I have a question about priority.

For example:

"elder brother and sister" means:

"elder (brother and sister)" or

"(elder brother) and sister"?

Another example:

"old men and women" means:

"old (men and women)" or

"(old men) and women"?

Adjective and conjunction which has higher priority?


  • 4
    Natural language isn't like "designed" computer languages - there's no real concept of "priority" here outside of what makes sense. So in something like The weather forecast looks bad, so if you go out, make sure you take a warm coat and umbrella, nobody would supposes you're recommending a "warm umbrella". – FumbleFingers Dec 16 '18 at 16:44
  • 1
    If you wished to specify that the brother was older than you but the sister wasn't, you could say 'my elder brother and my sister'. – Kate Bunting Dec 17 '18 at 9:48
  • 1
    In terms of your example sentences, I would personally interpret the adjective to apply to both nouns. But that's not to say that I would interpret a different adjective or different nouns the same way. Without being explicit, you can only go by context and assumption. – Jason Bassford Dec 18 '18 at 4:39
  • Can you provide any useful context? Without context, there are no rules about priority of adjectives or conjunctions. Your "brother and sister" suggestions are perfect examples of how great a mine-field English is. – Robbie Goodwin Dec 19 '18 at 0:55

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