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a portly man and wife Options
navi
Posted: Thursday, March 26, 2020 11:46:15 PM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 5/16/2014
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1) A portly man and woman walked into the room.
2) A portly husband and wife walked into the room.

Can we tell for sure that the woman and the wife were portly?
In '1' were the man and woman necessarily together? Did they walk in at the same time?

Gratefully,
Navi

Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Friday, March 27, 2020 12:02:49 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/12/2011
Posts: 33,722
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Location: Livingston, Scotland, United Kingdom
The sentences do not give the data you ask, clearly.

Because you do not use a second determiner, I would assume that both man and wife/woman are "portly".

"A portly man and wife . . ."
- this is "man and wife" - a couple - modified by "portly" and with "a" as the article.

"A portly man and his wife . . ."
- these are "portly man" and "wife" - a couple - the implication is that they came in together. No mention is made of his wife's size.

"A portly man and woman . . ."
- this is "man and woman" - a pair/group - modified by "portly" and with "a" as the article. One would assume that they were together, or at least came through the door at the same time. It's implied, but not stated specifically.

"A portly man and a woman . . ."
- these are two individuals. He is portly, but we don't know about her. It is not implied that they are together or separate. It's just not mentioned either way.

tautophile
Posted: Friday, March 27, 2020 12:56:03 AM
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Joined: 3/14/2018
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Neurons: 8,471
If I read sentence (1) (A portly man and woman walked into the room), I would assume that the two people walked into the room, almost certainly together, and that the man was certainly portly, and the woman probably was portly too (but we don't know for sure). We don't know what their relationship is. They might strangers to one another, or acquainted, or even married to one another [see sentence (2)]. If the sentence began "A portly man and a woman", I would assume that the woman was not portly.

If I read sentence (2) (A portly husband and wife walked into the room.), I would assume the same as for sentence (1) except that I could confidently assume that the two people were a man and his wife (or a woman and her husband), and not a married man and a married woman who were spouses of other people.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Friday, March 27, 2020 1:20:42 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/12/2011
Posts: 33,722
Neurons: 216,320
Location: Livingston, Scotland, United Kingdom
tautophile wrote:
not a married man and a married woman who were spouses of other people.

I didn't even think of that idea!
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