Ambiguous sentences in English

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Ambiguous sentences in English with solutions to some of them.

  • I don't drink alcohol for religious reasons. I drink it for other reasons.
    • i ki'u tu'a lo lijda mi na pinxe lo xalka = Because of religious reasons I don't drink alcohol.
    • i mi na pinxe lo xalka ki'u tu'a lo lijda i ki'u lo drata ja'a go'i = I don't drink alcohol for religious reasons. I drink it for other reasons.
  • A logician is having a baby. His friend asks him, "Is it a boy or a girl?" The logician says, "Yes."
    • i xu lo nakni jonai lo fetsi i je'u = Is it male or female? - Yes.
    • i xu lo nakni ji lo fetsi i lo fetsi = Is it male or female? - Female.
  • My brother and I are getting married this summer.
    • i mi e lo bruna be mi co'a se spani ca lo bavlamji crisa = I am getting married this summer and my brother is getting married this summer.
    • i mi ce lo bruna be mi cu simxu lo ka se speni vau ca lo bavlamji crisa = My brother and I are getting married to each other this summer.
  • The man knocked on the front door and housekeeper Sarah Lim came down the stairs in a nightgown and opened it to let the visitor in.
    • Housekeeper Sarah Lim walked downstairs in her nightgown and opened the front door after the man knocked on it.
  • Mano met a woman with a wooden leg named Aminah.
    • i la manos pu penmi lo ninmu poi se tuple lo mudri gi'e se cmene zo aminax = Mano met a woman who had a wooden leg and had the name "Aminah".
    • i la manos pu penmi lo ninmu poi se tuple lo mudri poi se cmene zo aminax = Mano met a woman who had a wooden leg that had the name "Aminah".
  • The lady hit the man with an umbrella.
    • i le nobli ninmu pu darxi le nanmu sepi'o lo santa = The lady hit the man using an umbrella.
    • i le nobli ninmu pu darxi le nanmu pe ka'ai lo santa = The lady hit the man who had an umbrella.
  • They are looking for teachers of French, German and Japanese.
    • i le za'umei ca ca'o mitysisku lo ctuca be lo fraso e lo dotco e lo ponjo = They are looking for teachers of French, teachers of German and teachers of Japanese.
    • i le za'umei ca ca'o mitysisku lo ctuca be lo fraso jo'u lo dotco jo'u lo ponjo = They are looking for those who teach all of the three languages: French, German and Japanese.
  • Fred saw the plane flying over Zurich.
    • i la fred. pu viska lo vinji ca lo ka ca'o vofli ga'u la .Tsurix. = Fred saw a plane when he was flying over Zurich.
    • i la fred. pu viska lo vinji noi ca'o vofli ga'u la .Tsurix. = Fred saw a plane that was flying over Zurich.
  • Fred saw the mountains flying over Zurich.
    • i la fred. pu viska le za'u cmana ca lo ka ca'o vofli ga'u la .Tsurix. = Fred saw the mountains when he was flying over Zurich.
  • The police arrested the demonstrators because they committed violence.
    • lei pulji pu kavbu lo za'u pante i ki'u bo lo se go'i cu zukte lo vlile
  • The police arrested the demonstrators because they feared violence.
    • i lei pulji pu kavbu lo za'u pante i ki'u bo lo go'i cu terpa lo vlile
  • Mary saw the dog in the store window and wanted it.
    • i la .maris. pu viska le gerku pe le zarci canko gi'e djica tu'a gy. = Mary saw the dog in the store window and wanted that dog.
    • i la .maris. pu viska le gerku pe le zarci canko gi'e djica tu'a ri = Mary saw the dog in the store window and wanted that window.
  • Mary saw the dog in the store window and pressed her nose up against it.
  • Some children may not swim because they won't behave. May children who will go home?
  • A newspaper has an exclusive report about a country’s top general revisiting his troops on the battlefront after a briefing with his president. The headline says "General flies back to front". This sounds all right but it looks ambiguous, because the sentence can mean that the general was seated facing the rear of the aircraft during the flight to the war zone.
    • "General returns to war zone".
  • The peeping tom looked at the girl as she undressed and then saw three police officers watching.
    • The peeping tom was looking at the girl as she undressed, when he suddenly saw three police officers watching him.
  • The exhausted mountain climbers saw a row of emergency-rescue huts walking down the steep, snowy slopes.
    • As the exhausted mountain climbers walked down the steep, snowy slopes, they saw a row of emergency-rescue huts.
  • The safari guide pointed to the lion while the king of beasts sat with its pride and said: “What a beautiful sight!”
    • “What a beautiful sight,” said the safari guide, pointing to the lion while the king of beasts sat with its pride.
  • In 1999, there were 2000 accidents and in 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006.
    • In 1999, there were 2,000 accidents, and in 2001, 2,002; in 2003, 2,004; and in 2005, 2,006.
  • Travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth, the countryside attractions and views were simply spectacular.
    • The travellers enjoyed the countryside attractions and views while they were en route from KL to Butterworth.
  • The burglar watched the millionaire walk upstairs through the keyhole of the mansion door.
    • Through the keyhole of the mansion door, the burglar watched the millionaire walk upstairs.
  • Attorney: ALL your responses MUST be oral OK? What school did you go to? - Witness: Oral.
    • Attorney: ALL your responses MUST be "oral".
    • Attorney: ALL your responses MUST be oral.
  • He has married friends.
    • He has friends who are married.
    • He got married to some of his friends.
  • I'd like to watch a movie with my girlfriend. Can anyone recommend me a girlfriend?

Converting from ambiguity to vagueness

Note that the following example although considered syntactically ambiguous can be made explicitly vague:

i la fred pu viska lo vinji ca lo nu lo se xi vei mo'e zo'e no'a cu vofli ga'u la .Tsurix.
Fred saw the plane flying over Zurich.

It can be made more precise:

i la fred. pu viska lo vinji ca lo nu fy. vofli ga'u la .Tsurix.
Fred saw a plane when he was flying over Zurich.
i la fred. pu viska lo vinji ca lo nu vy. vofli ga'u la .Tsurix.
Fred saw a plane, which was flying over Zurich.
i la fred. pu viska le za'u cmana ca lo ka vofli ga'u la .Tsurix.
Fred saw the mountains when he was flying over Zurich.

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