Every man chased three deer going to the forest while eating oranges.

Every man chased three deer going to the forest, while eating oranges.

Does the comma greatly alter the meaning of the second sentence when compared with the first sentence?

Sorry about using such weird examples.Just to clarify, a man chased three deer each. I particularly want to know if inserting the comma changes the referent of "while eating oranges" or perhaps makes it more clear---or is it simply superfluous?


  • 1
    I thought this would have been a more suitable question for English.SE, but then I noticed you already asked this there and were redirected here. I'm happy to answer the question just so you don't keep getting "hot potato"d from one SE site to the other. – F1Krazy Aug 7 '20 at 7:45
  • No worries.Also I was not aware that "hot potato" could be used like that,that is, as a verb. I consulted my dictionary but there is no such meaning.Could you please shed some light on this too? :) – user46365 Aug 7 '20 at 8:06
  • 1
    I couldn't think of the proper verb for "passing something back and forth", so I resorting to verbing - using a noun as a verb. It's not formal English, but our brains are clever enough to interpret the meaning. I hope it wasn't too confusing for you. – F1Krazy Aug 7 '20 at 8:44
  • 1
    Actually, it wasn't. As a matter of fact I fancy such clever departures from the normal, only here it didn't seem to quite "hit the spot" (for lack of a better phrase), because while you could probably "hot potato" an intractable problem/issue, stretching the meaning so far as to include a human sounded kind of iffy. ;) – – user46365 Aug 7 '20 at 9:24

As you suspected, in the first sentence it's ambiguous who is eating the oranges - is it the men or is it the deer? The comma in the second sentence makes it clear that it's not the deer and, therefore, must be the men. I'm not sure about "greatly" altering the meaning of the sentence, but it definitely does clarify the meaning of the sentence.

I think the ambiguity can be avoided by re-arranging the sentence like so:

Every man, while eating oranges, chased three deer into the forest.

This leaves no doubt as to who is eating the oranges.

  • Thank you, Sir! That helped :) – user46365 Aug 7 '20 at 8:09
  • 1
    Or even: While eating oranges, every man chased three deer into the forest. – Jason Bassford Aug 7 '20 at 14:53
  • Thanks a lot, F1Krazy and Jason Bassford! – user46365 Aug 7 '20 at 15:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy