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“I never said she stole my money” has 7 different meanings depending on the stressed word


Just had to spell this out to a colleague, so thought I may as well post it. It should be “didn’t say,” rather than “never said”, but the gist is the same…

Ubuntu girlsI didn’t say she stole my money – someone else said it
I didn’t say she stole my money – I didn’t say it
I didn’t say she stole my money – I only implied it
I didn’t say she stole my money – I said someone did, not necessarily her
I didn’t say she stole my money – I considered it borrowed, even though she didn’t ask
I didn’t say she stole my money – only that she stole money
I didn’t say she stole my money – she stole stuff which cost me money to replace

Did you say she stole your money? I didn’t say she stole my money, i know/saw/heard/thought/wrote/hinted/testified/dreamed it!

This really is a general phenomenon that you not only see every day, but really use on a constant basis. Every sentence has grammatical stress, it’s how we know what other people are focusing on when they speak.


You can do this with other sentences as well:

George W. Bush is the 43rd President of the United States.

“Is jeb bush the 43rd president of the united states?”
No, George Bush is the 43rd President of the United States.

“Is George Washington the 43rd President of the United States?”
No, George Bush is the 43rd President of the United States.

“George Bush isn’t the 43rd President of the United States, right?”
No, George W. Bush is the 43rd President of the United States.

“Was there more than one 43rd president of the united states?”
No, George W. Bush is the 43rd President of the United States.

“Was George W. Bush the 44th President of the United States?”
No, George W. Bush is the 43rd President of the United States.

“Was George W. Bush the 43rd Vice President of the United States?”
No, George W. Bush is the 43rd President of the United States.
(okay, so “of” is a function word that we can’t contrast against anything else)

“Was George W. Bush the 43rd President of the United Arab Emerates?”
No George W. Bush is the 43rd President of the United States.

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One Response to ““I never said she stole my money” has 7 different meanings depending on the stressed word”

  1. Eusebia Hansman says:

    Blogroll links ain’t that great :P but i am not the admin… :P … Just Telling :P

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