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Fallacy of amphiboly

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The sentence "I'm going to feed my baby turtles" can be interpreted in multiple ways, making it ambiguous. Instead, the structure "I'm going to feed turtles to my baby" is unambiguous.
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The fallacy of amphiboly occurs when a sentence, because of its grammar, structure, or punctuation, can be interpreted in multiple ways.

It is an Informal fallacy and a fallacy of ambiguity, in that it removes context that is necessary to understand the statement.


  • "Last night I caught a prowler in my pyjamas."[1]
    Did the speaker (1) find a prowler who was wearing their pyjamas, (2) find a prowler while the speaker was wearing their pyjamas, or (3) ensnare the prowler using their pyjamas as a net?
  • "Don't let worry kill you off — let the Church help."[1]
    Does the Church help reduce worry, or kill people, or both?
  • "I am opposed to taxes which slow economic growth."[1]
    Is the speaker opposed to all taxes, because they slow economic growth, or just taxes that slow economic growth? (Though grammatically, as written it would indicate the latter, but if a comma were added after taxes, it would indicate the former.)
  • The Oracle of Delphi told Croesus "that if he led an army against the Persians, he would destroy a great empire." The question, of course, is which empire – Croesus' or the Persians'. Croesus, failing to spot the Oracle's escape hatch, was soon empireless.[1]
  • I will make him a help meet for him."
    This quote from Genesis 2:18 originally meant that God would create a helper fit for man (i.e. woman), but through misinterpretation was hyphenated as a compound word in the 16th century. A "helpmeet" and later "helpmate" thereafter became a noun meaning "a special helper, spouse." In this case the amphiboly, originally nonsense, led to its own creation.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]