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Need Expert help on ellipsis

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Need Expert help on ellipsis [#permalink] New post 30 May 2013, 03:15
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Hi Experts,

I need some real help in understanding the concept of ellipsis .I have gone through few of the posts in BTG and GMAT club forums related to this concept but I still have my doubts regarding this concept. I seek help from experts in this forum to clear my doubts with the help of enough examples for all the scenarios mentioned by me in the below questions. I know this is a long post but I believe that explanations to all the questions raised by me below would make this post an one stop post for for all the GMAT aspirants for understanding the concept of ellipsis.

As per my understanding, after reading the available posts on ellipsis, I understood that “Sometimes in English we may need to omit few word(s) from a sentence in order to make sentence more concise, provided that the words omitted are used elsewhere in the sentence and that the omission of words doesn’t lead to ambiguity”.

Please correct me if I am wrong in my understanding.

Doubt 1: Can these omitted words be any parts of speech or they can only be the helping verbs or prepositions?

Doubt 2: Is it mandatory that the omitted word has to appear prior or can it appear later also in the sentence. e.g. is the below correct?
Rohit's is a office of high quality professionals.
Can we omit the word office after Rohit's as it appears later in the sentence.
Now let us discuss this question.

Q1:Beaded wedding gowns are so expensive because the seamstress still pursues her art as they have for centuries, by hand-stringing each bead and then knotting each thread individually to achieve a secure attachment for each bead.
(A) the seamstress still pursues her art as they have
(B) the seamstress still pursues her art as she has
(C) seamstresses still pursue their art as they have
(D) seamstresses still pursue their art as was done
(E) the seamstress still pursues her art as has been done
OA: C

Doubt 3:
if we don’t omit the words, the correct sentence should read as below
Beaded wedding gowns are so expensive because the seamstress still pursue their art as they have pursued for centuries, by hand-stringing each bead and then knotting each thread individually to achieve a secure attachment for each bead.
Is omission of pursued valid here? It is pursue and not pursued which has been used earlier in the sentence. So is the OA perfectly correct?

Take one more official question

Q3: Heating-oil prices are expected to be higher this year than last because refiners are paying about $5 a barrel more for crude oil than they were last year.
(A) Heating-oil prices are expected to be higher this year than last because refiners are paying about $5 a barrel more for crude oil than they were
(B) Heating-oil prices are expected to rise higher this year over last because refiners pay about $5 a barrel for crude oil more than they did
(C) Expectations are for heating-oil prices to be higher this year than last year's because refiners are paying about $5 a barrel for crude oil more than they did
(d) It is the expectation that heating-oil prices will be higher for this year over last because refiners are paying about $5 a barrel more for crude oil now than what they were
(E) It is expected that heating-oil prices will rise higher this year than last year's because refiners pay about $5 a barrel for crude oil more than they did.

OA: A

Doubt 4:
Now if you look at the comparison part, it says
Heating-oil prices are expected to be higher this year than last
Refiners are paying about $5 a barrel more for crude oil than they were last year
Without omission the correct sentence should read as below

Heating-oil prices are expected to be higher this year than Heating oil prices/they were last year because refiners are paying about $5 a barrel more for crude oil than they were paying last year.
As we can see above, there are omissions at two places. I have problem with the omission of words at the first place.

I can understand that heating oil prices can be omitted as it has occurred previously in the sentence and with same logic, year can also be omitted. But how about were? Were doesn’t occur in the sentence before. According to me “are” can’t substitute “were”. Please correct me if I am wrong.

So is the below comparison correct?

Heating-oil prices are expected to be higher this year than last because refiners are paying about $5 a barrel more for crude oil than they were.
Q3: For many travelers, charter vacations often turn out to cost considerably more than they originally seemed.
(A) they originally seemed
(B) they originally seem to
(C) they seemingly would cost originally
(D) it seemed originally
(E) it originally seemed they would

OA :E

Doubt 5:
What’s wrong with option A?
Can we read the full sentence as below after substituting the omitted words.
For many travelers, charter vacations often turn out to cost considerably more than they originally seemed to cost.
To cost already appears in the sentence before, so according to your explanation in the post we can substitute omit/substitute this sentence.
If it Is true then the option A also seems correct to me. Kindly share your views
Q4: Salt deposits and moisture threaten to destroy the Mohenjo-Daro excavation in Pakistan, the site of an ancient civilization that flourished at the same time as the civilizations in the Nile delta and the river valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates.
(A) that flourished at the same time as the civilizations
(B) that had flourished at the same time as had the civilizations
(C) that flourished at the same time those had
(D) flourishing at the same time as those did
(E) flourishing at the same time as those were

OA: A

As per my understanding, the above question also tests ellipsis.
If we try to substitute the omissions then the correct sentence should read as below
Salt deposits and moisture threaten to destroy the Mohenjo-Daro excavation in Pakistan, the site of an ancient civilization that flourished at the same time as did/flourished the civilizations in the Nile delta and the river valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates .
Please confirm whether my understanding is correct.
I believe, your explanation to each of my doubts will certainly help me as well as others immensely to understand the concept of ellipsis much better.

Thanks a lot in advance,
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Re: Need Expert help on ellipsis [#permalink] New post 30 May 2013, 11:45
Expert's post
Hi Freshstart,

Interesting questions. Let's see what I can do.

1) Almost anything can be omitted if it makes sense, but the issue is usually structural. Consider the following:

I ate more popcorn than my brother.

Is there any ellipsis going on here? The “full version” of this sentence is not proper English:

I ate more popcorn than my brother ate popcorn. (This just doesn’t fit the structure we expect with “more than.” We’d only use this if we were comparing two different things, and then there’d be no room for ellipsis: “I love music more than my brother loves popcorn.”)

We could say this:

I ate more popcorn than my brother ate.

This doesn’t seem flat-out wrong, but it’s not the normal usage. We’d be more likely to see this:

I ate more popcorn than my brother did.

Here, the word “did” stands in for the previous verb (ate). Now the question is, do we need that “did”? Looking back at the original sentence, there’s no ambiguity. Even if we were inclined to think I might eat my brother, there’s no way to read the sentence to produce that meaning. In fact, the GMAT is not going to like either of the last two sentences, because the “more than” comparison is really between me and my brother. (See the explanation for SC 38 in the 2nd ed Verbal Review.) So really, we can say there’s no ellipsis here.

Now, in other sentences, some additional language is needed. How about this?

I admire the president more than my grandfather.

What does this mean? Do I think more highly of the president than my grandfather does, or do I think more highly of the president than of my grandfather? Here, additional structural words can fix the ambiguity:
Interpretation 1: I admire the president more than my grandfather does.
Interpretation 2: I admire the president more than I do my grandfather. (This works, but it doesn’t sound great. Since “admire” is just one word, I’d be tempted to repeat it, but the GMAT likes to avoid that kind of repetition, in part to make the answer less obvious.)

Again, the word do/does/did can stand in for a verb, similar to the way the pronouns that/those stand in for nouns. In Interpretation 1, we left out several words, but they were all “contained” in the word “does.”

A few other examples (note the use of structure to make the meaning clear):

Adjective: Don’t say you’re diabetic if you’re not. (Parallelism between “you’re diabetic” and “you’re not [ diabetic].”
Modified adjective: Don’t say you’re allergic to wheat if you’re not [allergic to wheat].
Modified noun: The inflation-adjusted grosses for these films are greater than those of many recent blockbusters. [those = the inflation-adjusted grosses]

One might argue that so far only the adjective examples have represented true ellipsis, as in every other case there is a substitute word filling the hole. So let’s look at your 2nd question.

2) There is nothing grammatically wrong with saying “Rohit’s is an office . . .” However, this is not a construction I’d recommend. This usage does work in some circumstances (“Ours is a happy marriage.”), but it’s kind of a stylistic flourish that must be used with care. (Why not just say “Rohit’s office is staffed by high-quality professionals” or “We have a happy marriage”?) I don’t think I’ve seen this on the GMAT.

3) The words “have” in Q1 and “were” in Q3 work the same way as do/did/does. “Did” is a stand-in for verbs in the simple past tense, and “have” and “were” stand in for verbs in the present perfect and past progressive, respectively.

4) It’s fine to use “were” to replace a verb originally introduced by “are,” and vice versa:

My dogs are hungrier now than they were this morning.
My dogs were more playful when they were puppies than they are now.

(Note that “they were”/”they are” can’t be dropped, because we start the comparison with “my dogs,” and we can’t compare “my dogs” to “this morning” or “now.” By adding “they were”/”they are” we create a comparison between clauses.)

5) For the charter vacations problem, we can’t compare “they cost” to “they seemed,” because those verbs don’t play the same role. We’re not saying that they did one thing (costing) more than another (seeming). Also, most verbs do not work as stand-ins. “Did/does/do,” “have/has/had,” “are/was/were,” and “had” are special. That’s one reason why we don’t say “I ate more popcorn than my brother ate.” The more add-ons to the verb, the worse it is: “I oversaw the production of more vehicles than my brother saw.” (“Did” at the end would be fine.)

Note that in the “flourished” problem, the idiom is “at the same time as.” This works kind of like “along with” or “in tandem with”: This civilization flourished in tandem with those civilizations.

If we had “at the same time that,” we’d need a clause with “did” at the end.

I hope this helps. Let me know if I can clarify anything!
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Re: Need Expert help on ellipsis [#permalink] New post 31 May 2013, 00:58
Hi Dmitry,

Yes, your explanations certainly helped, but I still have doubts, which I am going to mention below.

Consider the question below

Q3: Heating-oil prices are expected to be higher this year than last because refiners are paying about $5 a barrel more for crude oil than they were last year.

(A) Heating-oil prices are expected to be higher this year than last because refiners are paying about $5 a barrel more for crude oil than they were
(B) Heating-oil prices are expected to rise higher this year over last because refiners pay about $5 a barrel for crude oil more than they did
(C) Expectations are for heating-oil prices to be higher this year than last year's because refiners are paying about $5 a barrel for crude oil more than they did
(d) It is the expectation that heating-oil prices will be higher for this year over last because refiners are paying about $5 a barrel more for crude oil now than what they were
(E) It is expected that heating-oil prices will rise higher this year than last year's because refiners pay about $5 a barrel for crude oil more than they did.

OA:A

As you explained in the below examples
My dogs are hungrier now than they were this morning.
My dogs were more playful when they were puppies than they are now.

(Note that “they were”/”they are” can’t be dropped, because we start the comparison with “my dogs,” and we can’t compare “my dogs” to “this morning” or “now.” By adding “they were”/”they are” we create a comparison between clauses.)

Doubt 1: Similarly, don’t you think that “they were “is dropped in the above sentence. If you consider the below line from the above sentence.
Heating-oil prices are expected to be higher this year than last.
Shouldn’t it be written as
Heating-oil prices are expected to be higher this year than they were last year.
If we drop “they were” won’t it be similar to dropping “they were” from the “My dogs are hungrier…” example.
In the “heating-oil prices..” example the sentence starts with “heating-oil prices”. Now, if we drop they were after than then won’t it mean comparing heating oil prices with last year, similar to as dropping “they were” from “my dogs are hungrier…” example would mean comparing “my dogs” with “morning”, as stated by you. Kindly share your views.

Doubt 2: I still am a little confused regarding one of the doubts I intended to ask you above.
Is tense shift allowed while omitting the words?
In the couple of examples you have quoted the omitted verbs are in the same tense
I ate more popcorn than my brother did (ate and did both are in simple past tense)
I admire the president more than my grandfather does (admire and does both are in simple present tense)
But can we omit a verb if it is in a different tense from the parallel verb which is already present prior in the sentence.
Consider the below example
My grandfather ate mangoes the same way as I .
Is this valid? Ideally the sentence should end with do
i.e. My grandfather ate mangoes the same way as I do, but I guess “do” is understood here.
My doubt is whether we can omit do as ate is in simple past tense and do is in simple present tense.


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Re: Need Expert help on ellipsis [#permalink] New post 23 Jun 2013, 00:10
Expert's post
Hi Freshstart,

Sorry for the delayed response.

#1: You make a good point. I suppose we could get away with "My dogs are hungrier now than this morning." I don't think I'd personally write such a sentence, but the GMAT probably wouldn't count it as wrong (as your example shows), and in any case there's no real ambiguity, since no one expects the morning to be hungry.

#2: No, I don't think you can omit "do" in your example. Then again, I wouldn't do so even if the two words were in the same tense. I'd say "My grandfather eats mangoes in the same way that I do." You certainly see that kind of ellipsis sometimes--"No one knows this neighborhood as well as I"--but it's a stylistic choice that one has to be careful with. There are lots of ways for it to go wrong, and I don't think you'll see much of that on the GMAT.
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Re: Need Expert help on ellipsis   [#permalink] 23 Jun 2013, 00:10
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