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I'm trying to write something sort of poetic sounding.

Instead of memories let's discover the present that we wanted to search for.

I'm thinking that maybe I should write the word "moment" after "present" to make it unambiguous. I would rather not though, because I don't want to limit the meaning of "present" to "this moment." I would like to leave it open so that it can mean "this day" or "this time." But then if I don't add the word "moment", I think that this might bring up images of searching for presents during Christmas, and I don't want that to happen. What do you think?

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migrated from english.stackexchange.com Mar 29 '11 at 8:37

This question came from our site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts.

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I read this in the way that you intended. People might initially get confused over "present", but I think that they would settle on your intended meaning. It makes a more sense to be talking about two different times than past experiences and Christmas gifts. –  Yozomiri Mar 29 '11 at 3:34
    
"Ambiguity" would make a great tag for this site. –  naught101 Aug 22 '12 at 4:25
    
The ambiguity in the sentence is cool. But it could do with some punctuation, and "wanted to search for" is a bit odd (if you wanted to go looking for something, then why didn't you?). Maybe leave off "to search for", or make it "...the present we were searching for"? –  naught101 Aug 22 '12 at 4:28
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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

From a strictly grammatical point of view, I think the context of "memories" establishes the expected temporal sense of "present" rather than leaving any reasonable possibility that it could be interpreted as a gift; so you shouldn't run into any difficulties due to ambiguity.

(Although this is technically off-topic, from a poetic point of view, while the sentiment is nice the phrasing is somewhat lacking. Perhaps something like "Let us not live well only in our memories; rather let us create the present that we have desired.")

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You could replace "present" with "now" (or something similar) and remove the potential for ambiguity.

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