Talk:Garden-path sentence

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"like" in "I, for one, like Roman numerals"[edit]

Is it an article? Or a preposition, perhaps?-- (talk) 22:31, 6 December 2016 (UTC)

I, too, am thoroughly confused by this example. It says "like" is an article, but "like" is not an article under any circumstances. I find only one possible interpretation of the sentence and wonder if it should be removed. Dylanvt (talk) 01:18, 1 March 2017 (UTC)
Removed. Staszek Lem (talk) 02:26, 1 March 2017 (UTC)
See OED on "like", if you have access; its classification in this precise context is disputed, but if you switch "preposition" or "conjunction" for "article", your objections will be resolved. Nyttend (talk) 00:22, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
The problem is not in "like" The problem is that the sentence is perfectly valid in its "consecutive" reading. "Why are you wearing this weird watch with weird marks on it? - I, for one, like Roman numerals." On the other hand, if "like" is not a verb, then we have a sentence without a verb I am baffled to understand. Staszek Lem (talk) 17:26, 13 March 2017 (UTC)

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"man the boat"[edit]

Thank you for your effort in making the text more referenced. However it seems that even the "reliable sources" are as sloppy as wikipedians. The reasoning "When readers encounter another the following the supposed noun man (rather than the expected verb), they are forced to re-analyse the sentence, concluding that man is being used as a verb" is faulty. There are numerous ways the text "The old man the" may be continued without assuming that 'man' is a verb. ("The old man the boat belonged to died.") The actual breakup happens only when the full stop is encountered.

The same problem is with the explanation of the following example.Staszek Lem (talk) 17:32, 13 March 2017 (UTC)

I have changed the wording and added a footnote about the measured reaction time following the word after man. --Boson (talk) 19:26, 13 March 2017 (UTC)

It took me a while to figure out the horse sentence. The explanation didn't do it, even after looking up past participle from grade school. A better explanation would be: "The horse, which was raced past the barn, subsequently fell. It seems that the problem in the original is poor structure not having the descriptive clause isolated by commas. no?
Also, it seems that the 'housing complex' example would be cleared up in context because the word 'complex' would have been used before and keyed-in the reader. I understand this concept, but these are my thoughts...
P.S. What happened to the multi-tilde button? -- Steve -- (talk) 19:46, 10 April 2019 (UTC)
Maybe "The old manS the boat" is correct? Any sources? ·Carn·!? 10:11, 2 March 2020 (UTC)
@Carn: How can that be? — Smjg (talk) 12:30, 13 May 2020 (UTC)
Thanks for changing the wording Boson, but it still doesn't reflect the fact that "The old man the boat" still satisfies the original parsing of "man" being a noun, even though you've gone past the second "the", up until you reach the full stop. As Staszek Lem said, it could be completed with "The old man the boat belonged to died". Maybe someone just reverted your change since then. Either way, the current text still needs improvement. Quietbritishjim (talk) 11:54, 9 June 2020 (UTC)

I, for one, like Roman numerals[edit]

By the definition in the lead, the result of the re-analysis by the reader should be a grammatically correct sentence, and the examples are intended to illustrate such grammatically correct sentences. When like is not interpreted as a verb, the example "I, for one, like Roman numerals." is not really a good example of a grammatical sentence. The example is obviously a play on words that is similar to a garden path sentence, but using it as an example would appear to distract from, rather than clarify, the illustration of a garden path sentence. For this reason, I would suggest removing this example. If we want more examples, there should be plenty of other examples in the relevant literature. -- Boson (talk) 19:28, 13 March 2017 (UTC)

Possible additions to the list of examples[edit]

To include more types, we could possibly add (with references):

  • The cotton clothes are made of grows in Mississippi.
  • While the man hunted the deer ran into the woods
  • The coach smiled at the player tossed a frisbee.
  • I convinced her children are noisy.

-- Boson (talk) 19:30, 13 March 2017 (UTC)

Issues with the horse race example sentence. Clarify? Reorder examples?[edit]

The current first example, "The horse raced past the barn fell", is so incomprehensible I don't even know where the problem is. I'm not a Professor of English, nor an equestrian, nor an architect, but I'm missing something still. How can a horse race fit in a barn? Does Bever write science fiction? If so, that should probably be mentioned. Or if not that, by what rule of English is it acceptable to omit the "that was" from "the horse *that was* raced past the barn fell." Is this what people consider poetic? (Or as Bever would apparently write, is people consider poetic?) Or is that even what's happening? That's just the *ONLY* part of the explanation that make it parsable in the slightest.

My point is this example is more confusing than helpful. Now, I can be as stupid as the next guy at times, but I'm at least well educated, so surely I'm not the only one who's completely lost here. The latter two examples aren't a problem, they are as perfectly clear (i.e. illustrative of the concept of the article) as the horse race/barn thing is baffling. So I propose either: A) moving the horse race barn to the end of the examples, if not just removing it altogether, or B) perhaps someone can rewrite the explanation to make it make sense to a layperson? Ninjalectual (talk) 21:04, 25 May 2018 (UTC)

The horse example is pretty standard in the linguistic literature. It is of course confusing. That's what makes it a garden path sentence.
As for "by what rule of English", the term is "reduced relative clause", which was mentioned in the article; I've now linked the relevant Wikipedia page. Every comprehensive English grammar discusses it. Surely you have no problem with, say, "The horse [that was] bought by Peter won the race" or "Any book [that was] left in the cafeteria yesterday can be recovered at the Lost and Found."
The question, then, is why is it OK to omit "that was" in some examples, but not others? In the bought/left cases, not only do horses not buy things and books not leave things (cf. verb argument), but "bought by" and "left in" clearly signal that it must be a participle.
I've also linked "agent" etc., which you've marked as "clarification needed", to the relevant articles. --Macrakis (talk) 22:31, 25 May 2018 (UTC)


The article does a good job of explaining what the garden path sentence is internally, but it does so in complete isolation from reality - actual usage: is it a linguistic game like palindromes, or a joke like spoonerisms? Is it a way to hide meaning, like anagrams? A stylistic tool like an oxymoron?

I think it would be nice to add how garden path sentences function in the language: either used purposefully, as jokes or stylistic tools in poetry that force two meanings into the same phrase, or when created accidentally - as stylistic errors, where the reader parses the sentence differently than the author intended, is forced to backtrack, re-parse, and it disrupts the flow, confuses and detracts from the experience.

These erroneous garden paths are usually much simpler than the fancy examples; use of a contraction like "I'd" where the contraction can be either for "had" or "would", the ambiguity unresolved until you encounter a verb that resolves the tense of the sentence, or use of a pronoun which resolves to a different subject than expected (in this case the sentence is grammatically correct in both interpretations but only one makes logical sense!) example 1 example 2

Sharpfang (talk) 12:06, 11 October 2019 (UTC)

You're right, and therefore I would include the famous Groucho Marx quote: Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana --WernR (talk) 12:16, 22 October 2019 (UTC)

Other languages?[edit]

This article reads as if English is the only language. Obviously there must be many examples in other languages, presumably including ambiguous kanji in Japanese, and other things I don't even know about. We should at least acknowledge this, and if possible provide examples. We link to the "Garden-path sentence" page on wikipedia sites for some other languages, but that's not the same thing. Adam1729 (talk) 23:02, 5 June 2020 (UTC)