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Is it ambiguous to use it to refer to the dog in the following sentence?

I was seen driving the car, hitting the dog, and burying it.

  • You're obviously asking if, given the way your sentence is framed, "What is being buried: the car or the dog?" You could make the sentence clearer, I think, by simply adding the word "then" after the word "and." @ChaslyfromUK and his idea of using semicolons is also a good idea. Another option: "I was seen doing two things: driving the car that hit the dog, and then burying it" (and that option is but one of many). Don – rhetorician Sep 17 '15 at 11:01
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    Note that nobody reading that sentence would think you buried the car. – Robusto Sep 17 '15 at 11:07
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I was seen driving the car, hitting the dog and burying it.

I would say that the problem here is that the two commas initially give the impression that they are a pair, thus making 'hitting the dog' parenthetical. Commas aren't strong enough (in my opinion) to indicate a list in this situation.

I suggest using semicolons.

I was seen driving the car; hitting the dog; and burying it.

The semi-colon represents a break within a sentence that is stronger than a comma, but less final than a full stop. It enables the writer to avoid over use of the comma and preserves the finality of the full stop. Semi-colons are used to separate items in a list and to link closely related sentences.

University of Leicester

Update: 17 Sep 2015

I forgot to answer the main question. My answer is no, it is not ambiguous. The word 'it' refers to the nearest noun, i.e. the dog.

  • The OP's sentence has a second comma - just before the word 'and'. This allows hitting the dog to be a parenthetical phrase, in turn allowing it to refer to the car. – Lawrence Dec 16 '15 at 23:40

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