Garden-Path Sentence

A garden-path sentence, also called syntactic garden-path sentence, is a type of ambiguity in sentence construction where a reader is led toward the meaning that seems familiar or correct at first but turns out to be not the one intended. Garden-path sentences are so named after the saying "to be led down [or up] the garden path" which means to be misled, fooled, or seduced.

These kinds of sentences are grammatically correct even though they might be perceived as incorrect at first glance due to the sentence making no sense. It forces the reader to analyze the sentence again to get at the correct or intended meaning. For instance, “The young man the ship”. In this sample sentence, the “young” is a noun pertaining to the youth while “man” is a verb which refers to managing the ship. Hence, “The young man the ship” simply means that the younger people are the ones who are in-charge of the ship.

Garden-path sentences are constructed in such a way that a reader will group the initial words together in a familiar and meaningful way, but then the reader encounters a word or group of words that doesn’t seem to belong making the whole sentence nonsensical. This works by misleading readers into reading nouns as adjectives and vice versa, and leaving out definite and indefinite articles (the, that, and, etc.) Garden-path sentences differ from other ambiguous sentences as the whole sentence will always seem grammatically incorrect until the reader grasps the actual intended meaning. A common example of this is found in crossword puzzles. especially at the hard and champion levels. The authors' deliberately use these kind of complex sentence structures to create difficult clues.

Add flashcard Cite Random