other up surreptitiously. In Dad’s company, oddly, Will seems a little diminished, a ...
2
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3answers
7k 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 ...
2
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3answers
671 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
13k 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
257 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
597 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
146 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
214 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. An ...
2
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2answers
71 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
804 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
308 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
178 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
2k 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
59 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
163 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
241 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
364 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
41 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
22 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
232 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
95 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
777 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
91 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
13 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
48 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
94 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
72 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
589 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. ...

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