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Take the following sentence.

We want to schedule your appointment on Tuesday.

Does this mean they want the process of scheduling to take place on Tuesday, or do they want my appointment to be on Tuesday? In either case, what would be a concise way to express the other meaning?

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2 Answers 2

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I would take the sentence to mean they want your appointment to be on Tuesday. The following sentences would remedy the ambiguity:

On Tuesday, we want to schedule your next appointment.

Your next appointment is Tuesday.

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"We want to schedule your appointment on Tuesday" means the scheduling will take place on Tuesday rather than the actual event itself.

"We want to schedule your appointment for Tuesday" would indicate that the event will take place on Tuesday.

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2  
Perhaps - but nobody actually makes that distinction (probably because it would be very odd to set an appointment to set an appointment.) I'll bet you dollars to donuts that if you ask your barber/dentist/pool service what those two sentences mean, the answer will be that they both mean the event will happen on Tuesday. –  MT_Head Jun 20 '11 at 6:26
    
Probably right but "We want to schedule your appointment on Tuesday" just sounds wrong to me even though it fits in with "We'll see you on Tuesday for your appointment." –  dave Jun 20 '11 at 6:48
    
In principle I agree - but again, who the hell makes an (informal, but still) appointment today to make an appointment on Tuesday? I can think of one example: I work with a plastic surgery office; their prospective patients often come in for a preliminary consultation, at the end of which they may or may not schedule an appointment for surgery. But they would never refer to that by saying "we'll schedule your appointment on Tuesday" - they would say "Come in for a consultation on Tuesday, and we'll schedule an appointment." In other words, the consultation is an event in its own right. –  MT_Head Jun 20 '11 at 7:00
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"We want to schedule your appointment on Tuesday when the new timetable becomes available." –  dave Jun 20 '11 at 7:27
    
@dave - Fair enough. –  MT_Head Jun 20 '11 at 7:30

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