The ambiguity: John gave Mary and Sandy a fan magazine and a learned journal.

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min1127

Senior Member
Korean- Republic of Korea
Hello, everyone.

I would like to ask you a question if there is any ambiguity in the sentence below.

John gave Mary and Sandy a fan magazine and a learned journal.

Does the sentence can be interpreted in two ways as in (a) and (b)?

(a) John gave Mary a fan magazine and a learned journal, and John also gave Sandy a fan magazine and a learned journal.
(b) John gave Mary a fan magazine, and John gave Sandy a learned journal.

The intention was to make clear, non-ambiguous sentence "John gave Mary a fan magazine, and John gave Sandy a learned journal."

So I want to ask you if the italicized sentence means both (a) and (b).
 
  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    You could not possibly infer (b) from the sentence. The sentence is ambiguous, but the second option is:
    (c) John gave Mary and Sandy one fan magazine and one learned journal to share between them.​
    This is the natural reading of the sentence, as meaning (a) would usually be made clear by adding "each".
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    John gave Mary and Sandy a fan magazine and a learned journal respectively.

    This means very specifically: John gave Mary a fan magazine, and John gave Sandy a learned journal.
     
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