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Andy, Bob, Christine, his girlfriend, Debby and I are going for dinner tomorrow.

Christine is Bob's girlfriend. There are no other relations. There are five people altogether. Is the quoted sentence correctly punctuated?

It would be even more confusing if the adjacent name and explanation had the same gender:

Andy, Bob, Chris, his brother, Debby and I are going for dinner tomorrow.

Is Chris Bob's brother or is the unnamed brother of Chris joining dinner? How to avoid the ambiguity here?

(I am aware of a related question but semicolons seem to be overkill here.)

  • Who is Debby's boyfriend in this list? – pyro Jul 3 '17 at 12:41
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    Chris and his brother, Debby, Andy, Bob and I are going for dinner tomorrow. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 3 '17 at 12:45
  • @pyro: Nobody, he is not attending. – problemofficer Jul 3 '17 at 12:49
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    @EdwinAshworth: What about the first sentence? Andy, Bob and his girlfriend Christine, Debby and I are going for dinner tomorrow.? – problemofficer Jul 3 '17 at 12:54
  • You probably don't realise that there are males named 'Christine'. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 3 '17 at 19:32
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The current punctuation is certainly wrong because his girlfriend is undistinguishable from the other items in the enumeration. One solution is to join Bob and Christine:

Andy, Bob with his girlfriend Christine, Debby, and I are going for dinner tomorrow.

Another is to repeat after the great writers of old and remove the comma after Christine:

Andy, Bob, Christine his girlfriend, Debby, and I are going for dinner tomorrow.

See how William Morris used this in The Well at the World's End:

All these and more knew him and his armour and Falcon his horse, and gave him the sele of the day, and he was nowise troubled at meeting them

EDIT: Yet another solution is to avoid all ambiguity by using the name instead of the personal pronoun:

Andy, Bob, Bob's girlfriend Christine, Debby, and I are going for dinner tomorrow.

The repetition of Bob's name does not sound bad.

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In cases like this, I reorder the words: I am going for dinner tomorrow with Andy, Debby, Bob, and his girlfriend Christine.

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