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This English sentence is ambiguous:

He ate his food.

The word his can refer to the He at the start, or another man.

In Spanish:

Él comió su comida.

Does the ambiguity still remain or does su always refer to the Él. If ambiguous, is this the proper way to resolve the ambiguity?:

Él comió su propia comida. (his own)

Él comió comida de otra persona. (someone else's)

EDIT - propio is now propia (thank you Javi)

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Nice question! The ambiguity also exists in spanish. –  Alfredo Osorio Jan 21 '12 at 15:28
    
You 2 sentences for avoiding ambiguity are good options, but in the first one "propio" should be "propia" because it's an adjective for "comida" which is a femenine word (so the adjective must be femenine as well). I don't edit it so you can notice it. –  Javi Jan 21 '12 at 15:55
    
+1 Nice question indeed! –  César Jan 21 '12 at 15:58
    
Even using "propio" or "propia" can also lead to ambiguity. –  Alfredo Osorio Jan 21 '12 at 15:59
    
@AlfredoO Can you understood that the food is of another person in "Él se comió su propia comida"? I'd never think that. –  Javi Jan 21 '12 at 16:03
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1 Answer 1

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The ambiguity also exists in spanish. Let's see this example:

Él vive en su casa.

He lives in his house. But which house? His own or someone else's house? You can't know for sure unless you know the full context. That's because the sentence could be the shortened version of this:

Él vive en la casa de su amigo.

If we know the full context for example, we can know:

A: Tenemos que llamarle a Juan para que vaya a la casa de Carlos.

B: No es necesario, él vive en su casa.

Which means that there is no need to call him because he (Juan) lives in Carlos's house.

Generally speaking if there is no more context given then it refers to his/her not someone else's.

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+1 for it refers to his/her not someone else's unless the context can give that idea –  Javi Jan 21 '12 at 15:58
    
I think there is a typo on 'llamar(le) a Juan' –  Sergio Cinos Feb 10 '12 at 21:24
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