If someone says “Tom broke another lamp,” does it imply that Tom already broke a lamp or that another lamp was previously broken by someone?

  • 7
    There is not enough context to answer your question. Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 0:15
  • 1
    This is an interesting question that shows the importance of context in interpreting what seems to be a straightforward sentence. Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 0:36
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    Yes. Tom broke another lamp or another lamp was broken.
    – user63230
    Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 0:51
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    I don't think ELU would have a bright future if we started welcoming questions of the general form "What does [some ambiguous construction] mean?". The reality is that every word, clause, or statement can have multiple meanings. I really see little point in questions where every answer would have to start with "The meaning depends on context" - if the user can't or won't supply enough context to at least potentially admit of a single, unambiguously correct answer, the question should be closed, not answered. Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 1:12
  • Sigh. Use the voting buttons folks.
    – user63230
    Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 1:47

1 Answer 1


Depending on the context, it could mean either.

It looked like Tom finally had his clumsiness under control, but no. Tom broke another lamp.

Here it’s implied that Tom has broken lamps before (and perhaps other things too).

Dick and Harriet ran through the corridors, smashing light fixtures. Tom broke another lamp.

Here it’s clear that Tom is just one of several people breaking lights.

As Oldcat noted in a comment, another might even mean “different” instead of “additional”:

Tom didn’t break the lamp in the hall. Tom broke another lamp.

  • 6
    It could also mean that one light fixture in total was broken by Tom. But the one he broke was different from that named. "Did Tom break the lamp in the hall?" No, Tom broke another lamp.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 0:28
  • 1
    @Oldcat Thank you for the excellent observation! I've incorporated it into the answer. Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 0:37

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