"Andrew has just started evening classes. He's studying German."

I just came across this sentence in Grammar in Use. This was a example sentence, there's no more context.

From the latter part of the sentence, I assumed that he started taking evening classes. But I'm just a little confused why it is not "Andrew has just started taking evening classes." I think it would be more accurate.

I mean, "ABC college started evening classes." sounds right to me, but the above sentence ... I don't know. I just Googled it and found some books using "somebody started classes" in the book.

Can it mean somebody started taking classes as well?

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    Well, your sentence could just as well be "started offering..." But the sample sentence from the book sounds OK. – Cascabel Jul 26 '18 at 16:51
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    @Cascabel: Indeed. Andrew has just started evening classes. He's teaching German. – FumbleFingers Jul 26 '18 at 16:53
  • @FumbleFingers Hmmn...you are right. When put that way it could be ambiguous. – Cascabel Jul 26 '18 at 16:58
  • May I suggest changing the title from "What does this mean" to "Isn't this ambiguous". – Mr Lister Jul 26 '18 at 17:01
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    @FumbleFingers Surely even "Andrew has just started taking evening classes" is ambiguous? Academic Andrew's wife to friend: Andrew has just started taking evening classes. He's teaching German, He's managed to avoided taking the Literacy 'late-shift' for ages, but, this year the dean forced him! – fundagain Jul 26 '18 at 20:01

If it was only "Andrew has just started evening classes", then perhaps the potential ambiguity is worth resolving, but without further context, English speakers will resolve the ambiguity towards Andrew=student.

But, you presented two consecutive sentences, "Andrew has just started evening classes. He's studying German." Together they are unambiguous, and your introduction of "taking" is unnecessary. We know precisely what is meant. Unnecessary disambiguation often feels unnatural.

  • Yeah, but if you think like FumbleFingers for a moment, you can come up with meanings like "Andrew teaches something in the evening, because he takes German classes during the day". – Mr Lister Jul 27 '18 at 6:10

The sentence "Andrew has started classes" means that Andrew has begun to do something with the classes but it leaves unstated what exactly he is doing with the classes. Without further context, we might assume that he is a student only because there tend to be many student in a class and only one teacher. If the context was that he was a teacher we might assume that he is teaching the class. If he is a school cleaner, we might assume that he is cleaning the classroom.

The sentence is ambiguous. By including "taking" (or "giving"), you can make the sentence less ambiguous but also less concise.

  • Then, if he is a school cleaner, he could simply say "I've started the classroom." meaning he started cleaning the classroom? And that is better than saying "I've started cleaning the classroom." Am I correct? – user227026 Jul 27 '18 at 9:10
  • @user227026: Yes. Provided that it was clear from the context that the action was cleaning, it is idiomatic to say that. – smatterer Jul 30 '18 at 1:05

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