Questions tagged [ambiguity]

This tag is for questions about words or phrases that have multiple meanings and can thus be understood in different ways. If your question is about different words that can be easily mixed up or confused use the tag CONFUSABLES instead.

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3answers
69 views

How to get rid of pronoun ambiguity?

We are discussing on ELL how to get rid of pronoun ambiguity. The intial sentence with apparent pronoun ambiguity was When Anne’s grandmother died she lit an extra candle for her on her birthday. ...
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0answers
22 views

Is this ambiguous use of “all bad”?

Those kids (who aren't all bad) smashed my window with their stupid baseball game! Who's gonna pay for this?! The person who said that (a fictional character I invented) meant to say that the group ...
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2answers
36 views

Confusing use of 'up to'

You can cancel the tickets up to thirty minutes before the scheduled departure of the train. Is the use of 'up to'semantically correct? Or, is 'at least' more appropriate to replace 'up to'? Should ...
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1answer
88 views

“The 1800s” versus “the 19th century”?

As a non-native English speaker, who never says "Xth century" in my language, phrases such as: In the late 19th century, they invented a lot of cool stuff! ... always forces me to stop and think ...
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1answer
35 views

What's the default way to interpret the phrase “Don't waste any time (in) getting back here.”?

Is this phrase ambiguous or is there are clearly preferred way of interpretation? The following 2 interpretations seem diametrically opposed: Don't waste any time getting back because you'll be too ...
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3answers
804 views

What’s the long form corresponding to the short form “English Language & Usage”?

Am I right that ①English Lan­guage & Usage is the short form ei­ther for ②English Lan­guage & Its Usage or else for ③English Lan­guage & The Usage of It, rather than for ④English Lan­...
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1answer
62 views

Answering questions starting with “Can you tell me …”

For questions like - Can/could you tell me a joke? - Can/could you tell me where the coffee place is? - Can/could you name an actor who lives in Canada? and so on... Should this be answered with "yes"...
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0answers
81 views

When and how did the meaning of the word “sheath” change?

In the poem So, we'll go no more a roving Lord Byron writes For the sword outwears its sheath, And the soul wears out the breast. When I read the poem by myself it took the usual meaning ...
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0answers
52 views

How does it make any sense to print “LATEST EDITION” on a newspaper? [closed]

While watching "The Maltese Falcon" (1941), I took this freeze-frame: In the top-right corner, it says: LATEST EDITION Not "SECOND EDITION" or "UPDATED EDITION" or "LATE EDITION" or "FINAL ...
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2answers
39 views

Metronym vs Matronym

When I look up the definition for Metronym or Metronymic, the definition says that it's an alternative form of Matronym, which is a name taken from a person's mother. From Wictionary metronymic - ...
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2answers
117 views

What do “plump” and “stately” mean in this sentence from James Joyce's Ulysses?

The following passage comes at the beginning of James Joyce's masterwork, Ulysses, an early twentieth century novel. There are a lot of references to Catholic ritual in it. Here, Buck Mulligan, the ...
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0answers
47 views

Increasing clarity by breaking verbal stumbling blocks

I am marking students' essays and frequently coming across stumbling blocks of words. Although grammatically speaking these blocks are mostly correct, I find that clarity is being impaired (e.g too ...
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42 views

Unambiguously using 'or' to indicate something that is equivalent in meaning

Or is most commonly used to indicate an alternative. For example: I can walk, jog, or run to the park. Is it Ms. or Mrs. Jones? The assailant's jacket was green, blue, or purple. I cannot recall. Or ...
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0answers
38 views

Does not do X pursuant to Y - is it possible to interpret based on pure grammar, without semantics?

I encountered the structure "Does not do X pursuant to Y". If I didn't know the semantics of X and Y, I would interpret this as "(Does not do X) pursuant to Y", that is, not doing X comforms to Y. ...
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2answers
108 views

Is the sentence logical?

It had been sunny for a week when the storm broke out. Is this sentence logically valid and sound? If I think of it, it looks like it means when the storm broke out, it was sunny. There couldn't be ...
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1answer
88 views

The ways to indicate a state or an action which lasted and then ended at or before some point in the past?

I feel quite confused. If I want to say that something was true or was happening for a while before some point in the past, what ways does English give me to express that? If I want to express that ...
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0answers
35 views

What is the “with” modifying in this sentence “He was watching the monster with a smile.” [duplicate]

I'm reading such a sentence and confused by the "with": He was watching the monster with a smile. (Let's say there is a kind of monster can smile.) Who is smiling? He or the monster? Is there an ...
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2answers
608 views

Does the word “that” refer to “features” or “windows 9x”?

Microsoft built a number of features into Windows 9x that allow previous users of DOS and Windows 3.x to capitalize on their investment and that allow technicians access to DOS-based troubleshooting....
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1answer
56 views

Does the word “that” refer to “your car” or “the key”?

I have found the key to your car that you lost yesterday.
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55 views

what is the exact meaning of “revelation” and “just proportions”? [closed]

what is the exact meaning of "just proportions"? i need a general understanding of the bold part of this paragraph. There may have been—in fact, there probably was—a true psychic origin to these ...
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1answer
71 views

what is the exact meaning of “delicate female organs” in this paragraph?

what is the exact meaning of "delicate female organs" in this paragraph? what is the true explain of this sentence: "of which the delicate female organs would seem incapable."? The sounds came ...
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1answer
44 views

What is the exact meaning of “names of sensitives” and “spoke”?

What is the exact meaning of "names of sensitives" and "spoke"? does "spoke" refers to talking about something or not? Finally, above the monotonous horizon of human happenings there did actually ...
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1answer
55 views

does “heavy cloud” and “thunderstorm” are used in their real meaning or not? [closed]

does "heavy cloud" and "thunderstorm" are used in their real meaning or not? also i can not understand the true meaning of "judgment"?? is there anybody who can explain about this? Swedenborg claimed ...
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1answer
51 views

What is the meaning of “psychic grossness” and “want” in this paragraph?

What is the true meaning of "psychic grossness" and "want" at this paragraph? Swedenborg claimed that a heavy cloud was formed round the earth by the psychic grossness of humanity, and that from ...
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1answer
58 views

Consider the question, “Aside from his pronunciation, what mistakes did he make?”

Aside from his pronunciation, what mistakes did he make? Doesn't this imply that the person asking also considers the subject's pronunciation as a mistake? How should it be rewritten to clarify that ...
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1answer
334 views

What is the legal meaning of “in dicta”?

(I realize I could post this at Law.SE, but the response rate there is quite hit or miss.) What does "in dicta" mean in legal writing? I checked the glossary of my paralegal textbook (by Statsky), ...
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3answers
156 views

Is “its” ambiguous in “This bucket is produced in a factory overseas. Its capacity is small”?

I would like to show two sentence patterns: A) The purpose of the capacitor is not to provide energy. Its capacitance therefore does not have to be large. B) This bucket is produced in a factory ...
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1answer
145 views

stranger vs strange man

Take the following examples: That's a stranger. That's a strange man. Can these be synonymous? Or does the latter always mean the same as 'weird man'? Synonyms of 'strange' can be 'unfamiliar' or ...
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2answers
59 views

The use of “may only” and “may not” in standardized or mathematical language [closed]

I am utterly confused by the term "may only" and "may not" when it comes to standards and mathematics. For example: The resulting set may only have one element. Does this mean: It is only ...
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2answers
129 views

Is there a word for “weaponized political correctness”?

The term Political correctness is innocent enough. According to Wikipedia: Political correctness is a term used to describe language, policies, or measures that are intended to avoid offense or ...
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2answers
79 views

What is the meaning of boldfaced lines in the paragraph? [closed]

I am reading a speech delivered by Sara T. Smith at the Second Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women. I am confused what exactly the boldfaced lines in the paragraph below means. The context here ...
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1answer
93 views

She wrote to/ him a letter in France

She wrote him a letter in France She wrote to him a letter in France The second sentence is found in Oxford Learners Dictionary. I think there is some ambiguity in the sentences. ...
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2answers
72 views

Avoiding ambiguity with 'owed' - technical terms

I want to make a spreadsheet including money I am owed and money I owe. How do I avoid ambiguity with the word 'owed'? e.g. money owed - money that is owed to me money owed ? - money I owe to ...
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1answer
127 views

I would like to have met her

The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, page 148, reads I would like to have met her and I would have liked to have met her, which are often used to convey the same meaning as I would have ...
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0answers
42 views

Is the phrase “I'm not happy unless you are” deliberately ambiguous?

The phrase "I'm not happy unless you are" is usually understood as "I'm not happy unless you are [happy]". However, it could be understood as "I'm not happy unless you are [not happy]". Is this ...
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2answers
243 views

Is the “The Pirate King” another structure of “The King of Pirates”, interchangeably or “Pirate” is like an adj., meaning “The King that is a pirate”?

I have ambiguity with the meaning of some compound nouns, especially in the form noun+noun like: "The Pirate King", "The Lion King", "The Pirate Bay" and so on. EDITED: to put it in context: ...
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1answer
46 views

Is sentence “The artist I studied their art from is (name of the artist)…” correct? [closed]

And if it's grammatically correct, does it have ambiguity to it? If so, how to rephrase this sentence to get rid of this ambiguity?
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1answer
161 views

“ you are cold” is ambiguous in English" [closed]

In describing living creatures English is ambiguous. Even if we leave aside possible figurative meanings, "you are cold" may signify either that you are externally cold when someone touches you-cold ...
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1answer
90 views

Exact meaning of “star” for laypersons, meaning a celestial object?

I'm not a native speaker of English. The word "star", as a celestial object, is usually (or nearly always) defined as, well, e.g. the Sun, Sirius etc in dictionaries. However, it seems unnatural to ...
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9answers
12k views

Is “I am getting married with my sister” ambiguous?

I have seen the following sentences in a book given to us during our training period at The Regional Institute of English, Bangluru I got married to Priscilla. I got married with Priscilla ...
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1answer
228 views

What does “no worse than” mean in this phrase?

“When we consider either the history of opinion or the ordinary conducf of human life, to what is it to be ascribed that the one and the other are no worse than they are?” I am confused by what this ...
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1answer
65 views

Meaning of “entertain” in this sentence?

Hearers will accept what speakers say, and so speakers will reasonably expect hearers to accept, consider, or entertain what they say about objects or states of affairs not within the immediate ...
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2answers
81 views

Ambiguous meaning of 'sphere' [closed]

The context is about the sacred direction of Muslims or the qibla by David A. King: Frequently over the years other folk have introduced the factor that the Earth is not a sphere into the qibla ...
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2answers
231 views

she loves her dog more than her husband

I have come across the following sentences in a study material supplied by The English and foreign languages University: She loves her dog more than her husband. They are flying saucers They ...
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1answer
83 views

Is “ he killed his wife of 21 years ” ambiguous?

Is the sentence "He killed his wife of 21 years." ambiguous for native speakers? That is, could some people assume the wife was 21 years old and others think that she was his wife for 21 years? ...
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2answers
155 views

Two meanings of word “government” [closed]

I noticed that in English language "government" can mean "any legal authority" or it can mean specifically "the executive branch of power (like Cabinet of Ministers)". What is primary meaning, that is ...
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2answers
59 views

What is the average reader most likely to guess that “If they don’t have A or both B and C” was exactly intended to mean?

There is a sentence saying "If they don't have A or both B and C," I interpret it means "If they have no A or if they have neither B or C". Am I correct? The condition seems to me that having only B ...
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7answers
870 views

There is no question that you will not misunderstand this sentence

The MacMillan Dictionary has the following definition for the phrase 'there is no question that': used for saying that something is definitely true It gives the example: There is no question ...
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1answer
60 views

'downstairs' adverb vs noun

If you say "We need some manpower tomorrow to move some of the stuff downstairs." could you mean both "moving stuff down the stairs" and "move stuff that is downstairs"? Which is the more common ...
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1answer
217 views

Does “inanimate object” mean an object that is “not alive” or an object that is “not moving” or both?

I recently became confused by the term "inanimate object", because "inanimate" can have two meanings (from Merriam Webster) 1 : not animate: a : not endowed with life or spirit b : ...

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