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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 ...
Araucaria - Not here any more.'s user avatar
51 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 ...
Luke Sawczak's user avatar
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 ...
J.R.'s user avatar
  • 110k
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 ...
BuffyOverflow's user avatar
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 ...
Em.'s user avatar
  • 45.4k
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). ...
FumbleFingers's user avatar
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 ...
Kevin's user avatar
  • 8,014
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 ...
MikeB's user avatar
  • 6,346
25 votes
Accepted

Is "the Fed sells government bonds" ambiguous?

It's not ambiguous. For a start, "government bonds" is a recognised compound noun. But also, when 'government' is used as a non-countable noun (ie without an article) it means the concept of ...
Astralbee's user avatar
  • 104k
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 ...
Richard's user avatar
  • 516
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 ...
Enguroo's user avatar
  • 5,492
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 ...
Tashus's user avatar
  • 7,303
18 votes
Accepted

"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 ...
Juhasz's user avatar
  • 9,894
17 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 ...
Victor B.'s user avatar
  • 9,545
17 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. ...
Jay's user avatar
  • 66.8k
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 ...
user7761803's user avatar
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 ...
Colin Fine's user avatar
  • 75.9k
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 ...
chasly - supports Monica's user avatar
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 ...
Astralbee's user avatar
  • 104k
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 ...
James K's user avatar
  • 223k
15 votes
Accepted

"How do you [do something]?" but asking about the listener's case specifically

Several options. The ambiguity arises because "you" is used to mean a general person, in place of "one", in modern English. Do nothing and hope that context makes it clear. ...
James K's user avatar
  • 223k
14 votes

Can "he used to smoke with me" mean either we smoked together or he smoked but I didn't?

Yes, that sentence can have both meanings. The natural meaning is 1., but with the right context, meaning 2 would be easily understood: A: Really. He never smoked when he was around me. B: That's ...
gotube's user avatar
  • 50.9k
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 ...
James K's user avatar
  • 223k
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 ...
GEdgar's user avatar
  • 705
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 ...
gotube's user avatar
  • 50.9k
13 votes

Can "he used to smoke with me" mean either we smoked together or he smoked but I didn't?

The first meaning would be understood. A strict grammatical analysis doesn't prove that (2) is impossible, but it would not be normal for two people to meet habitually for the purpose of smoking (or ...
James K's user avatar
  • 223k
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 ...
11 votes
Accepted

Will people get confused when they see 'Some of our customers speak Spanish, English, and German'?

Just replacing and with or removes the ambiguity: Our cakes are very popular among foreign visitors. Some of our customers speak Spanish, English, or German. "Or" would be interpreted in this ...
200_success's user avatar
  • 8,133
11 votes
Accepted

Meaning of "boiling water" in cooking instructions

In the context you mention (microwaving something in water, e.g. instant oatmeal) I have usually seen two distinct options: Boil water in a kettle or on the stove, and add the boiling water to a bowl ...
randomhead's user avatar
  • 21.1k
10 votes
Accepted

Possible ambiguities when using "home" as an adverb? (study home, write home...)

Adverbial "home" works like other little words in English that follow a word for a motion and indicate the destination of that motion. There is no standard term in common use for these words, but it ...
Ben Kovitz's user avatar
  • 27.6k

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