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This is talking about a promise to meet at a certain place. However, is it grammatically correct? Is it badly phrased? It seems that it can be misinterpreted to mean that at a certain place a promise was made to meet, rather than promising to meet at a certain place later.

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5 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

It is grammatical (as far as it goes - I assume you're using it as part of a longer sentence!).

It is also potentially ambiguous, as you say - it could be interpreted to mean the place where we made the promise rather than the place where the meeting will take place. However, it is more likely to be interpreted the way you want; moreover in context it is unlikely to cause much confusion, especially if there are more cues in the sentence to indicate which meaning is intended, for example:

At the appointed time, I went to the place where we agreed to meet, and began to wait.

This is very unlikely to be interpreted as the place where we made our agreement.

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One reason why it is unlikely to be interpreted in this way is that "we promised to meet" without a time or place is unlikely unless it means "for the first time". The time or place may be vague ("we promised to meet again/some time") but it would almost always be there unless that slightly different meaning were intended, –  Colin Fine May 23 '11 at 17:04
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To remove any ambiguity (although I agree with @psmears that the sentence is unlikely to be misinterpreted) you could use meeting place or meeting point.

I went to the meeting point, as promised.

However, the place that we promised to meet has some poetic vein to it that is lost in the above example.

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Although the question didn’t ask for a substitute, these are very good ones! I’d usually hyphenate them (meeting-place, meeting-point) but according to Ngrams that’s old-fashioned (less so in British English). –  PLL May 21 '11 at 10:59
    
"Rendezvous" is a nice substitute... –  MT_Head May 21 '11 at 18:49
    
@MT_Head: rendez-vous means meeting, not meeting place! As in: We had a rendez-vous at our favourite restourant yesterday. –  nico May 22 '11 at 7:06
    
@nico - From the American Heritage Dictionary: 1. A meeting at a prearranged time and place. See Synonyms at engagement. 2. A prearranged meeting place, especially an assembly point for troops or ships. 3. A popular gathering place: The café is a favorite rendezvous for artists. 4. Aerospace The process of bringing two spacecraft together. –  MT_Head May 22 '11 at 17:22
    
@MT_Head: OK, evidently the English meaning deviated from the original French meaning, where rendez-vous means appointment. –  nico May 22 '11 at 17:52
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If confusion reigns due to misunderstanding of that phrase, try changing it a little so that it retains it romantic taste while being absolutely clear:

The place we had promised we would meet.

There can be no ambiguity about the above.

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Doesn't that have exactly the same ambiguity? –  psmears May 21 '11 at 8:04
    
Yes actually! Thanks. –  Thursagen May 21 '11 at 8:06
    
@Peter Shor: Are you sure that's unambiguous? –  psmears May 21 '11 at 10:56
    
I suggested you could make it unambiguous by using a preposition: the place we promised to meet at or if you don't like putting the preposition at the end: the place at which we promised to meet. But as psmears says, it's still ambiguous, since the place at which we promised makes sense. –  Peter Shor May 21 '11 at 11:06
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For a rather archaic, but unambiguous option you could use tryst or trysting place.

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Yes, there is ambiguity from the possibilities that you could be discussing the content of the promise or the situation of the promise's making.

I think that while mildly ambiguous your phrase would be clearly understood, and that if you were intending to refer to your location at the time of promising, you would use additional words to distinguish this meaning.

It's like if you said "I kissed her in the belfry", someone could ask "what part of the body is that?" But it would be only as a joke because your meaning was clearly understood as the most likely.

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