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    • Join Date: Oct 2007
    • Posts: 13
    #1

    Some ambiguous sentences

    Hello, everyone.
    Could you help me paraphrase the following sentences so as to illustrate why they are ambiguous?
    In the film, Pat was a witch.
    He promised me to come next week.
    I found something interesting on the Internet.
    I racked my brain to think over the ambiguity in them, but failed. I hope you could give me some inspiration. And I wonder if they seem just fine to you at first sight. Thank you very much.


    • Join Date: Nov 2007
    • Posts: 5,409
    #2

    Re: Some ambiguous sentences

    I'm not sure about the paraphrasing, but in looking for possible ambiguity:

    ⑴ In the film, Pat was a witch.
    the character of Pat is a witch.
    We would know that Pat is female because she is termed a 'witch'. If his name was Patrick, he would be termed a warlock. To say 'was a witch' is looking at the movie from your viewpoint having seen the movie. In the actual movie, she is/Pat plays (present tense) a witch. Surely it can't be that Pat could be the name of the actor, and therefore isn't a witch, but plays the part of a witch??


    ⑵ He promised me to come next week.

    The sentence is grammatically incorrect and should be
    He promised me he would come next week.
    ((Otherwise, it would be, "He promised to come next week" and the relative pronoun would have to be omitted))
    I can't see anything ambiguous.

    ⑶ I found something interesting on the Internet.
    This is what any native speaker would say. The only other possibility would be, I found something interesting on/about the Internet in a book I'm reading

    Please - please - when you find out what seems so glaringly obvious to the person who set this task, please tell us by adding it to this post!
    Last edited by David L.; 21-Dec-2007 at 08:41.

  1. rewboss's Avatar

    • Join Date: Feb 2006
    • Posts: 1,552
    #3

    Re: Some ambiguous sentences

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    If his name was Patrick, he would be termed a warlock.
    No, not necessarily. A "witch" is one who practices witchcraft, irrespective of whether male or female (in fact, in Old English, a "wicca" was a male witch, while a female witch was a "wicce").

    I think the idea that witches are female probably comes from a document called the Malleus Maleficarum of 1486, a handbook for witch-hunters, which states that women in general are naturally disposed towards witchcraft. In the witch-hunts of the Middle Ages, about 20% of people executed for witchcraft were men; in Iceland, however, 90% of those accused were men.

    The term "warlock" can sometimes be used as an alternative word for a male witch. Modern Wiccans, however, use the word (which means "one who breaks an oath") to describe specifically a Wiccan who has been banished from a coven.


    • Join Date: Oct 2007
    • Posts: 13
    #4

    Re: Some ambiguous sentences

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    I'm not sure about the paraphrasing, but in looking for possible ambiguity:

    ⑴ In the film, Pat was a witch.
    the character of Pat is a witch.
    We would know that Pat is female because she is termed a 'witch'. If his name was Patrick, he would be termed a warlock. To say 'was a witch' is looking at the movie from your viewpoint having seen the movie. In the actual movie, she is/Pat plays (present tense) a witch. Surely it can't be that Pat could be the name of the actor, and therefore isn't a witch, but plays the part of a witch??


    ⑵ He promised me to come next week.

    The sentence is grammatically incorrect and should be
    He promised me he would come next week.
    ((Otherwise, it would be, "He promised to come next week" and the relative pronoun would have to be omitted))
    I can't see anything ambiguous.

    ⑶ I found something interesting on the Internet.
    This is what any native speaker would say. The only other possibility would be, I found something interesting on/about the Internet in a book I'm reading

    Please - please - when you find out what seems so glaringly obvious to the person who set this task, please tell us by adding it to this post!
    Hi, David. If I remember it correctly, you’ve answered my several other posts, many thanks. I posted the same thread in another forum, and someone suggested that Sentence 2 might be read as "He promised that I would come next week." I have had the same doubt as him, only not sure, for I consulted a dictionary and found that it the verb “promise” does not seem to have the usage of acting as a causative. Actually, this task appears in an exam paper for applying for admission to a postgraduate college which I hope to enter. I asked for my teacher for help, and he was not sure about the answer either.


    • Join Date: Nov 2007
    • Posts: 5,409
    #5

    Re: Some ambiguous sentences

    "He promised that I would come next week."

    This would mean something totally different than the original sentence, as opposed to clearing up an ambiguity: it means that he made a promise to somebody else (not you), but on your behalf, that you would be coming to/atttending something or other the next week.

    Grossly unfair exam question, methinks ((verb (past tense, methought) archaic and used for humorous effect.))

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