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In the phrase "the boys' rackets", is it implied that each boy has one racket or more than one racket?

Should each boy have one racket, how would this be expressed/written?

Should each boy have more than one racket, how would this be expressed/written?

Another doubt regarding a similar phrase would be:

"the boys' mind/minds" - only one mind is possible per boy, but were we to use the plural word "minds", would this imply (grammatically) that each had more than one?

marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, Edwin Ashworth, Skooba, oerkelens, Nigel J Feb 4 '18 at 7:55

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  • Neither is implied—if you want to get rid of the ambiguity, you have to use a much longer expression. And grammatically, "the boys' mind" would mean that all the boys shared one mind. (Of course, with expressions like "the boys' minds" and "the boys' feet," there's no actual ambiguity.) – Peter Shor Feb 3 '18 at 13:22
  • e.g. each boy's racket/rackets would be needed to clarify this - so "the boys' rackets" is grammatically ambiguous then – user279671 Feb 3 '18 at 13:32
  • I'd say that in your first example, the salient meaning is that each boy at least one racket. – BillJ Feb 3 '18 at 13:57
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  • You have to watch out for polysemes. From M-W: << Definition of mind ... 7 a : a person or group embodying mental qualities the public mind >> which licenses the boys' mind. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 3 '18 at 15:15

More correct to say “denote” than “imply.” The former is more of a definition, which it seems you are after here.

This phrasing you’ve described does not merely imply, or suggest anything. It quite literally tells the reader that all of the boys own their own racket. You’d need more specific language in order to suggest multiple rackets. Mostly because it makes sense, at least that one asker is the norm. “Clubs” would be different, if you catch my meaning.

“The boys’ rackets were scattered across the practice courts.”

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    It's the norm, but it's not mandatory that each boy have only one racket in this case (otherwise referring to “golf” clubs might not work at all). – Will Crawford Feb 3 '18 at 14:09

It's not implied by the words themselves, but (as part of @dethbird's answer suggests) by the “normal” situation that each boy would be carrying a racket.

I'd note that without further context, the sentence alone is ambiguous because boys often make or run rackets.