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a. John will arrive at the station in five minutes.

b. John will eat the pizza in five minutes.

c. John will play football in five minutes.

Which sentence triggers ambiguity? and How?

closed as off-topic by RegDwigнt Dec 9 '15 at 12:17

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"b" triggers ambiguity. It is unclear if John will eat the pizza within five minutes (as in, for a duration of five minutes), or if he will begin to eat in the pizza after five minutes have passed.

As @WS2 mentioned, this ambiguity possibly exists in the others so I will attempt to explain why this makes the most sense.

In "a" the ambiguity does not exist. Arriving in five minutes never implies arriving for a duration of five minutes.

In "c", John technically could play football for a duration of five minutes, but playing football is not an action you complete. You could play " a game of football in five minutes " , and that would render a similar level of ambiguity as sentence "b". When you play football for a duration of five minutes, you'd probably say " John will play football for five minutes"

  • Potentially the same problem exists with all three. Grammatically speaking they are all ambiguous. But it is just that the probable sense, in the other two cases, is clearer. – WS2 Dec 9 '15 at 8:02
  • It doesn't exist in the first one, as far as I can tell. And in the third, the sentence would sound awkward if it meant that he would play football for a duration of five minutes. You'd generally use the word "for" instead of "in". – Academiphile Dec 9 '15 at 8:03

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