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Does the sentence

His memory is lost

have these two meanings?

  1. It could mean that our memory of him is lost.
  2. It could mean that he has lost his memory.
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I'd only interpret it as meaning #1. I wouldn't have thought of meaning #2. – Joachim Sauer Sep 21 '11 at 7:12
@JoachimSauer, really? I would have thought that without context the meaning #2 would be more obvious. Given the context both meanings are possible. – Unreason Sep 21 '11 at 7:40
@Unreason: I simply don't expect #2 to use a passive phrasing, I'd expect that to be written "He has lost his memory.". – Joachim Sauer Sep 21 '11 at 7:44
up vote 5 down vote accepted

‘Memory’ can certainly mean both (1) the facility to remember and (2) the remembrance of a person or thing. In support of (2), the OED cites this from George Orwell’s ‘1984’: ‘His mother's memory tore at his heart because she had died loving him.’ However, while ‘His memory is lost’ is a grammatical sentence and capable, just about, of bearing either of those two meanings, it is an unlikely sentence. ‘He has lost his memory’ less ambiguously conveys sense (1), while ‘People have forgotten him’ is a clearer expression of sense (2).

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