both your cars

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both your cars

Post by azz » Sat Sep 25, 2021 12:56 pm

a. Both your cars are in good condition.

Can't this sentence have three meanings?

1. The two cars you (thou) possess are in good condition.
2. Each of you two people has a car and both cars are in good condition.
3. Each of you two people have one or more cars and all of your cars are in good condition.

Many thanks.
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Re: both your cars

Post by Phil White » Sat Sep 25, 2021 1:36 pm

If you are speaking to one person who has two cars that are both in good condition, then meaning 1 (probably) applies.
If you are speaking to two people, each of whom has one car, meaning 2 (probably) applies.

If, however, you are talking to two people who have or may have more than one car, making a total of more than two cars, a formulation such as this with "both" is at best entirely misleading.

"You both keep (all/both) your cars in good condition."

I don't believe that people would naturally assume that "both" referred to the people rather than the cars in your original formulation.
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Re: both your cars

Post by Bobinwales » Sat Sep 25, 2021 2:41 pm

Was "thou" a typing error?
If it wasn't put it on your list of English words that you know the meaning of but never, ever use.
It is not so much old fashioned as historical.
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Re: both your cars

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Sep 25, 2021 2:52 pm

Bobinwales wrote: Sat Sep 25, 2021 2:41 pm Was "thou" a typing error?
I suspect the intention was to clarify that the "you" refers to an individual rather than two people collectively.
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Re: both your cars

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Sep 25, 2021 3:01 pm

This posting highlights the kind of problem that arises when too much meaning is expected (or intended) to be carried by grammatical structures alone.

As Phil implies, the pragmatics of the situation comprise part of the meaning. It is the failure to take this into account that gives rise to so many of the ambiguous conundrums presented here.

In real life, we rarely start with an ambiguous sentence whose intended meaning we need to extract.

More usually, the situation being discussed is a given. Any ambiguity in the grammar is resolved by the extralinguistic information which the person(s) being addressed already possesses. To that extent, the focus on parsing ambiguous sentences turns otherwise straightforward situations on their head.

In the case in point, both the number of cars being discussed and who each car belongs to are very likely already known to all the parties concerned.

Any ambiguity not resolved by this prior knowledge will be resolved by body language, gesture and tone of voice.
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Re: both your cars

Post by Phil White » Sat Sep 25, 2021 3:04 pm

Bobinwales wrote: Sat Sep 25, 2021 2:41 pm It is not so much old fashioned as historical.
I wouldna be sayin' that round Barnsley way if tha values thee life.

Or indeed in some parts of Lancashire, where the distinction between the familiar singular form "tha" (thou) and the polite form "you" is still upheld: "Don't thee me, tha. I's you to tha."
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Re: both your cars

Post by Phil White » Sat Sep 25, 2021 3:12 pm

I seem to remember mentioning on here before that I grew up, having been looked after for much of my early life by my Lancashire-born grandmam, thinking that my name was "daft bugger". For some reason, her favourite phrase when addressing me was "Eee, tha daft bugger".
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Re: both your cars

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Sep 25, 2021 3:15 pm

Phil White wrote: Sat Sep 25, 2021 3:12 pm I seem to remember mentioning on here before that I grew up, having been looked after for much of my early life by my Lancashire-born grandmam, thinking that my name was "daft bugger". For some reason, her favourite phrase when addressing me was "Eee, tha daft bugger".
That's better than the situation of the young woman I once heard explaining that for the first six years of her life she thought her name was “Oy!", because that was how her father habitually addressed her.
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