if you don't like any of them

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if you don't like any of them

Post by navi » Tue Jan 16, 2018 1:01 pm

1) If you don't like any of these photos, don't buy them.

I think '1' is ambiguous:
a) If you don't like any of these photos, don't buy these photos... don't buy
any of them.


b) If you don't like any of these photos, don't buy those you don't like.


Could one avoid ambiguity by saying:
2) If you don't like any of these photos, don't buy it.

I think '2' would mean don't buy the photo or the photos you don't like.


Gratefully,
Navi
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Re: if you don't like any of them

Post by Bobinwales » Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:14 pm

Have a look at these photographs. You can buy the ones you like, but forget about the ones you don't.
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Bob in Wales

Re: if you don't like any of them

Post by Phil White » Wed Jan 17, 2018 12:10 pm

Yes, it is ambiguous. But as so often, the resolution lies in the pragmatics of the utterance, not in the syntax. If the context is an auction, where the photos are being sold as a single lot, there is no ambiguity. If it is known that the photos are available individually, there is no ambiguity. If there is still any ambiguity after taking the macro-context into account, the listener would request clarification. That's how communication works. We do not have to avoid or resolve every ambiguity.

Precision in language (or thought) would lead to a frightfully dull world if it were a widespread phenomenon.
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Re: if you don't like any of them

Post by navi » Wed Jan 17, 2018 9:34 pm

Thank you both very much,

I don't really have a problem with ambiguity. It is inevitable. Context almost always clarifies things. I like to be able to tell if a sentence is ambiguous though. That is all. Ambiguity interests me and does at times get at my nerves, but I am aware of the fact that it cannot be avoided. It is part and parcel of natural languages and poetry makes great use of it, which is another reason for me to want to be able to detect it!

Would you say this sentence
2) If you don't like any of these photos, don't buy it.

works?

Would it make the situation clear?
Does it in any way imply that there is probably only one photo you might not like?

Gratefully,
Navi.
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Re: if you don't like any of them

Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Jan 17, 2018 10:37 pm

"If there's any particular photo you don't like, don't buy it".
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End of topic.
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