Water froze but didn’t melt.

It can mean:

  1. Water froze but the water (liquid) didn’t melt. (Water doesn’t melt because it’s already liquid)
  2. Water froze but the frozen water (ice) didn’t melt. (Maybe the melting point of the ice is high because it’s mixed with anti-melting material)

Can the other coordinating conjunctions (For, and, nor, but, or, yet) between verbs also be ambiguous like this?

  • 1
    Please clarify your specific problem or provide additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it's hard to tell exactly what you're asking.
    – Community Bot
    Nov 29 '21 at 2:04
  • @Community How more can I clarify?
    – user384848
    Nov 29 '21 at 2:06
  • Your original sentence is more of a sentence fragment. It is not surprising that it is ambiguous. Try making a longer sentence that has the same issue.
    – Elliot
    Nov 29 '21 at 22:31
  • Your sentence is of the form [subject + action] but [same implied subject + contrary outcome], which is perfectly fine. The real problem isn't the coordinating conjunction, or even ambiguity: it's that the first subject (liquid water, able to freeze) is NOT same implied second subject (frozen water (ice], able to melt). Put simply: by definition, water can't melt. Are you trying to say that once the water froze, it couldn't melt? Dec 1 '21 at 2:57

Grammatically, there is no ambiguity in this sentence. "Water" is the subject of two predicates: "froze" and "didn’t melt." The same water is performing (or not performing, in the second case) both actions.

I don't think that there is an ambiguity semantically, either. It's been a while since I've studied physics, but if I recall correctly, water can only melt after it has frozen. Therefore, your first numbered sentence is really saying the same thing as your second numbered sentence.

Please add a comment if I've misunderstood what you're trying to say.

  • I mean sentence 1 is talking about water but sentence 2 is talking about frozen water because previously I said that water froze.
    – user384848
    Nov 29 '21 at 2:33
  • If sentence #2 is talking about frozen water (i.e., ice), then it can't be an interpretation of the original sentence, because ice can't freeze. To freeze means to change from liquid to solid, unless there is some meaning that I'm not aware of. (In that case, the issue would be with different meanings of "freeze".) Nov 29 '21 at 2:39
  • No no I mean water froze but (the frozen water) didn’t melt the first verb is talking about water but the second verb is talking about ice because I said water froze.
    – user384848
    Nov 29 '21 at 2:41
  • Oh, I think I see. So sentence #1: "Water froze but while it was liquid didn’t melt." Sentence #2: "Water froze but while it was solid didn’t melt." Is that right? Nov 29 '21 at 2:44
  • Oh yes that’s what I mean
    – user384848
    Nov 29 '21 at 2:46

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.