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Weird Sentences in the English Language that Confuse Foreigners

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Have you ever encountered weird sentences? Most likely, your answer is yes. English is an interesting and unexpected language that allows being creative and twisting meanings, making almost any words into a verb. It can be fun to come up with some new phrases, but what if you accidentally stumble upon a strange sentence and have no idea what it means? It could be intriguing and frustrating both. Some existing English expressions are so tricky that it’s next to impossible to make sense of them. Let’s take a look at several great examples — they’ll definitely stir your interest!   

11 Weird English Sentences & Decoding Their Meanings

We prepared a list with eleven odd sentences in English. Try to understand what they mean without reading our explanations — maybe you’ll figure everything out in no time! If you still can’t decipher them, then look at the text below each example.

1. All faith he had had had had no effect on an outcome of his life.

This weird one is among the easiest to understand. You might be initially confused by the number of “had’s”, but think about it: English is known for such tenses as Past Perfect, where the combination of “had had” is natural. In this particular case, it was used twice. First, we have “All faith he had had”, implying that this person no longer had it; then there is “had had no effect.” So, we may assume that his situation was resolved in the past, but the man’s faith had turned out to be meaningless in relation to his overall life.

2. One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know.

This’s one of fun English sentences, but its meaning seems nonsensical at first. From the first part, you can assume that our narrator woke up at night, wearing pajamas, saw an elephant, and shot it. But the second weird sentence reveals another picture. It’s not a person who was wearing pajamas, it’s an elephant! It somehow got into the narrator’s clothes, and upon seeing it, the narrator shot it, perplexed over how that could have happened.  

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3. The complex houses married and single soldiers and their families.

Sounds odd, doesn’t it? But the problem is only with the weird word “complex.” Like the majority of people, you likely assumed that’s an adjective, but in this context, it is actually a noun, a trick that often creates confusing English sentences. “Complex” means a group of buildings while “houses” is a verb. So, a chain of buildings provides housing for soldiers, regardless of their marriage status, and for their relatives.     

4. The man the professor the student has knows studies Rome.

 Now, structure of this weird sentence is a nightmare, but technically correct. In English, clauses can be linked without any additional words. In this example, each of three nouns takes each of three verbs: the man studies Rome. Professor knows this man. Student has this professor. It’s complicated and stylistically flawed, but there are no grammar mistakes.

5. Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

What is the weirdest sentence? Probably this one. It seems so ridiculous but yes, it’s correct as well. The only thing missing is correct punctuation. Like it frequently happens in English, “buffalo” is a noun and a verb both. As a noun, it means both a bison and a place in New York. Because of this, you can also use it as a descriptive word indicating location: for instance, “Buffalo Bill” means a man named Bill who lives in Buffalo. But what about this specific weird sentence? The first “Buffalo” indicates a place while the second one refers to a bison. So, we have bison from Buffalo, plural form. Then a comma is needed; the third and fourths “buffalo” mean the same thing (descriptor + noun) while the fifth is a verb that means “intimidate” or “bully”. The result now is, “Bison from Buffalo, whom other Buffalo bison bully.” Another comma is required afterward, and this pattern is repeated: a verb, location descriptor, and a noun follow. Here’s what we have now: “Bison from Buffalo, whom other Buffalo bison intimidate, bully some more bison from Buffalo.”

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6. The horse raced past the barn fell down.

Check another example of weird grammatically correct sentences. Punctuation was removed, and as the result, all meaning became confusing. The rules of passive voice apply here: the horse was raced past the barn. Then, it fell.

7. Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.

This weird sentence is funny and a little confusing. In the first part, “flies” is a verb. It means that time passes by as quickly as an arrow. In the second part, “flies” is a noun: it denotes a plural form of flying insects. Both parts belong together only as a way to show ambiguity along with weird English grammar. Time passes by quickly while flies enjoy munching on bananas — two universal truths.

8. James while John had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher.

This is a top example of English craziness. Like some of many examples before, it lacks punctuation, and because of it, it looks totally meaningless. If you ever wondered, “What is the most confusing sentence?”, here’s your answer. In reality, this’s how it should look like: “James, while John had had “had”, had had “had had”; “had had” had had a better effect on their teacher.” Are you still confused? Here’s what it means: during some lesson, James had used Past Perfect, a combination of “had had”, while John, another student, had used simple “had”. Their teacher was pleased with James’ answer and considered it correct.

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9. That that is is that that is not is not is that it it is.

This’s another demonstration of the most confusing sentence. Four options with different punctuation are possible here, but let’s focus on only one of them. “That that is, is. That that is not, is not. Is that it? It is.” As you can see, the meaning instantly changes and becomes far more comprehensive. It gains a philosophical nature now and uncovers simple facts: “An existing thing exists; non-existent things don’t exist. Is that the truth? Yes, it is.” Remember about punctuation when you write something to avoid a similar situation of confusing your audience!  

10. Rose rose to put rose roes on her rows of roses.

 Among sentences that make no sense, this one stands out. Your eyes probably hurt at an overwhelming amount of the letter “r”, but as with the weird sentences we presented above, everything’s grammatically correct. If you look at it for a while, thinking about every word, we promise that you’ll succeed in figuring it out. Rose’s a woman who stood up (that is what the second “rose” means: it is a past form of a verb “rise”). The third “rose” denotes color while “roes” means fertilizer in this context. As you probably know, “rows” are lines of something. In this specific case, these are lines of roses (as in flowers). An end result can be re-phrased in this way: a woman named Rose stood up and put some rose fertilizer on her flowers, which were standing in a row.

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11. That that exists exists in that that that that exists exists in.

This’s one of the top crazy sentences in English and in this list both. Why? Because it doesn’t require any extra punctuation — you are supposed to understand it just by looking at it as in its current form. But if you’re facing troubles, let’s break this tough sentence into several easier parts.  “That exists in that that that that exists in.” Does it sound simpler now? If you still feel confused, we can rephrase it while preserving its initial meaning: “An object exists where an object does.” Another option is, “An object exists wherever it exists.” Construction “in that that” is popular in English, and since there are no specific nouns in this weird sentence, it’s replaced by another “that.” Try looking at it from this perspective and you’ll understand its meaning.  

Learn Meaning of Confusing Sentences 

As you could see for yourself, all weird sentences above look pretty ridiculous, but they make perfect sense in terms of grammar and even semantics. If you liked them and in case you’re interested in seeing more, look for other examples online. Enjoy these strange and unexpected sides of English because it’s a fascinating language with numerous interesting nuances. Reading through lists with crazy sentences is something akin to an exciting puzzle: even when you know what they mean, you don’t always understand how this meaning is conveyed in all words you see. They start making sense only after you stare at them long enough. That’s one of creative ways to spend time while also learning something.