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Thread: many/ambiguity

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

    A-Seeing many of these people will be painful for me.

    Can't this sentence mean two things:

    1-If I see many of them, I will suffer.
    2-There are many people here seeing each of whom will be painful for me.

    I think the structure is itself capable of being used in two contexts.

    B-Taking a lot of these pills will kill you.

    One would assume B to mean that if you take a lot of them you will die but it could also mean:

    C-A lot of these pills will kill you.
    (This one seems unambiguous to me.)

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: many/ambiguity

    A Yes, but the second strikes me as more logical and would be my default interpretation.
    B It would depend on what we're looking at- if we're standing in front of a shelf of jars, then C is logical, but if we have one jar, then the first interpretation is logical.

  3. #3
    navi tasan is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: many/ambiguity

    Thanks TDOL,

    But is C really unambiguous. I thought it was but I am not sure any more,

  4. #4
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    Default Re: many/ambiguity

    Quote Originally Posted by navi tasan View Post
    Thanks TDOL,

    But is C really unambiguous. I thought it was but I am not sure any more,
    Yes, the sentence is ambiguous, as Tdol implied. The context is necessary to disambiguate it.

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    navi tasan is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: many/ambiguity

    Thanks Raymott,

    At first I thought C was not ambiguous. I have another question here. Would you say:

    a-A lot of these pills is bad for you.
    or:
    b-A lot of those pills are bad for you.

    if the meaning is: It will be bad for you to take a lot of these pills.
    I think b could only have the other meaning (ie. there are a lot of these pills that are bad for you) but perhaps a doesn't sound right.

    Is this construction informal or could it be used in formal writing?

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    Raymott's Avatar
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    Default Re: many/ambiguity

    Quote Originally Posted by navi tasan View Post
    Thanks Raymott,

    At first I thought C was not ambiguous. I have another question here. Would you say:

    a-A lot of these pills is bad for you.
    or:
    b-A lot of those pills are bad for you.

    if the meaning is: It will be bad for you to take a lot of these pills.
    I think b could only have the other meaning (ie. there are a lot of these pills that are bad for you) but perhaps a doesn't sound right.

    Is this construction informal or could it be used in formal writing?
    a. could only be defended if a certain batch or lot of pills, say Lot 45367H was defective. You could say that lot of pills is bad for you.

    I think the importance of the context of "lot of pills" has been discussed.

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