Is this sentence: “someone lives between place A and place B” ambiguous?

Depending on the cities, I wonder whether it means:

  • "someone lives in a place C between A and B"


  • "someone keeps traveling regularly from A to B and B to A for whatever reason. But stays in A and B."

closed as unclear what you're asking by user49727, MrHen, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者, TrevorD, MetaEd Oct 10 '13 at 3:07

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  • 1
    What's the question here? (In explaining, please edit your text, don't add comments) – Andrew Leach Oct 9 '13 at 15:53
  • @Andrew: Just guessing, but I suspect the question might be whether "She lives between New York and Miami" could mean that she lives in those two cities at different times of year, or that she lives in Washington D.C.? – Henry Oct 9 '13 at 15:56

It can be ambiguous, because the meaning depends on the context. If you don't know the context, you're stranded. When someone talks about living "(in) between Baltimore and DC," it's likely they mean living at some third town within that metropolitan area. However, living between NY and LA usually does not mean living in, say, Denver. It means living sporadically both in NY and in LA.

Of some consideration here is also that ubiquitous phrase, living in between places. This is how it's used (googlable examples):

1) As described above (Edit: in the NY-LA example).

  • living in-between places (Switzerland, Italy and UK).

  • Is it worth the commute from Downers Grove, or would it be easier to live in between places or just work in Downers Grove? Thank you for any info!

  • She told me a story about her life, one of nomadism and living in between places - Europe, the U.S., Brazil.

  • We pretty quickly decided that we didn't want to live in between places, i.e., far from civilization and the ski resorts.

  • You know, we were either on the road or living in between places.

  • focusing on participants who referred to activities they undertake in a transnational social space (“living in-between places; being here and there”).

2) Being in a transitory period before settling somewhere.

  • So I'm living in between places right now until I can situate things in my apartment

  • To be fair my computer crashed, 6 months of living in between places happened, and I just fixed the beast

  • I was going through some rough times (expecting a child on my own, living in between places, very little income, overall emotional stress).

  • I would buy some but right now I'm living "in-between" places so I don't feel like I have a "home." I also have one more year of school (9 months, ...

  • "I was still not living anywhere then, or living in between places, I wasn't living anywhere stable," she says.

  • However, at the time I was living in-between places and my proper mattress/bedding was in storage. I simply bought and slept on new inflatable ...

  • left my apartment in Costa Rica -in which I lived alone- and have been traveling/living in between places and establishing in a new city, making major changes

3) Euphemistically referring to being homeless.

  • When she asks Peter where he lives, he says that he's kind of living in-between places (i.e. nowhere). She offers to let him stay the night, and he accepts.

4) Fig. Describing a psychological state.

  • They were living in between places in life. They were living in between the past that had tortured them and the future that was only a promise.

  • The unsettling sensation of living “in between” places, or in no place at all begins to set in.

  • I started to feel like I was living in-between places. Not totally committed to here nor there.

  • And so we struggle with this balance, with sometimes feeling like we are living in between places.

  • This answer is much better than mine and gives some examples of unambiguously not meaning a point in space somewhere between the cities. I hadn't considered the "between homes" (in time) interpretation, which I do now recognise as current in the UK.In the case of between NY and LA, even that could lead to a midpoint location, in the context of something like "her parents live in LA, her children live in NY, she lives between the 2 cities" – Chris H Oct 10 '13 at 7:12

I don't see an ambiguity here - to me, live between... means live at a place between... - to obtain the second meaning I would use divide my time between..., commute between..., live in... and... or some similar construction. This is from an English point of view, and I have a vague feeling the second meaning may have some acceptance in American English.

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    And what if "someone lives between London and NY"? – Quora Feans Oct 9 '13 at 15:57
  • @QuoraFea Then they live in Bristol. One divides one's time between two places, as Chris said. – Andrew Leach Oct 9 '13 at 16:01
  • Bermuda? Newfoundland? But you might as well say an astronaut lives between the earth and the ISS. Do you have a pre-existing example of between London and NY or similar? (I'd be more interested if it didn't rely on at least one of the cities being in the US, but that might be hard to find) – Chris H Oct 9 '13 at 16:03
  • @Chris H. If she lives permanently between London and NY, it is on a boat or perhaps in Ireland ;) – ex-user2728 Oct 9 '13 at 16:10
  • @QuoraFea: You mean, "Should one assume the usage is the unequivocal BrE one or the (at least potentially) ambiguous AmE one?", of course. One can often decide on which variant of English is being used from the context, but this is becoming trickier with website interchanges (such as this) - and Americans are allowed to mention cities in other nations. I'd suggest that the people using an ambiguous usage have a duty to clean their act up. However, until that happens (Ha!), we've got to acknowledge that a possible ambiguity persists. I'd use unambiguous phraseology. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 9 '13 at 22:10

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