My understanding from the research that I have done on the phrase "real and tangible personal property is has follows:

  1. Real and tangible are adjectives

  2. and is a conjunction that puts together words, phrases, or clauses that have the same grammatical function

  3. personal property is a compound word defined by Websters as a noun meaning personalty

  4. that this phrase could be written as "real and tangible personalty" which would have the same meaning. That the only way I could see this written to mean real property is to say: "real property and tangible personal property" If you made real a noun and tangible personal property a noun you still could not come up with "real property" as real could be a Spanish coin.

  5. I also do not believe this is legal question, as it is written in the Michigan constitution, which was ratified by the people at large not a group of attorneys.

  • 2
    This is really a legal question since these are technical terms. – bib Mar 6 '14 at 21:19
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    This might refer to "real property" (land) and "tangible personal property" (stuff). – Bradd Szonye Mar 6 '14 at 21:32
  • Thanks for your response, I edited the post to explain why I do not believe this is a legal question. Also all laws have to to be written in plain English, if you do not understand a law how would you know if you have violated it. – Jack Elliott Mar 7 '14 at 15:31
  • Look at this website. The phrase means "real property" (land) and "tangible personal property" (physical objects) – Peter Shor Mar 7 '14 at 16:25

From the construction alone you could view

real and tangible personal property

to mean

real personal property AND tangible personal property

so that either one or the other or both qualify.

If you strictly wanted both only then

real, tangible personal property

would be better.

I have no idea if legal convention follows the rules of common sense in this regard.

  • 1
    fwiw, the phrase sounds like it's from NY State tax law, and the intended separator is "real property and tangible personal property" – DougM Mar 6 '14 at 21:46
  • Thank You for your response, I edit the post, but thought I would tell you, that this came from the Michigan Constitution Article IX sec. 3, which is supposed to be written at an eight grade level. Before 1994 this read as "real and tangible property", which also stated for an alternative tax of "real and tangible personal property in lieu of the real property tax. – Jack Elliott Mar 7 '14 at 15:51

This is an example of the most important rule when it comes to reading anything more complicated than a greeting card. CONTEXT IS KING.

The rule is most easily found in pronouns, where words such as "she" and "it" acquire nearly all of their meaning from the context they are found in. However, it also applies to proper nouns in general, especially with nicknames and acronyms. (For instances, the meaning of "I read the Times at CIA" rrefers to entirely different newspapers and institutions depending on the city the speaker is in.)

However, the rule of context applies especially when dealing with such complicated bodies of text as contacts, research papers, and law. In this case in question, if "real property" is a defined term but "real personal property" is not, you can conclude that "real property" is included in the phrase.

(of course, if there is a defined difference between "real property" and "real personal property", you won't be able to tell which is meant from the phrase as-is without looking for further contextual clues.)

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