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    #1

    what they have in common

    1) What these two men have in common is beautiful houses.
    2) What these two men have in common are beautiful houses.
    3) What these two men have in common is a beautiful house.


    The intended meaning is that both of them own a beautiful house or beautiful houses. They don't share a house.

    Which can be used if each has only one house?
    Which can be used if each has more than one house?


    Gratefully,
    Navi

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    #2

    Re: what they have in common

    3) is the only one that might imply that they live in the same house; nevertheless many would assume otherwise.

    I can't sense a semantic difference between 1) and 2). There's nothing that gives away the number of houses.

    If there are any assumptions about the number of houses each man has, I think they will come from socio-cultural expectations. In my world, one man = one house, but to others, this may be different.

  1. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: what they have in common

    It's a hard question to answer, I think because the phrasing is a little off.

    It would be more natural to say something like: What they have in common is that they both own beautiful houses.

    That doesn't tell us how many each of them owns, but it doesn't need to.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

  2. teechar's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: what they have in common

    I would use #1, and I would add "their" before "is".
    I would not use #2 since "what" singular given we are only listing one thing (having a beautiful house/houses).
    I would not use #3 in the above context.

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    #5

    Re: what they have in common

    When you write a sentence that requires analysis to understand it, your time will be better spent writing a new sentence than guessing how your reader will understand the questionable one.
    I am not a teacher.

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    #6

    Re: what they have in common

    Thank you all very much,

    GoesStation, if I ever write in English, I do my best to be as clear as possible. But I generally do not write in English. I am usually in the position of
    the reader and I do sometimes come across some sentences that are difficult to understand.

    Gratefully,
    Navi.
    Last edited by teechar; 20-Mar-2017 at 11:32. Reason: typo

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    #7

    Re: what they have in common

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    When you write a sentence that requires analysis to understand it, your time will be better spent writing a new sentence than guessing how your reader will understand the questionable one.
    If it weren't ambiguous, unclear or hard to decide, it wouldn't be a navi sentence.

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    #8

    Re: what they have in common

    Thank you very much, Tdol,

    I like to explore the twilight zone of the English language.

    Respectfully,
    Navi.

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    #9

    Re: what they have in common

    You're the Alfred Hitchcock of the forum's Twilight Zone.

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    #10

    Re: what they have in common

    Rod Serling is not amused.
    I am not a teacher.

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