They are responsible for key and large projects.

They solve the core and most complex problems of a team.

In the examples above, does "key and large projects" mean "key projects and large projects" or "Projects that are key and also large"? Does "core and most complex problems" mean "Core problems and most complex problems" or "Problems that are core and also the most complex"?

  • That depends upon the context. Usually, however, it's safe to assume that core problems are the complex ones and key projects are the large ones.
    – user392935
    Aug 31 '20 at 17:17
  • Can you tell exactly what 'she owns red and black dresses' means? Conjunction reduction introduces ambiguity. This has been covered before on ELU. Sometimes, there are clues to the meaning in the actual semantics. And sometimes, pairing adjectives like this is unidiomatic (They own vicious and expensive dogs). Aug 31 '20 at 18:41

The question relates to simple set theory. Two sets of projects are relevant: key, and large.

This means that there are three classes of project: key, large, key AND large. Only if all key are large and all large are key does the number of classes reduce to one. If all large are key or all key are large, the number of classes reduces to two. Otherwise, the number of classes is three, regardless of any partial relationship between key and large projects.

This means that, without any context, further detail, or rephrasing of the sentence to clarify the 1 or 2 class possibilities, the only prudent interpretation is that they are responsible for all or any of the three classes.

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