1) He is accustomed to swearing.

Is that sentence ambiguous?

a) He is in the habit of swearing.

b) He is used to hearing people swear.

How about:

2) He is accustomed to swearing at linguists.

I think sense "a" is the one that more readily comes to mind, but he might be in a select company that swear furiously at linguists constantly and he is merrily accustomed to such swearing.

 

Gratefully,

Navi

Last edited by navi
Original Post
@navi posted:

1) He is accustomed to swearing.

Is that sentence ambiguous?

a) He is in the habit of swearing.
b) He is used to hearing people swear.

Hello, Navi—Yes, (1) is ambiguous in that way. Nice observation. On reading (b), "swearing" is a gerund, i.e., a noun. (Compare: "He has grown accustomed to the swearing in that film, he has seen it so many times.") The sentence says that swearing is something to which he is accustomed.

On reading (a), "swearing" is a verb. (Compare: "He is accustomed to swear.") "Swearing" is not a true gerund on this interpretation. It could even be modified by an adverb ("He is accustomed to swearing vociferously") or given a direct object ("He is accustomed to swearing allegiance to the cause").

@navi posted:
How about:

2) He is accustomed to swearing at linguists.

I think sense "a" is the one that more readily comes to mind, but he might be in a select company that swear furiously at linguists constantly and he is merrily accustomed to such swearing.

In theory, the (b)-type (true gerund) reading might be possible for (2), Navi; however, one has to go into contortions to try to hear it that way, and even then that reading is iffy at best.

Last edited by David, Moderator

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