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  1. Key Member
    Academic
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Armenian
      • Home Country:
      • Iran
      • Current Location:
      • United States

    • Join Date: Nov 2002
    • Posts: 2,612
    #1

    was I not supposed to...

    1) Was I not supposed to help him with his homework?

    Isn't that sentence ambiguous?

    I think it could mean two things:

    a) Wasn't I supposed to help him with his homework? (I thought I was. Well, I am happy that I did anyway. He needed it.)
    b) Was I supposed not to help him with his homework? (I am sorry that I did. I made a bad mistake.)

    'a' and 'b' seem unambiguous to me.

    Gratefully,
    Navi.

  2. teechar's Avatar
    Moderator
    English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Iraq
      • Current Location:
      • Iraq

    • Join Date: Feb 2015
    • Posts: 9,201
    #2

    Re: was I not supposed to...

    Without further context, it's more likely to imply "b."

  3. Moderator
    Interested in Language
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      • Native Language:
      • American English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States

    • Join Date: Dec 2015
    • Posts: 15,042
    #3

    Re: was I not supposed to...

    This one is genuinely ambiguous without context. Intonation would make it clear in speech.
    I am not a teacher.

  4. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
    English Teacher
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      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
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      • Japan

    • Join Date: Nov 2002
    • Posts: 67,244
    #4

    Re: was I not supposed to...

    I agree about the intonation- there is no way to me of knowing how the speaker feels without knowing how they said it.

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