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Taken from "A Quiver Full of Arrows":

"The flowers have lasted well," she teased, and left him to make the coffee.

Does the sentence clearly imply that she left to make the coffee? Or could it also imply that she left him so that he could make the coffee?

Edit: The third sentence "She returned after a few minutes with a coffee pot..." makes the meaning abundantly clear. I just want to know how the first sentence stands up on its own.

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I would state the second possible meaning as "she left it to him to make the coffee". I agree that the sentence is --possibly deliberately-- ambiguous. –  Marthaª Dec 3 '10 at 18:17

2 Answers 2

up vote 9 down vote accepted

In this case, the meaning is ambiguous and could mean either of the two you suggested as nothing in the phrase specifies who will be making it. I originally read it as she was leaving to make the coffee, but both are equally plausible. Is there any extra context around it that would clarify? E.g. are they in a location where making coffee is possible?

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please refer to the edit. –  user1784 Dec 3 '10 at 16:42
    
@crypto - got it and thanks. Otherwise, I'm afraid my curiosity would have necessitated googling it for the context :P –  Dusty Dec 3 '10 at 16:57
    
+1 Dusty is right. Apart from any context, this sentence is perfectly ambiguous. –  Robusto Dec 3 '10 at 17:54

"She left to make the coffee" would be a considerably less ambiguous way of putting it!

I'm not sure we should really look to Jeffrey Archer as a model of literary style and clarity, you know... ;D

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Some colleague of Mr. Archer in Parliament said, "Whenever I am looking for intellectual stimulation, I pick up one of Jeffery's books -- so I can stand on it to reach the good books." –  Malvolio May 29 '12 at 16:16

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