Adverb clause modifier is ambiguous?

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tiger8

New Member
Cantonese
Sentence: I want to review this when you arrive.

Is the when-clause modifying the verb 'want' or the infinitive phrase 'to review'.

Fix 1: When you arrive, I want to review this. [Now it is clear that the when-clause modifies 'want']

But what if I want the when-clause to modify the infinitive phrase?
 
  • xiaolijie

    Senior Member
    UK
    English (UK)
    I think "Fix 1" is not correct.
    The "want" here refers to your wish now, the moment of speaking and what you want is "the review to be done when you arrive." I don't see any ambiguity in "I want to review this when you arrive."
     

    tiger8

    New Member
    Cantonese
    Thanks for the response.

    What if I change the sentence to:
    I want a dollar when you arrive.

    or even to:
    I want to review when you arrive.

    Both of these sentences are in the pattern [Independent Clause] [Dependent Clause]. And the independent clause in both sentences follows the S-V-O pattern. However, in sentence 1 it is clear that the when-clause modifies 'want' whereas sentence 2 is ambiguous in terms of what the when-clause is modifying.

    Thanks.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    In I want to review this when you arrive. it seems to me that the when-clause is modifying 'to review'

    Fix 1: When you arrive, I want to review this. [Now it is clear that the when-clause modifies 'want']
    I may be wrong, but I think it still modifies 'to review'. The speaker's 'wanting' will not start when the other person arrives. The speaker's 'wanting' is already there.

    The "I want" simply introduces the idea of reviewing:

    I want to review this when you arrive. = I want {to review this when you arrive.} so we can see the whole idea of what the speaker wants.

    So concentrating on the {to review this when you arrive.} 'this' is the object of 'to review' and {when you arrive} is adverbial to 'to review'.

    It is possible to understand that in "I will want to review this when you arrive." that the 'wanting' will only start to arise upon the other person's arrival. However, looked at logically, the speaker's desire 'to review this' is already there and will be implemented when the opportunity arises; the speaker then goes on to explain the circumstances under which the opportunity will be possible.

    A problem may be that 'to want' has an implication of the future, "I want a Ferrari." = At sometime in the future, I would like to own a Ferrari."
     

    tiger8

    New Member
    Cantonese
    Thanks for the reply.

    In general, if there is an adverbial clause after an independent clause, should I assume that it modifies the verb in the IC?
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    I don't think that the postition of the clauses makes any difference.

    Quickly, he took out his knife .
    He took out his knife quickly
     
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