on-and-off

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on-and-off

Post by navi » Fri May 12, 2017 10:18 am

Are these sentences correct:

1) I talked to your on-and-off junkie boyfriend.
2) I talked to your junkie on-and-off boyfriend.

3) I talked to that on-and-off junkie boyfriend of yours.
4) I talked to that junkie on-and-off boyfriend of yours.

In which case:
a) the fellow was an on-and-off junkie and 'your boyfriend'
and in which case:
b) He was 'your on-and-off' boyfriend and a junkie

I think '1' and '3' are ambiguous and '2' and '4' correspond to 'b', but if I heard '1' and '3', I'd assume they meant 'b'.

Gratefully,
Navi.
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Re: on-and-off

Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri May 12, 2017 4:13 pm

My perception agrees with yours.
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Re: on-and-off

Post by BonnieL » Sat May 13, 2017 1:04 am

Different question. I'm more used to off and on rather than on and off. Is this perhaps a regional thing? Same for hyphens.
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Re: on-and-off

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat May 13, 2017 8:01 pm

Good observation, Bonnie. I would understand it the same whichever way round it was put, but I would say it your way.

I use hyphens to make it clear that "off-and-on" is to be interpreted as a single unit (specifically, as a compound adjective) rather than be parsed in terms of its individual elements. It's kinder to the reader not to make them have to reread a sentence in order to understand it the way it was intended to be understood.
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End of topic.
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