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

    Isn't this sentence ambiguous:
    1-John or Jim goes there every day.

    I think it could mean.
    1a-Every day, either John or Jim goes there. (Some days it is John and some days it is Jim.)
    or:
    2-Either John goes there every day or Jim goes there every day, (The same guy goes there every day, but I don't know which one of the two).

    I think some people (may-be most people) say "go" instead of "goes". I wonder if that is correct according to traditional grammar, and I wonder if one could use the two for˛s to distinguish between the meanings.

  2. #2
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    Default either...or

    If we add the word "Either" to the sentence, we get

    "Either John or Jim goes there every day"

    which means that one person, not both, goes there every day.

    If we omit the word "Either" from the sentence, we get

    "John or Joe goes there every day"

    which means that one person, not both, goes there every day. The same meaning as above.

    "Either...or" is a set called a correlative conjunction. We can omit "Either" from the set without changing the function of "Either...or". For example:

    Sam: Does anyone go to the gym across the street?
    Pat: John or Joe (I'm not sure which guy) goes there every day.

    We could also say that "It's" and "that/who" have been omitted as well:

    Pat: It's (either) John or Jim that/who goes there every day.

    But those omissions do not change the function of "or".

    I think some people (may-be most people) say "go" instead of "goes". I wonder if that is correct according to traditional grammar, ...
    Well, "or" is not like "and".

    "and" is a coordinating conjunction. It joins two like elements into one element.

    "or" is a correlative conjunction. It gives us a choice of picking one phrase or the other, not both.

    Unlike "and", "or" has nothing to do with subject-verb agreement. It's the word/phrase closest to the verb that determine number agreement. For example,

    1. (Either) John or Jim is coming to the party.
    2. It's (either) the bananas or the oranges that are on sale today.
    3. (Either) your father or your sisters are going to have to drive me to work.

  3. #3
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default

    There are times when 'or' can include the meaning 'and'. It can be inclusive or exclusive:

    The free pass is available to pensioners and the disabled.

    It would be unlikely that this pass would not be available to a disabled pensioner. (I got this example from another forum where they're discussing the same issue). )

  4. #4
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default

    There are times when 'or' can include the meaning 'and'. It can be inclusive or exclusive:

    The candidate for the job will have a degree in engineering or three years' experience.

    Would this exclude the candidate who had both? I think not. (I got this example from another forum where they're discussing the same issue). )

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    Default

    pragmatics


    Great addition!

  6. #6
    RonBee's Avatar
    RonBee is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: ambiguous

    Quote Originally Posted by navi tasan
    Isn't this sentence ambiguous:
    1-John or Jim goes there every day.
    I really don't think the sentence is ambiguous. It seems fairly clear to me. (Casiopea provided the explanation, bless her heart.)

    :wink:

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