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    #1

    Is 'comma' optional and meaning of 'little'

    The humble onion has many uses(,) little known to people.

    1, Is a comma needed after 'uses'?

    2. Does 'little known' means having little or no knowledge?

    Thanks.

  1. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Is 'comma' optional and meaning of 'little'

    Quote Originally Posted by Tan Elaine View Post
    The humble onion has many uses(,) little known to people.

    1, Is a comma needed after 'uses'?

    2. Does 'little known' means having little or no knowledge?

    Thanks.
    1. Yes, the comma is needed (although I'm not really sure of the meaning of the sentence).

    2. "Little known" means something that is only known by a few people, not known by the majority.

    As far as the actual sentence is concerned, I'm not sure if it means:

    The humble onion has many uses; this fact is little known.
    OR
    The humble onion has many uses; few of those uses are known to people.

    I'd be interested to know how other native speakers interpreted the original sentence.

  2. 5jj's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Is 'comma' optional and meaning of 'little'

    In one reading, the comma should be omitted: The humble onion has many uses (that are) little known to people (in addition to the uses that are well known).

  3. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Is 'comma' optional and meaning of 'little'

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    In one reading, the comma should be omitted: The humble onion has many uses (that are) little known to people (in addition to the uses that are well known).
    Good point. I hadn't thought of that interpretation when I typed the first sentence of my answer to the question.

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    #5

    Re: Is 'comma' optional and meaning of 'little'

    I, too, detected the ambiguity. Some may even argue that the comma would help distinguish between the meanings.

    Without a comma, it seems to link "uses" more strongly with "little known to people," implying that there are some uses of the onion that are not commonly known. (And conversely, that there are some uses that are well known.)

    With the comma, it seems to make the "little known..." phrase modify the entire first phrase.

  4. 5jj's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Is 'comma' optional and meaning of 'little'

    The main point that seems to have emerged from this is that the sentence as it stands is clearly ambiguous. (Clearly ambiguous?). It needs to be re-cast to bring out the intended meaning.

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