I'm reading Kearns(2011) and in Ch9, the author says the sentence "All Torah’s friends were rich then" is ambiguous in the possible scopes of tense and a quantifier NP. I know one meaning is "‘There is a time t earlier than t* such that an event where each of Torah’s friends are rich occurs at t’", but how about the other one? I really can't figure it out.

  • 4
    Well, it could mean that all of the people who were Torah's friends at that time were rich [at that time], or that all of the people who are now T's friends were rich at that time. If the book says the sentence is ambiguous in the possible scopes of tense and a quantifier NP, as if they are separate, that makes me think there could be more to it - but I can't say any other readings occur to me just now. Perhaps the author just means that it is unclear whether the quantifier is to be evaluated as at the time indicated by the tense - whether it is within the scope of the tense, you might say.
    – rchivers
    Nov 3, 2020 at 14:14
  • @rchivers Now I get it! :) Thank you for your detailed reply!
    – ronghe
    Nov 4, 2020 at 4:09

2 Answers 2


Summarizing the scattered answers from this and your originally posted (multi) question:

  1. his friends (of now) were rich then
  2. his friends (of then) were rich then (credit: someone(?) from your original question)
  3. his friends were rich (the speaker concludes) (credit: @WillC in this thread)

Perhaps 'then' means something closer to 'in that case' here, ie the speaker could be narrating a situation in the past where some kind of evidence or information has come to light which allowed them to surmise that all of Torah's friends are rich. They say to themself, 'ah, so all Torah's friends are rich then' - in the indirect form of past tense narration this becomes 'All Torah's friends were rich then'.

Not sure if that makes sense in the context, but that's the only other reading which comes to mind for me.

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