64 votes

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

In writing this depends on the situation, but you are very likely to be understood as meaning that you are a teacher of English. However, in actual speech it depends entirely on the stress used in ...
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50 votes

What does "two-by-four" mean in this context?

You've hit on one of those wonderful terms that is not transparent to the learner, yet used on a daily basis by some people. :) Please note that it isn't too hard to find this in a dictionary. In ...
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  • 7,236
43 votes
Accepted

Is "Ram married his daughter" ambiguous?

Your sentence is no different from any other verb with multiple meanings. For example: Ram played with his daughter could mean that they played backgammon together, played football together, or ...
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  • 108k
40 votes
Accepted

Is "until" inclusive or exclusive?

I am out of the office until 09/15/2014. My question is, will he be available on the morning of the 15th? Well, pragmatically, if that date lands on a Monday, then I'd think he would be in ...
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  • 4,910
39 votes
Accepted

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

It is acceptable to say something like, "My plane/bus was late" or "My company was sold" without sounding as if you own them. It would be considered unnecessary and cumbersome to say, "The plane/bus I ...
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35 votes
Accepted

Does "red apples and bottles" mean "the apples are red and the bottles are red" or "only apples are red"?

It is perfectly ambiguous. If someone says "there are red apples and bottles in that box over there," one may have [red apples + bottles of any color] or [red apples + red bottles]. I don't even know ...
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  • 5,849
32 votes

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

English teacher will widely be understood by native speakers to mean a teacher who teaches English. This is because English is a well-known umbrella term for the subjects taught in English class ...
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  • 45k
27 votes

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

Addressing the more general case, it's important to note that possessive pronouns don't necessarily imply ownership, possession (nor does the Saxon genitive 's, despite what it says in that link). ...
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27 votes

How can I avoid ambiguity in the sentence "I cut the middle of the hose"?

I cut the hose in half. I (and I think most people) would assume you were talking about doing what is represented in the first and third pictures if you said that. To describe, the second, I would ...
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  • 7,501
25 votes

Is "Ram married his daughter" ambiguous?

Yes, technically it is ambiguous, but in reality not so much - a native speaker would always extend/qualify the statement, along the lines of "Ram married his daughter to 'someone' ", or possibly "Ram ...
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23 votes

In the sentence "The table was set for lunch" is "set" a verb or an adjective?

As is, there is not enough information to be able to tell, definitively. i.e. The answer depends on the context in which the sentence appears. If, for example, it were to be preceded by "I looked ...
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  • 496
22 votes

I received a gift from my sister who just got back from

This is a very good question. Let me start by saying there are 2 kinds of relative clauses: defining and non-defining. If you put a comma before "who," it will mean that you are giving extra ...
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  • 5,406
20 votes
Accepted

The ambiguity of 'Noun + Photographer' while addressing the photographer

This is the sort of ambiguity in language that is often used as the basis of a joke. Indeed one of your examples is very similar to a joke in a book I have on the shelf: Couple meets at a party. ...
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  • 57.2k
19 votes

Is "until" inclusive or exclusive?

tl; dr - It's exclusive if the situation described is notable by its absence. It's likely to be inclusive if the situation described is notable by its presence. At its heart, until describes when the ...
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  • 361
19 votes
Accepted

How to avoid ambiguity of the antecedent of a relative clause?

You can make the sentence less ambiguous by expressing the intended concept more explicitly. For example: It's a sphere inside a cube, with the cube representing the parent shape of the sphere. or ...
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  • 7,170
18 votes
Accepted

What's the meaning of "there you go"?

In this same case, he might just as well have said “exactly”, “you got it”, or “case in point”. Saying any of these–including “there you go” as a flat interjection–is a way to point out the ...
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18 votes
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"May" meaning in biblical/religious language

First, a note on "biblical language." Feel free to skip ahead to the answer, below the horizontal rule. Let's be careful when we talk about "biblical language." The Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) was ...
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  • 6,795
17 votes
Accepted

What is the meaning of this famous Groucho Marx joke? "One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know."

The joke hinges on the phrase in my pajamas In the first line is ambiguous, it can be read as One morning, in my pajamas meaning you are in your pajamas, or an elephant in my pajamas ...
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  • 65.3k
16 votes

How does the "Dalai Lama walks into a pizza shop..." joke work?

An addition to the previous answers: The Dalai Lama walks into a pizza shop and says "can you make me one with everything?" Actually, this is only half of the joke. The rest of it comes with the ...
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  • 9,283
16 votes

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

Possessives -- words like "my" or "our", or use of apostrophe-s -- do not necessarily indicate ownership. They just indicate a close relationship. No fluent speaker assumes that it means ownership. ...
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  • 57.2k
16 votes

How can I avoid ambiguity in the sentence "I cut the middle of the hose"?

@sharken’s answer may be precise, but even as a native English speaker I would have to reach for a dictionary to be certain of the meaning of axial: I cut the hose along the longitudinal/axial ...
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15 votes
Accepted

The ambiguous "he is buried"

There is no ambiguity. In a present-tense narrative, it could be passive "He marries, he dies, he is buried" but in any other context, it is adjectival. He is buried is a copular sentence, where ...
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  • 64.1k
15 votes

Go back home vs come back home

This is really hard to answer because it depends on the speaker's and the listener's point of view. It can also depend on their imagined points of view at the future time the action is planned to ...
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15 votes
Accepted

Ambiguity in "his son killed his mother"

The ambiguity in "his son killed his mother" comes from who each use of 'his' refers to. There are any number of ways you could remove the ambiguity, but the two most obvious to me that keep ...
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  • 73k
15 votes

Meaning of 'Last but not the least' in Google dictionary

The definition is using a parallel structure: last in order of mention or occurrence but not last in order of importance. The repeated phrase "last in order" is correctly omitted, as the ...
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  • 149k
13 votes
Accepted

Ambiguity - Should it be "mindful of committing logical fallacies" or "mindful of not committing logical fallacies"?

Being "mindful" means simply that you keep something in mind. The context and common sense would mean that if you are "mindful of committing logical fallacies" you are keeping them in mind so that ...
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  • 149k
13 votes

Go back home vs come back home

From the point of view of a person at your home, you are "coming home". From the point of view of a person at your office, you are "going home". What about your own point of view ...
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  • 582
13 votes
Accepted

Meaning of 'Last but not the least' in Google dictionary

The Google definition is correct, but poorly written, because it can be parsed with two different meanings, only one of which is correct. I believe you've parsed their definition to have the wrong ...
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  • 13.8k
12 votes

What does "two-by-four" mean in this context?

There was a lot of discussion in comments under the question about whether "run the length of" could be used with 2x4 wall studs that are typically vertical. That discussion really belongs under an ...

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