I saw the burglar climbing over the fence [interpretation]

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Senior Member


- I saw the burglar climbing over the fence. (I saw it as the burglar was climbing over the fence.) That is, it was the burglar who was climbing over the fence, according to the web site.

However, can't I interpret this sentence in different way? For instance:

Let's assume that there is a burgler, and I am trying to see him. He is on the top of a house. This is why I cannot see him clearly. Finally, I decide to climb over a fence.

- I saw the burglar climbing over the fence.

Does it imply that ' I climbed the fence and saw him''? P.S. I also consider that it could be better if I put a comma after 'burglar'. Namely:

- I saw the burglar, climbing over the fence. [Climbing over the fence, I saw the burglar. = It could be better, I am not that sure]

This is my understanding. What do you think. I feel a little bit confused.

  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    You really need to go through mental contortions to come up with other meanings for "I saw the burglar climbing over the fence", Boggiee.

    If you wanted your listener to understand some other meaning, you would do well to punctuate or phrase the sentence differently: Climbing over the fence, I saw the burglar. I saw the burglar as both of us were climbing over the fence.


    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    It depends on the context. Suppose I were to say "I saw the moon sitting on my balcony." This has exactly the same structure. However, we know that the moon doesn't sit on my balcony, so we interpret that as meaning that I was sitting there when I saw the moon.

    There is usually no real possibility of confusion. (In the original sentence here, we associate burglars with climbing over fences, but most of us don't do that much ourselves.) If there is, there are many ways to rephrase such sentences to avoid the problem.
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