Someone appeared to help me.
If I get it right, this sentence can either mean:
- "It seems like someone was helping me." (seems like = appear to)
- "Someone showed up to help me." (show up = appear)
Am I right?
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You are right. The only thing I'd like to add is that, in case it means "someone seems to be helping me", you'd use the continuous form "be helping" in most contexts, not the simple infinitive "help", because it is about someone who is busy helping you now.
You're right. It's an amibiguous sentence, though entirely correct. This is what technical editors call "bad communication."