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Thread: ambiguity

  1. #1
    navi tasan is offline Key Member
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    Default ambiguity

    Aren't sentences 1 and 2 ambiguous:

    1-I have ten students who are going to take the test. I don't know whether two of them will pass or not.

    FIRST POSSIBLE MEANING: I don't know if even two of them will pass or not. Maybe only one or none will pass.
    SECOND POSSIBLE MEANING: I know that eight will pass, but as regards the two others, I can't tell. I have two specific students in mind and think they might fail.


    -------------------------------------------------------

    1-I have ten students who are going to take the test. I don't know whether some of them will pass or not.

    FIRST POSSIBLE MEANING: I don't know if any of them will pass or not. Maybe none will pass. I am hoping that some would pass but am not sure that will happen.
    SECOND POSSIBLE MEANING: I know that some of them will pass, but as regards the others, I can't tell. I have some specific students in mind and think they might fail. As regards some of my students, I can't tell whether they'll pass or not.

  2. #2
    crclee is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: ambiguity

    Quote Originally Posted by navi tasan View Post
    Aren't sentences 1 and 2 ambiguous:

    1-I have ten students who are going to take the test. I don't know whether two of them will pass or not.

    FIRST POSSIBLE MEANING: I don't know if even two of them will pass or not. Maybe only one or none will pass.
    SECOND POSSIBLE MEANING: I know that eight will pass, but as regards the two others, I can't tell. I have two specific students in mind and think they might fail.
    -------------------------------------------------------
    1-I have ten students who are going to take the test. I don't know whether some of them will pass or not.

    FIRST POSSIBLE MEANING: I don't know if any of them will pass or not. Maybe none will pass. I am hoping that some would pass but am not sure that will happen.
    SECOND POSSIBLE MEANING: I know that some of them will pass, but as regards the others, I can't tell. I have some specific students in mind and think they might fail. As regards some of my students, I can't tell whether they'll pass or not.
    Hi

    For me, both of the second possible meanings are correct and there is little or no ambiguity.

    Your own explanation for the first sentence shows how to make the first possible meaning clear: add "even".

    I don't know whether even two of them...

    For the second sentence, the use of "some" in a negative sentence like this strongly indicates that the second possible meaning is the only natural one. If you wanted to make the first possible meaning clear, you would need to substitute "any" for "some" (as you already suggested):

    I don't know whether any of them...

    I hope this helps.

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