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Noun Modifier question

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Noun Modifier question [#permalink] New post 26 Jun 2011, 08:20
I remember learning somewhere that noun modifiers should "touch", Just wanted to get clarification if there is a prepositional phrase:


A part of the work, which ....


can which ever refer to part? Or does it always have to refer to the closest noun, or is this always considered ambiguous?
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Re: Noun Modifier question [#permalink] New post 29 Jun 2011, 10:35
Yes, it can refer to part also. It depends on the context of the sentence. Hey I just learned this from e-GMAT course. I will try to explain this here.

The banana on the cake, which was over ripened, completely ruined the cake.

Here "which was over ripened" modifies "banana" and not the cake. But this sentence is correct. This is because "on the cake" cannot be put anywhere else. It is essential to explain which banana we are talking about. And there is no ambiguity in meaning because "which was over ripened" cannot modify cake.

OG12 #26 also has same thing going on...
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Re: Noun Modifier question [#permalink] New post 03 Jul 2011, 23:31
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It's true that a noun modifier doesn't always have to physically touch the *word* that it is modifying, but only because sometimes it is modifying a noun that is expressed in more than one word. In OG #26, the subject is Emily Dickinson's letters to her sister. If we want to express the noun in one word, it would be "letters," but the reference to her sister is part of the noun phrase. Note that "which" cannot refer to her sister, who is a person.

The other examples here are more ambiguous. In the banana example, there is no reason that "which" might not refer to "cake," so I'd be cautious about using that. It would be better to say something along the lines of "The banana on the cake was over-ripened and completely ruined the cake." In the case of "A part of the work, which . . . ," I don't see a lot of workable continuations of that sentence. There is no need to use "which" here, unless we want to refer to "work" and not "part."

I hope this helps! Let me know if you have other examples or questions on this topic.
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Re: Noun Modifier question   [#permalink] 03 Jul 2011, 23:31
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