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# Emily Dickinsons letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were

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Emily Dickinsons letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were [#permalink]  23 Sep 2004, 15:54
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Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering her letters to anyone else.

(A) Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering
(B) Dickinson were written over a period that begins a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ended shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumber
(C) Dickinson, written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and that ends shortly before Emily’s death in 1886 and outnumbering
(D) Dickinson, which were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother, ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, and outnumbering
(E) Dickinson, which were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumber
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Re: Emily Dickinsons letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were [#permalink]  23 Jul 2013, 22:35
WaterFlowsUp wrote:
Ashish, Outnumber is a verb. In that case it can only modifiy another verb. so does it modify "letters were written" ?
if yes, can we say verb modifies the letters aptly so that we can rule out options with 'outnumbering'?

Hi waterflowsup.

I can clarify a bit for you.

(1) "outnumber" is a verb and modifies a noun (Emily Dickinson’s letters), not another verb.

(2) We rule out "outnumbering" because of modifier problem.

Let see the original sentence:
Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering her letters to anyone else.

As we know, Verb-ing modifier + comma ==> modifies a preceding clause.
==> Emily Dickinson's letters to Susan outnumber her letter to anyone else because they were written over a period blah blah..... Does it make sense? No, it does not. The main point is: Emily Dickinson's letter to SS outnumber her letter to anyone else, NOT "were written over a period....."

Hope it helps.
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Re: Emily Dickinsons letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were [#permalink]  23 Jul 2013, 23:11
WaterFlowsUp wrote:
Ashish, thanks for reply.
1. Participle does modify the attached noun, isn't it? So in this case if we try to assume that it is modifying 1886 thus providing a time frame how would that be wrong??
2. participle can also modify subject/verb/clause , it has the flexibility. correct? then can we say it is modifying letters?

Oh no. The rules for participles are not that simplistic. As you would perhaps know, participial phrases (and not participles themselves) that appear at the beginning of the sentence modify the word immediately next to it. For example:

Preparing for GMAT, WaterFlowsUp asked the question about participles.

Here, the participle is "preparing" modifies "WaterFlowsUp.

The usage of participles is not just about what they are modifying. There should be a "direct and simultaneous" effect that should be attributed to participles used towards end of the sentences. This is where A fails.
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Re: Emily Dickinsons letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were [#permalink]  24 Jul 2013, 00:19
Expert's post
With Due respect pghai,

1 .Verb modifier always under all situations, has to modify another verb. It describes things like how, when, etc etc....So outnumber as a verb, how can it refer to letters which happens to be the Subject?

My question is, verb-ING modifier, can refer to Subject, entire Clause. In this case why do we presume it modifies the clause(I know the answer says it does) ? It can also refer to Letter(Subject).
I understand in either case it remains as the wrong answer, I am just trying to do Root Cause Analysis in IT terms
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Re: Emily Dickinsons letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were [#permalink]  24 Jul 2013, 00:22
Expert's post
EducationAisle wrote:
WaterFlowsUp wrote:
Ashish, thanks for reply.
1. Participle does modify the attached noun, isn't it? So in this case if we try to assume that it is modifying 1886 thus providing a time frame how would that be wrong??
2. participle can also modify subject/verb/clause , it has the flexibility. correct? then can we say it is modifying letters?

Oh no. The rules for participles are not that simplistic. As you would perhaps know, participial phrases (and not participles themselves) that appear at the beginning of the sentence modify the word immediately next to it. For example:

Preparing for GMAT, WaterFlowsUp asked the question about participles.

Here, the participle is "preparing" modifies "WaterFlowsUp.

The usage of participles is not just about what they are modifying. There should be a "direct and simultaneous" effect that should be attributed to participles used towards end of the sentences. This is where A fails.

@ Ashish,
Could you please write a small doc explaining the participial phrases that is separated by a comma and are at the end? It would immensely useful for people like me getting stuck at something very basic.
Tons of thanks for the help
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Re: Emily Dickinsons letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were [#permalink]  24 Jul 2013, 02:22
WaterFlowsUp wrote:
@ Ashish,
Could you please write a small doc explaining the participial phrases that is separated by a comma and are at the end? It would immensely useful for people like me getting stuck at something very basic.
Tons of thanks for the help

Well, as I mentioned in my post, participial phrases (specifically present participial phrases) preceded by a comma towards the end of the sentence should express "direct and simultaneous" effect that should be attributed to the subject of the immediate preceding clause.

The reason "direct and simultaneous" effect is important, is because, for example, the following option in one of the GMATPrep questions is incorrect, because drawing solid conclusions is not "direct and simultaneous" effect of the previous clause.

Neuroscientists have amassed a wealth of knowledge over the past twenty years about the brain and its development from birth to adulthood, now drawing solid conclusions about how the human brain grows and how babies acquire language.

Not sure there is a lot more to it than this, to merit a "doc" : )
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Re: Emily Dickinsons letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were [#permalink]  24 Jul 2013, 02:53
Expert's post
what exactly do u mean by direct and simultaneous?
BTW are you saying there are tons of hidden concepts in the adverbial phrase modifiers which we need to dig out?
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Re: Emily Dickinsons letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were [#permalink]  24 Jul 2013, 04:22
WaterFlowsUp wrote:
what exactly do u mean by direct and simultaneous?

What I meant was that the action expressed by the participial phrase must be "simultaneous and directly atributable" to the main clause. For example:

Following would be correct: Tendulkar scored 40th century, breaking the previous record for highest number of centuries in test cricket.

But following would not be correct: Tendulkar worked hard during his childhood days, breaking the previous record for highest number of centuries in test cricket.

Quote:
BTW are you saying there are tons of hidden concepts in the adverbial phrase modifiers which we need to dig out?

Actually when I said not sure there is a lot more to it than this, to merit a "doc" , what I meant was that there isn't too much apart from this (of course every question is unique, but this framework would largely sail you thru). Apologies if my earlier reply was not clear.

Past participles by the way, work in a different manner. Case in point is #28 from OG-12, where following is the correct option (all GMAT instructors including myself consider OG as bible):

Building on civilizations that preceded them in coastal Peru, the Mochica developed their own elaborate society, based on the cultivation of such crops as corn and beans, the harvesting of fish and seafood, and the exploitation of other wild and domestic resources.

Here, the "past participle" phrase "based on the cultivation..." clearly modifies "society", the word prior to it.
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Re: Emily Dickinsons letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were [#permalink]  24 Jul 2013, 05:51
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WaterFlowsUp wrote:
@ Ashish,
Could you please write a small doc explaining the participial phrases that is separated by a comma and are at the end? It would immensely useful for people like me getting stuck at something very basic.
Tons of thanks for the help

Hi WaterFlowsUp,

Let me try to explain the function of “verb-ing modifiers” when preceded by a comma.

When a “verb-ing modifier” appears after a clause and is preceded by a comma, then it modifies the action of the preceding clause. It modifies the action of the preceding clause in two ways:
1. By presenting the HOW aspect of the preceding action
2. By presenting the result of the preceding action

Now let’s analyze the usage of comma + outnumbering… in the official sentence.

Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering her letters to anyone else.

So ED wrote letters to SHD. Comma + outnumbering… modifies the preceding action “were written”. Since this modifier has two functions, let’s see which one fits here.
ED’s letters were written to SHAD by outnumbering her letters to anyone else. This modification suggests that ED wrote letters to SHD by outnumbering her letters to anyone else. This seems to be an action done deliberately. But this is not logical.

Now let’s check the second usage. ED’s letters were written SHD and as a result of this action, the letters outnumbers ED’s letters to anyone else. Do we really have a cause-effect here? Certainly not. None of the functions done by the comma + verb-ing modifier makes sense in this sentence. This is the reason why Choice A is incorrect.

You may read the following articles to know more about the comma + verb-ing modifiers:

usage-of-verb-ing-modifiers-135220.html
verb-ing-modifiers-part-2-in-our-first-article-on-verb-ing-135567.html
verb-ed-modifiers-vs-verb-ing-modifiers-125611.html

Also, this concept is covered in our Free Concepts. You can register on e-gmat for free and access this concepts along with many others. All these concepts have pre-assessment and post assessment quizzes through which you can gauge your knowledge of these concepts. So click on the “free trial” button and start learning for free.

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Re: Emily Dickinsons letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were [#permalink]  25 Jul 2013, 10:32
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Thanks a lot shraddha, by far the best post and explanation on -ING modifiers. #respect
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Re: SC[Emily Dickinson] [#permalink]  12 Oct 2013, 16:50
Andr359 wrote:
A: awkward, ungrammatical.
B: same as A.
C: run on sentence.
D: same as A, B.
E: best one.

Hi, could you please provide more detail as to how Answer (A) is awkward and ungrammatical?
I found it to be pretty close to E.

Thanks
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Re: Emily Dickinsons letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were [#permalink]  24 Nov 2013, 00:32
Hi Egmat,

Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering her letters to anyone else.

(A) Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering
(B) Dickinson were written over a period that begins a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ended shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumber
(C) Dickinson, written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and that ends shortly before Emily’s death in 1886 and outnumbering
(D) Dickinson, which were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother, ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, and outnumbering
(E) Dickinson, which were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumber

here in choice A 'outnumbering her letters to anyone else' is acting as verbing modifier and modifying the previous clause 'Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written....' still the choice A is wrong.
Also outnumbering makes sense with letters.
OG says it is unclear what outnumbering refers to. Please highlight on this.

Thanks,
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Re: Emily Dickinsons letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were [#permalink]  24 Nov 2013, 07:22
Actually 'which' should refer to the noun immediately preceding to which. But in E its referring to Susan Huntington Dickinson.
And it should be outnumber instead of outnumbering in option A.
So something is missing in both options.
Anyways I selected E.
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Re: Emily Dickinsons letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were [#permalink]  25 Nov 2013, 02:30
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karanthakurani wrote:
Hi Egmat,

Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering her letters to anyone else.

(A) Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering
(B) Dickinson were written over a period that begins a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ended shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumber
(C) Dickinson, written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and that ends shortly before Emily’s death in 1886 and outnumbering
(D) Dickinson, which were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother, ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, and outnumbering
(E) Dickinson, which were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumber

here in choice A 'outnumbering her letters to anyone else' is acting as verbing modifier and modifying the previous clause 'Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written....' still the choice A is wrong.
Also outnumbering makes sense with letters.
OG says it is unclear what outnumbering refers to. Please highlight on this.

Thanks,
Karan

Hi Karan,

Thank you for posting your query here.

Choice A is incorrect because of modifier error. Let us see the reason behind it.

Note that "outnumbering her letters to anyone else" should modify the letters but its placement is such that it appears to modify the preceding clause.

Notice that comma + verb-ing modify the preceding clause. And this modification does not make sense here. This is because it was not because the letters were written in the specified period that these letters outnumbered the other set of letters.

In fact these two actions - were written and outnumber are really two different characteristics of the letters.

Lets consider an example sentence:

The film was shot in a small town of Guthernberg, exceeding expectations of the producers.

This sentence is incorrect since the verb-ing modifier appears to modify preceding clause and in this sentence this modification does not make sense.The fact that the film was shot in a small town did not really lead to exceeding the expectations of the producers.

The correct sentence is:

The film, shot in a small town of Guthernberg, exceeded the expectations of the producers.

The sentence simply states a fact that this film exceeded the expectations. It does not provide any reasoning for the same.

The film received significant critical acclaim, exceeding the expectations of the producers.

This sentence is correct. In this sentence, the verb-ing modifier makes complete sense with the preceding clause. The expectations of the producers were exceeded by virtue of the film receiving significant critical acclaim.

Hope this helps

Regards,
Krishna
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Re: Emily Dickinsons letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were [#permalink]  05 Jan 2014, 13:23
marine wrote:
Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering her letters to anyone else.

(A) Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering
(B) Dickinson were written over a period that begins a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ended shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumber
(C) Dickinson, written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and that ends shortly before Emily’s death in 1886 and outnumbering
(D) Dickinson, which were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother, ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, and outnumbering
(E) Dickinson, which were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumber

This is so obviously a "parallel" question.

A) most of the sentence sounds good except the last portion. If we're going to use the verb-ing form, then the last parallel (outnumbering) needs to be preceded by "and" (and even at that, the inclusion of "and" would be wrong). So A is gone

B) Here we have errors in tense. "begins" implies present while "ended" implies past and "outnumber" implies present. This is not acceptable for correct parallelism. B is gone

C) Similar problems as with B: "beginning" and then we have "ends" and then we have "outnumbering"... Two present participles and one simple present. This is incorrect. C is gone

As far as D and E goes, we need to be very careful. Many people will erroneously assume that "outnumbering" is correctly parallel to "beginning" and "ending", but that's an error in comprehension of meaning. The author means to say that her letters to Susan outnumber the letters to anyone else. Thus, "and outnumbering" incorrectly gives the letters to Susan certain attributes that do not necceserily have anything to do with the letters. Only "beginning" and "ending" are parallel.

That's why D is wrong. E on the other hand correctly parallels beginning and ending, and THEN goes on to tell us that these letters outnumber Emily's letters to anyone else. So E is correct
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Re: Emily Dickinsons letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were [#permalink]  14 Feb 2014, 22:21
marine wrote:
Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering her letters to anyone else.

(A) Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering
(B) Dickinson were written over a period that begins a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ended shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumber
(C) Dickinson, written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and that ends shortly before Emily’s death in 1886 and outnumbering
(D) Dickinson, which were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother, ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, and outnumbering
(E) Dickinson, which were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumber

pl review my analysis.

Q. Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington
Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few
years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and
ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886,
outnumbering her letters to anyone else

Meaning
ED wrote letters to SH over a period of time
Started before Susan marriage and ended before Emilys death

Error Analysis
1) Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington
Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few
years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and
ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886,
outnumbering her letters to anyone else

The sentence has only one clause.
S-V is correct
V is correctly placed in past tense (passive voice-simple past)
Parallelism is correct.... beginning and ending
Pronoun...her refers correctly to Emily
Meaning is clear
idioms...none
modifiers...beginning and ending correctly modifies period
....outnumbering also correctly adds information to the preceding clause

POE
A is correct
B & C parallelism issue
D fragment
E placement of which is not next to letters

I was confused b/w A & E, but for the stated reason selected A.

I dont find any grammatical error in A.

Pl clarify
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Re: SC: Set 13, Q31 - Emily's letters [#permalink]  16 Feb 2014, 05:19
dwivedys wrote:
gluon wrote:
Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering her letters to anyone else.

A. Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan HuntingtonDickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering

E. Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan HuntingtonDickinson, which were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumber

Quote:
BTW what is exactly wrong with A anyways? A and E are in the same voice whether it is passive or active the difference being A eliminates the erroneous placement of which.

Very interesting discussion going on here and that too on a topic that I confess is very dear to me!

Let's deal with this beast in two parts -

The problem with A is the participle OUTNUMBERING. As written in A, it clearly modifies period which is definitely not right. It must refer to letters.

In E on the other hand, it's quite clear what outnumber is referring to - letters.

However, of course, E seems to have a problem with the placement of which. We all know this fact cold that GMAT doesn't like the placement of which to be fiddled with in any way - and it must without fail appear immediately after the noun it's supposed to displace.

Thus - The Community hall in the townsquare which we all like is already booked for another marriage.

We know that which must refer to the community hall - but here it's appearing immediately after townsquare causing a GENUINE confusion in the reader's mind as to which of the two do WE ALL LIKE? Community Hall or Townsquare?

Compare this with another scenario -

All my requests to George which were to make him aware of his mistakes went unheeded by him.

Here IMO - the object of the preposition TO, George can't be modified by which; hence by logical extension, which modifies requests.

I don't want to contradict what we have all learnt about the usage of which and the restriction that it should be as close as possible to the noun it's intended to modify; all I am saying is, if a prepositional phrase intervenes between the which and the proable subject - so long as which can unambigously refer to the earlier subject and NOT the object of the preposition (as in the case of George above and UNLIKE the case of the townsquare earlier) we are OK.

In our example in this question - the scenario is simlar - it talks about Letters to Dickinson which --- again, the prepositional TO DICKINSON does not affect the relationship between which and Letters. Also, Dickinson can't be qualified by which anyway. You need WHO in the relative clause for an animate object like dickinson.

In A, 'outnumbering' is not modifying 'period'. A seems correct
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Re: Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were [#permalink]  16 Feb 2014, 22:29
egmat wrote:
Choice A is incorrect because of modifier error.
"outnumbering her letters to anyone else" should modify the letters but its placement is such that it appears to modify the preceding clause.

Notice that comma + verb-ing modify the preceding clause. And this modification does not make sense here. This is because it was not because the letters were written in the specified period that these letters outnumbered the other set of letters. In fact these two actions - were written and outnumber are really two different characteristics of the letters.

Lets consider an example sentence:
The film was shot in a small town of Guthernberg, exceeding expectations of the producers.
This sentence is incorrect since the verb-ing modifier appears to modify preceding clause and in this sentence this modification does not make sense. The fact that the film was shot in a small town did not really lead to exceeding the expectations of the producers.

The correct sentence is:
The film, shot in a small town of Guthernberg, exceeded the expectations of the producers.

The sentence simply states a fact that this film exceeded the expectations. It does not provide any reasoning for the same.

The film received significant critical acclaim, exceeding the expectations of the producers.
This sentence is correct. In this sentence, the verb-ing modifier makes complete sense with the preceding clause. The expectations of the producers were exceeded by virtue of the film receiving significant critical acclaim.

Hope this helps

In understand that '-ing modifier preceded by a comma' either presents additional information or presents the result of the preceding clause.

I have two questions here.

1. Now, can I say that the additional information is always about 'how' the action is being done?
2. If the answer is 'No' to the above, then why can't the modifier in A be considered as additional information?
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Re: Emily Dickinsons letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were [#permalink]  18 Feb 2014, 09:12
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jrashish wrote:
marine wrote:
Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering her letters to anyone else.

(A) Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering
(B) Dickinson were written over a period that begins a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ended shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumber
(C) Dickinson, written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and that ends shortly before Emily’s death in 1886 and outnumbering
(D) Dickinson, which were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother, ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, and outnumbering
(E) Dickinson, which were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumber

pl review my analysis.

Q. Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington
Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few
years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and
ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886,
outnumbering her letters to anyone else

Meaning
ED wrote letters to SH over a period of time
Started before Susan marriage and ended before Emilys death

Error Analysis
1) Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington
Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few
years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and
ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886,
outnumbering her letters to anyone else

The sentence has only one clause.
S-V is correct
V is correctly placed in past tense (passive voice-simple past)
Parallelism is correct.... beginning and ending
Pronoun...her refers correctly to Emily
Meaning is clear
idioms...none
modifiers...beginning and ending correctly modifies period
....outnumbering also correctly adds information to the preceding clause

POE
A is correct
B & C parallelism issue
D fragment
E placement of which is not next to letters

I was confused b/w A & E, but for the stated reason selected A.

I dont find any grammatical error in A.

Pl clarify

Dear Ashish,

First, let's address the reason that you eliminated option E. Logically, "which" can only refer to "letters" here, and not to "Susan Huntington Dickinson" (since she's a person and "which" can't refer to people). Since the logical antecedent is clear, "which" doesn't need to be placed right next to "letters".

Second, option A can be eliminated in two ways: from the standpoint of meaning, and from that of grammar. The first is the explanation given in the OG. If I were to summarize the main point of this sentence, I'd say: "Emily Dickinson wrote more letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson than she wrote to anyone else." The period in which the letters were written is secondary to the main point of the sentence. In option A, "outnumber" is not even a verb: it's a verb-ing modifier. It doesn't make much sense to say that the main point of the sentence is to tell us when the letters were written.

Also, if you're unable to decide what the main point of the sentence is, you can apply the rules about verb-ing modifiers to this question. A verb-ing modifier placed after a comma either describes the preceding action or presents a result of the preceding action. The latter option is clearly ruled out in this case, so we're left with the former. Does "outnumbering" describe "were written"? It doesn't. The fact that the letters were written during a specific period isn't logically related to the fact that the letters outnumber Dickinson's letters to anyone else. So, the verb-ing modifier "outnumbering" doesn't make sense here. We clearly need the verb "outnumber" in the correct answer.

I hope this helps to clarify your doubt.

Regards,
Meghna
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Re: Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were [#permalink]  15 May 2014, 07:47
egmat wrote:
Choice A is incorrect because of modifier error.
"outnumbering her letters to anyone else" should modify the letters but its placement is such that it appears to modify the preceding clause.

Notice that comma + verb-ing modify the preceding clause. And this modification does not make sense here. This is because it was not because the letters were written in the specified period that these letters outnumbered the other set of letters. In fact these two actions - were written and outnumber are really two different characteristics of the letters.

Lets consider an example sentence:
The film was shot in a small town of Guthernberg, exceeding expectations of the producers.
This sentence is incorrect since the verb-ing modifier appears to modify preceding clause and in this sentence this modification does not make sense. The fact that the film was shot in a small town did not really lead to exceeding the expectations of the producers.

The correct sentence is:
The film, shot in a small town of Guthernberg, exceeded the expectations of the producers.

The sentence simply states a fact that this film exceeded the expectations. It does not provide any reasoning for the same.

The film received significant critical acclaim, exceeding the expectations of the producers.
This sentence is correct. In this sentence, the verb-ing modifier makes complete sense with the preceding clause. The expectations of the producers were exceeded by virtue of the film receiving significant critical acclaim.

Hope this helps

Hello Egmat,

Couldn't you argue that in your example - "The film was shot in a small town of Guthernberg, exceeding expectations of the producers." -- doesn't this fit the "cause-effect" explanation of the comma -ing modifier? What I mean is, can't this be read as the following -- the film was shot and because of that it exceeded expectations? If I understand correctly, the part AFTER the ,-ing modifier is the result of the part before?
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Re: Emily Dickinsons letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were [#permalink]  15 May 2014, 20:19
I think there's been a bit of overanalysis on this question. Let's say that we simplify the sentence:

Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written over a period of twenty years, outnumbering her letters to anyone else.

If this were the original sentence, then it would be just fine IMO. It is not true that a concluding participial phrase must modify the entire preceding clause--it can also modify an individual noun in the clause instead. I think the main problem with the original sentence is that outnumbering could be construed as modifying period (so that it is parallel to beginning and ending) instead of letters. That's why simplifying the sentence as I did above can eliminate the problem. Hope this helps.

As for the "focus" of the sentence, that's subjective. How do we know for sure that the time frame in which the letters were written was not meant to be the actual focus? Just from looking at the original sentence, we really don't.
Re: Emily Dickinsons letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were   [#permalink] 15 May 2014, 20:19

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