Questions tagged [ambiguity]

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

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4answers
5k 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 ...
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3answers
534 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.
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2answers
69 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 details' ...
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1answer
299 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 ...
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4answers
8k 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
1k 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 (wait ...
2
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1answer
520 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
282 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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2answers
4 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 ...
2
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2answers
42 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?
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1answer
155 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
121 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 ...
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2answers
398 views

Why did the author use “One of them” instead of “each one of them” in this sentence?

The scenario is the protagonist in this novel had been experimenting a theory her colleague have had told her (is the tense correct?) that eye contact with another person for more than six seconds ...
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2answers
161 views

Usage of 'and' to mean both this and that

A friend of mine occasionally says I would like a chocolate and vanilla ice-cream. In this case he really meant that he would like a chocolate and a vanilla ice-cream. That makes two ice-creams. ...
2
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2answers
114 views

Ambiguity between oral and visual definitions of 'observe' and 'remark'?

observe = 1. Notice or perceive (something) and register it as being significant 2. {reporting verb} Make a remark remark = 1. {reporting verb} Say something as a comment; mention 2. {with ...
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1answer
83 views

Confusing 1920 uses of 'it' and 'which' by R. H. Tawney?

In modern industrial societies the great mass of property consists, as the annual review of wealth passing at death reveals, neither of personal acquisitions such as household furniture, nor of the ...
2
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1answer
76 views

Why is the prefix repeated in brackets in the word “((meta-)meta-)meta-design”?

While reading an article about web design, I came across the following phrase — "((meta-)meta-)meta-design systems". I'm well aware what meta-design is, but have problems understanding the usage of "(...
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2answers
592 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
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2answers
174 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?
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3answers
791 views

Which word best describes 'Al Bore'? - Test 2, Q41, p 125, by Mark Shepherd

In America, politics is often thought to be more based on personalities than policies and party unity. This was probably more true in the 2000 campaign when the Republican Party played on Al Gore’s ...
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4answers
174 views

reference mistake

When democracy fails, the people's last weapon is civil disobedience. It means actions that disobey the authority of the state, for instance illegal demonstrations and refusing to pay taxes.* ...
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2answers
37 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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3answers
1k views

a CERTAIN answer?

Can "certain" be used as a synonym of "definite" in front of "answer"? When I hear "a certain answer", I think about "a specific answer" not a "definite" nor "ultimate" answer. Can a "certain answer"...
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3answers
123 views

a man and a woman

a. I talked to a man and woman. b. I talked to a lean man and woman. Does (a) mean they were together? Does (b) mean they were together? Does (b) mean they were both lean? =======================...
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2answers
556 views

Does “I got offered a job in New York.” mean the job is in New York, or I was in New York when it was offered?

I got offered a job in New York. Does this sentence mean: "I got offered a job to work in New York" Or "I got offered a job when I was in New York"? Can this sentence carry both of these meanings by ...
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4answers
179 views

They're closing their shop

We were shopping at the mall. It's late and all the shops were starting to close. "They're closing." "They're closing their shop." Will the second sentence mean the shop is bankrupt?
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3answers
83 views

What does “great” modify in “A great American consulting firm official”?

A great American consulting firm official What does this "great" modify? Could it modify "consulting firm?" I think it can only modify "official". If it can modify "firm", then it should be A ...
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2answers
6k views

Meaning/Usage of “outstanding”

I was with some colleagues and an English native today. We talked about the work we still have to do, and he mentioned kind of "tracking the outstanding items". I was taught at school that "...
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3answers
3k 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 ...
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2answers
86 views

it was six months away

a. It was six months away from his graduation from college. b. It was six months from his graduation from college. c. He was six months away from graduating from college. d. He was six ...
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1answer
39 views

Yeti with a microphone

We started interviewing a Yeti with a microphone. How do we ensure that we mean the picture on the right and not on the left? And how would we describe this one? Edit, from the comments: ...
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1answer
162 views

Comma to resolve ambiguity with relative clause

Does the below sentence make sens from the grammatical point of view ? What you think is important, is very important, is extremly important. the comma "," is as a vehicle to determine the scope of ...
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1answer
212 views

What is meant by ‘cash cow’? - Test 3, Q4, p 27, by Mark Shepherd

The government’s favourite cash cow, taxation of petrol, has recently found a friend in the shape of proceeds from speed cameras. All around the country, unsuspecting motorists are being flashed ...
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1answer
790 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 ...
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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
106 views

infinitive clause ambiguity

We need him to accomplish this task. Is this an ambiguous sentence? I think the possible interpretations are: 1: We can't accomplish this task without him/We need him in order to accomplish this ...
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2answers
3k views

What does “the least possible value” mean?

I was working on a GMAT question: The least possible value for the mean of the numbers of hours of TV reported for the week is [choices]. It a single choice question. But in the phrase "the least ...
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2answers
17k 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. ...
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1answer
173 views

twice the size of a sphere/cube

I want to know the most commonly understood meaning of phrases like "twice the size of" or "three times the size of" 3D objects. If I say "this ball is twice the size of a table tennis ball", do ...
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2answers
126 views

Meaning of “second” in this context

I saw your picture and I could tell from the second I saw it it's not Mr. X. Can "second" here also stand for "the second picture"?
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1answer
169 views

“*Our old man* is going shopping to buy something *for dinner*”?

This is rather an easy question, but left me stuck with it. Situation: I'm writing a composition about the reading we studied in our book (as a summary). It's about an illiterate senior citizen who ...
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1answer
133 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....
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1answer
72 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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3answers
56 views

Why do people sometimes confuse when to use 'will' and 'would'?

For instance, I've heard quite a lot of people saying that "I would go" when they should be pertaining to use "I will go". Is this because colloquials have perpetuated the language; tainting the ...
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1answer
53 views

When not “all” neither “some” is stated, what is implied?

For example, in sentence "Multinational companies are unethically exploiting the plant genetic resources of developing countries." is it implied that ALL multinational companies do that, or that SOME ...
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2answers
36 views

Distinguishing present from future in a conditional sentence

Consider the following sentences, used in an email message: I'm going to be on vacation next week. If you need anything, call me. It could mean If you need anything now, call me, because next ...
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1answer
29 views

Can “a one” be an unambiguous substitution of “a [noun]”?

I want to use "a one" in the following sentence to refer to a single coat: I heard that coats were invented for this reason and therefore wearing a one will surely keep you warm. Does "one" take ...
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1answer
30 views

talked to him in a bad mood

a. Have you ever talked to John in a bad mood? b. Have you ever talked to him in a bad mood? Can we tell who is in a bad mood, you or John/him?
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2answers
52 views

the painting in the living room

a. He painted the painting in the living room. Does this mean a1. In the living room, he painted that painting. Maybe it is somewhere else now. or a2. He painted the painting that is in the living ...
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1answer
100 views

How do I identify whether the word “quite” is used in the sense of completely or partly?

I've found that word "quite" is used sometimes in the sense of "greatest extent" (or say absolute or complete sense) and sometimes "moderate extent" (or say somewhat or little sense) and taking the ...

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