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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48 views

Meaning of 'staging' in 'the Qur'an's staging, penetrating and eclipsing of Biblical tradition'

What's the meaning of the word staging in the following context? "The Qurʾān’s Staging, Penetrating and Eclipsing of Biblical Tradition" It's the address of a study conducted by Angelika Neuwirth.
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What does “topics which assume detailed knowledge of local events” mean here?

Does it mean topics in which if you want to participate you need detailed knowledge of local events? It’s a example given by Oxford dictionary and it doesn’t give the full sentence.But, if it’s ...
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45 views

“Would+perfect infinitive” vs “would+simple infinitive” with reference to the future or past

This virus would be done away with somewhere in august. This virus would have been done away with by autumn. No one would have anticipated that it would be this long. In these sentences there is no ...
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58 views

Is “and” commutative?

I am looking at two answers to the question "write the equation represents the statement 'the quotient of x and y'". This expression can be translated to an algebraic statement as: "x/y". My ...
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47 views

Are these two sentences distinguishable on contextual grounds? [duplicate]

1) Let me see if I can find a match on tinder? 2) Let me see if I could find a match on tinder? For instance, in healthy banter with your friend, you tell him he's so ugly that no one would swipe ...
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20 views

Trump “can dish it out, but he can’t take it”? [duplicate]

In this critical article on US sanctions I can't understand the meaning of the phrase quoted from the journalist. As one journalist noted, Trump – who sanctioned Russian firms but then phoned Putin ...
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88 views

Could “cookbook” mean “usual”?

I am reading the following article: Nelson, T., Maxfield, S., & Kolb, D. (2009). Women entrepreneurs and venture capital: Managing the shadow negotiation. International Journal of Gender ...
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57 views

What does 'crab' mean when describing a person?

In the Netflix series Mindhunter there is a scene where a person is asked to give their opinion about a female colleague. They reply with 'she's a crab'. I am sure that this is meant in a negative way ...
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56 views

Preventing pronoun confusion

I have two people. Fred knows something about X. Jim is curious how much Fred knows. Fred has also made some wrong assumptions about X. In describing the scene, I wrote this: Perhaps Fred didn't ...
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1answer
50 views

How does this sound for native english speakers?

I left out the "I" ("I helped ...") in my last message which is quite common in colloquial german. (Ich habe heute eingekauft => Habe heute eingekauft). But reading this again, I think it might sound ...
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100 views

Is “doubly in the bubbly” equivalent of “the devil is in the details”

Is doubly in the bubbly equivalent of the devil is in the details? How? What is the cultural background?
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3answers
131 views

If you say “winter 1998”, is that too ambiguous?

Ocarina of Time was released in the winter of 1998. (The actual release date was around/just before Christmas time.) However, it's very much cold and "wintery" in January, February and sometimes/...
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46 views

The meaning of divine in this context

From Salman Rushdie "Shame" A fish seeks, in a fishhook, a kind of confidence, the hook communicating its inevitability to fish-lips. Angling is a battle of wits; the thoughts of the fishermen pass ...
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58 views

Is there any phrase where corporate means “shared by all” rather than “of corporation”?

According to Oxford dictionary, corporate has a sense of "shared by all members of a group" and the dictionary gives an example "corporate responsibility’. However, I've found that when people see the ...
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3answers
126 views

Meaning of Noam Chomsky's Comment about Trump

I am not an American and English is not my language, due to my lack of knowledge in English and cultural difference I am confused about a comment made by Noam Chomsky, he said that, "Trump has been ...
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1answer
39 views

Is it possible at all to you both with or?

Is it possible to say: "I am open to BOTH MSc OR Ph.D. positions."? As I can not possibly have both positions at the same time, using and here seemed a little bit strange to me. I may say "I am ...
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33 views

When to use “cite” or “citation”?

Is there a difference in choosing whether to use "cite" or "citation"? For example, when performing a bibliographic search or a bibliometric study, one finds "citations per year", "cites per document",...
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1answer
110 views

What does the phrase 'odiously precocious' mean in the following passage?

'He thought of the half-caste children in Apia. They had an unhealthy look, sallow and pale, and they were odiously precocious' In my point of view it simply means that the children have so many ...
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1answer
76 views

What is the reason of defining multiple meanings of a single word? [closed]

For example: the word - "legend" has below two meanings as a noun. a traditional story sometimes popularly regarded as historical but unauthenticated. an extremely famous or notorious person, ...
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2answers
51 views

Structural ambiguity [closed]

This sentence is supposed to be ambiguous. However I cannot see the ambiguity. "We heard Mr. Vaughn’s voice on the loudspeaker" My interpretation is: We: SUBJECT Mr. Vaughn's voice: DO On the ...
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52 views

Does this poetic device have a name

Consider this couplet (it's just an example) The driver drove home safely. The Traveller returned home. The driver drove home. Safely, the Traveller returned home. If the placement of the ...
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3answers
123 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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2answers
63 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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2answers
468 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
94 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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877 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 Lan­guage ...
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74 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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148 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
250 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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59 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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2answers
114 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
105 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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39 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
617 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
57 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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118 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
2k 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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4answers
200 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
493 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
253 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
264 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
185 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
259 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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81 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
679 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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55 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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391 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: ...
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1answer
52 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
210 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
122 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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