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The following sentences use more than one adjective for a single noun.

She has a black and white cat.

It implies that the person involved here has only one cat which is black and white coloured.

The following sentence is however different from the preceding one.

She has a black and a white cat.

The indefinite article a has been repeated as many times as there are adjectives for the noun in the sentence changing in meaning of the sentence - the person involved has now two cats - one is a black coloured cat and the other is a white coloured cat.

Similarly, the following sentence implies designations.

The magistrate and collector is present.

One person owns two different designations which are magistrate and collector.

The following sentence however implies two different persons - one is a magistrate and the other is a collector.

The magistrate and the collector are present.

What do the following sentences mean?

  • He is a better counsellor than a scholar.
  • He is a better counsellor than scholar.


  • He is a better poet than a novelist.
  • He is a better poet than novelist.
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You obviously know that the first of each of your pairs is potentially ambiguous! Hence context is important because context helps to resolve ambiguity. Without context, this fits the Not A Real Question closure criteria, which is a pity because the question is actually quite well-constructed. – Andrew Leach Oct 26 '12 at 6:34
up vote 2 down vote accepted

He is a better counsellor than a scholar.
He is a better poet than a novelist.

Both of these are ambiguous. They could mean he's a better counsellor (poet) than a scholar (novelist) is or that he's better at being a counsellor (poet) than at being at scholar (novelist).

The other two mean that he's better at doing the first than at doing the second.

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