didn't like him for

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didn't like him for

Post by azz » Sun Sep 15, 2019 4:38 am

a. I didn't like him for talking curtly to my husband.

Can't that sentence mean two things?
1. I didn't like him and the reason was that he talked curtly to my husband.
2. It wasn't because he talked curtly to my husband that I liked him.

I think (a) is ambiguous, but if a comma is placed before 'for' then it would only have meaning (1). That's my impression, but I am not sure.

Many thanks.
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Re: didn't like him for

Post by Bobinwales » Sun Sep 15, 2019 9:59 pm

I didn't like him for talking curtly to my husband.
Can only mean, "I didn't like him and the reason was that he talked curtly to my husband".

It could also mean that she didn't like it that he spoke curtly, but that had no relevance to how she felt about him otherwise.
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Re: didn't like him for

Post by Phil White » Mon Sep 16, 2019 9:18 pm

We are back to what I described in one of your recent posts as Schrödinger's cat.

Of course your meaning 2 is possible:
"I didn't like him for talking curtly to my husband. I liked him for his curly hair."

The sentence is only ambiguous in a purely theoretical world. The moment a native speaker comes up with such a sentence in a real life dialogue, it is not ambiguous.

It is equally meaningless to ask whether "fast" is ambiguous. In a theoretical world of dictionaries, of course it is. In the real world of natural discourse, it isn't:
  • He made the boat fast on the jetty.
  • He made the boat fast by fitting a bigger engine.
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Re: didn't like him for

Post by trolley » Tue Sep 17, 2019 1:29 am

It could also mean that you are seeking someone to talk curtly to your husband but you didn't like that guy for the job. Of course, as others have stated, no one is actually going to take that sentence to mean anything other than your first definition. You'd need to perform some mental gymnastics to interpret that as ambiguous.
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