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Thread: when I went

  1. #1
    navi tasan is offline Key Member
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    Default when I went

    1-When I went to his office, he seemed to be happy.

    Can't this sentence mean two things:

    a-In the days when I went to his office, he seemed to be happy. (as in: When I worked for him, he seemed to be happy.)


    b-When I saw him in his office, he seemed to be happy.

    Gratefully,
    Navi.

  2. #2
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: when I went

    Yes. Context will normally make the difference in meaning clear.

    Despite what many people who ask questions here seem to believe (I am not referring to you, navi) one sentence on its own often gives insufficient context for us to be able to say that only one interpretation is possible. Before anybody writes in to say that meaning #a would be clearer if 'whenever' had been used instead of 'when', or 'used to go' instead of 'went', I'll just say that it would - but the meaning you suggested is possible with the original words.

  3. #3
    MikeNewYork's Avatar
    MikeNewYork is online now VIP Member
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    Default Re: when I went

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    Yes. Context will normally make the difference in meaning clear.

    Despite what many people who ask questions here seem to believe (I am not referring to you, navi) one sentence on its own often gives insufficient context for us to be able to say that only one interpretation is possible. Before anybody writes in to say that meaning #a would be clearer if 'whenever' had been used instead of 'when', or 'used to go' instead of 'went', I'll just say that it would - but the meaning you suggested is possible with the original words.
    You just said a "mouthful". There can subtle differences when it comes to word/phrase choices. But they are not helpful unless both sender and receiver understand and agree about the differences.

  4. #4
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    engee30 is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: when I went

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    Yes. Context will normally make the difference in meaning clear.
    Context, context. My kingdom for context.
    Sometimes, even one single word may clarify the meaning, like the adverb always:
    When I went to his office, he always seemed to be happy.

  5. #5
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: when I went

    Quote Originally Posted by engee30 View Post
    Context, context. My kingdom for context.
    Not in Navi's puzzle threads.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: when I went

    Yes, you could say we need a Sherlock Holmes to come to our rescue.
    Obviously, I'm joking. Looks like Navi has a 'tendency' to stumble across things that he finds tough to figure, and makes it even tougher by not providing enough context. I can't say I don't like it that way though. It makes, at least, my mind work harder which is quite stimulating for my ageing brains.

  7. #7
    navi tasan is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: when I went

    Thank you all very very much.

    I often want to see if a syntactic structure is ambiguous or not. If I provide context, the ambiguity will be lost.
    There cannot be a context in the twilight zone of language...

    Gratefully,
    Navi.

  8. #8
    emsr2d2's Avatar
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    Default Re: when I went

    Quote Originally Posted by navi tasan View Post
    Thank you all very very much.

    I often want to see if a syntactic structure is ambiguous or not. If I provide context, the ambiguity will be lost.
    There cannot be a context in the twilight zone of language...

    Gratefully,
    Navi.
    But who reads standalone sentences with no context? You could say that just about any sentence read in isolation could be ambiguous or nonsensical. It doesn't matter if the syntactic structure is ambiguous. You are not going to find that sentence on its own so you will always have the context to help you. No offence, but it seems like a waste of time to me.
    Remember - correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing make posts much easier to read.

  9. #9
    navi tasan is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: when I went

    Thank you very much emsr2d2,

    I used to translate stuff at one point in my life. I felt more comfortable when I knew if something was ambiguous or not. When you are reading or translating literary texts, you are better off when you know that there is ambiguity in a sentence. Also, in order to understand humour, you have to know when a sentence is ambiguous. You can never put too much ambiguity in a much-repeated joke...

    Respectfully,
    Navi.

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