"I had been warned about Bill by Dave, and I'd seen his explosive temper in action."

Is the antecedent of the possessive adjective 'his' clear here? Or is there some ambiguity as to whether it refers to Bill or Dave?

Oh, and quick addition: If I made it "I had been warned by Dave about Bill, and I'd seen his explosive temper in action", would that make a difference?

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    The natural reading here is to consider the warning and temper to be about the same person. – Lawrence Mar 13 '17 at 6:04
  • Okay, but is that only because of 'warned' and 'temper'? If I said, "I had been warned about Bill by Dave, and I'd been texted by him several times" would the 'natural reading' seem so clear? – Dunsanist Mar 13 '17 at 6:12
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    The context is sometimes strong enough to sway what would otherwise be ambiguous. In the case of your question's example, that's due to the assumed link between warning to temper. In your comment's example, warned and texted suggest an activity-means link, biasing the interpretation of the word him. – Lawrence Mar 13 '17 at 7:58
  • So are you saying it IS ambiguous? Given that both Bill and Dave are objects of prepositions, and neither is a subject or direct object, it does seem ambiguous to me. But perhaps there is some grammatical rule to disambiguate it? – Dunsanist Mar 13 '17 at 9:41
  • Lawrence explained it as not being ambiguous in context. If you keep trying to find ambiguity, you are not far from finding it. In such a case, you need to throw in the named subject a second time to clear it up (the ambiguity, not the subject or the time). – Yosef Baskin Mar 13 '17 at 19:55

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