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One of Kirchoff's laws, which was an observation... OG

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One of Kirchoff's laws, which was an observation... OG [#permalink] New post 14 Sep 2011, 18:33
One of Kirchoff's laws, which was an observation...

OG Question 40. The answer choice B is wrong because according to the OG "which is ambiguous because it could refer to one or to laws." But according to Manhattan GMAT guide, "which" always modifies the noun direct preceding it. I guess this boils down to what is modified in a prepositional phrase....aka "a group of men were/was"....a little help somebody???
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Re: The use of "which" [#permalink] New post 14 Sep 2011, 21:19
Which modifies

the noun preceding it
(or)
the noun in the noun + prepositional phrase.

Based on the context of the question, we should decide.

Ofcourse it is ambiguous here. Because both Kirchoff's laws deal with electricity and one fo the Kirchoffs law also deals with electricity. If it were to modify laws it should be which were.
If it modifies one of the Kirchoff's laws then it should which was.

And also there are aspects of parallelism to be considerd. And in that case then option B is ruled out.

Hope it helps
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Re: The use of "which" [#permalink] New post 16 Sep 2011, 13:04
Our SC guide also mentions this exception to the touch rule, in a section trenchantly titled "Exceptions to the Touch Rule." For those who have the book, the relevant section begins on page 234. There are three other such exceptions noted there as well.
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Re: The use of "which" [#permalink] New post 17 Sep 2011, 07:28
Michaels, I do have the book, but that section doesn't refer to the use of "which." I guess I could assume the same concepts applie. But I don't think I can do this because p.91 explicitly states "Which" never refers to an entire clause, but on the page you sited, this does happen with other modifiers.
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Re: The use of "which" [#permalink] New post 17 Sep 2011, 08:18
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1) The phrase "one of Kirchoff's laws" is not a clause, because it doesn't contain any verb, so this doesn't violate the rule you cite.

2) The rule applies just as surely to the "that" in our Strategy Guide sentence as it does to "which." In fact it applies to all relative pronouns, and all other noun modifiers. (Well, I can think of a counter-example for "that," but it would never be tested on the GMAT.)

3) The reason we stress that "which" in particular cannot refer to an entire clause is that that is the form of the rule relevant to the GMAT. Some wrong answers are wrong because they use "which" to refer to an entire clause.

4) The GMAT is here exploiting a gap between informal spoken English and Standard Written English. How does this sentence strike you, "The Powell Street station was closed today, which meant I had to get off at Montgomery and walk the last few blocks."? Seems OK, yes? But it's nonstandard, because "which" is meant to refer to the entire clause, rather than to the noun "yesterday."

5) That OG explanation you cited is pretty terrible. I would argue that the "which" unambiguously refers to "one of Kirchoff's laws" because it's immediately followed by the singular verb "was." If the sentence is ambiguous, it ain't ambiguous for long. In fact, the sentence you cite and our Strategy Guide sentence are very similar.

Here is the example sentence from our text:
He had a way of dodging opponents that impressed the scouts.
The relative pronoun "that" refers to, and the relative clause "that impressed the scouts" modifies, the noun phrase "a way of dodging opponents, rather than the noun "opponents."

Here is the relevant portion of the OG sentence:
...one of Kirchoff's laws, which was an observation...
The relative pronoun "which" refers to, and the relative clause "which was an observation..." modifies, the noun phrase "one of Kirchoff's laws." Well, so say I.

6) I suspect that whoever wrote the OG explanation realized that there was something weird around the "which," but missed his guess about just what that weird thing was. The "which" is awkward, and I would much prefer the reduced adjective clause used in A, but if you find yourself choosing between a grammatically defensible relative clause and a grammatically defensible reduced adjective clause, you're looking at the wrong issue. Go find a grammatical issue.

7) Yes, I realize that pretty much no one, and emphatically pretty much no native speaker of English, knows what a reduced adjective clause is. I know only because an EFL student once asked me under what circumstances he should prefer a reduced adjective clause to a relative clause, so I went home and looked it up in my Oxford Companion to the English Language (this was pre-Google). So the take-away is just that you shouldn't worry away felicity of expression until you've sorted out grammar, by which time C will be long gone.
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Last edited by MichaelS on 19 Sep 2011, 10:23, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: The use of "which" [#permalink] New post 17 Sep 2011, 08:52
MichaelS, I extremely appreciate all your help and understand your great explanation, but I did get a little confused by what I'm perceiving as a contradiction:

"The relative pronoun "that" refers to, and the relative clause "that impressed the scouts" modifies, the noun phrase "a way of dodging opponents, rather than the noun "opponents."

-My take-away: "That" can modify a clause.

"2) The rule applies just as surely to the "that" in our Strategy Guide sentence as it does to "which." In fact it applies to all relative pronouns"

-My take-away: "That" has the same rules as "which."

"And I'm assuming that, by what you said "The phrase "one of Kirchoff's laws" is not a clause, because it doesn't contain any verb, so this doesn't violate the rule you cite," and P.91 of the SC guide also says "which" can't modify a clause.

-My take-away: "which" can not modify a clause.

sorry if I'm belaboring the point. :/
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Re: The use of "which" [#permalink] New post 17 Sep 2011, 10:52
If you reread my earlier post and keep in mind that phrase=/=clause, does that clear things up?

"The relative pronoun "that" refers to, and the relative clause "that impressed the scouts" modifies, the noun phrase "a way of dodging opponents, rather than the noun "opponents."

-My take-away: "That" can modify a clause.


No. "That" modifies a phrase here, not a clause. "A way of dodging opponents" is not a clause, because it has no verb. "Dodging" is a noun, specifically a gerund. One way that you can tell this is that it follows a preposition; only nouns can follow prepositions. "That" does begin a clause, "that impressed the scouts," but it doesn't modify a clause.


The rule applies just as surely to the "that" in our Strategy Guide sentence as it does to "which." In fact it applies to all relative pronouns"

-My take-away: "That" has the same rules as "which."


Basically yes, when they are used as relative pronouns, though of course "that" has other jobs as well.
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Re: The use of "which" [#permalink] New post 17 Sep 2011, 12:03
Yes, it's quite obvious to me now, think I just needed to walk away from grammar for an hour and come back, but makes sense. Thanks again, and I think what you are doing here on Gmatclub is very admirable and greatly appreciated.
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Re: One of Kirchoff's laws, which was an observation... OG [#permalink] New post 22 Nov 2011, 17:31
MichaelS,

I've seen so many conflicting explanations (including from GMAT instructors) concerning what "that" or "which" refers to following a prepositional phrase. You are a SC God! Can you please affirm or dispel the below (below the examples). I think it would really clear things up for a lot of people!

3 Popular examples (all the correct version):

In good years, the patchwork of green fields that surround the San Joaquin Valley town bustles with farm workers, many of them in the area just for the season.

In an effort improve the quality of patient care, Dr. Lydia Temoscho is directing one of several clinical research projects that seek to determine how helpful psychological counseling is in supplementing the medical treatment of serious disease.

The use of lie detectors is based on the assumption that lying produces emotional reactions in an individual that, in turn, create unconscious physiological response.

1) That or which always refers to the first noun directly preceding it. (I'm 99.9% sure this is false)

2) That or which always refers to the entire noun phrase, and you should not pick any specific noun out of it.

3) That or which could refer to any noun in the noun phrase or the noun phrase as a whole, and you use the following verb to determine what the relative pronoun is referring to.

4) That or which could refer to any noun in the noun phrase or the noun phrase as a whole, and it is the reader's job to determine, based off what the sentence goes on to explain/describe, what the relative pronoun is referring to.

5) You can cross out the prepositional phrase when determining subject/verb agreement.

6) Contrary to what many believe, the relative pronoun that appears to prompt a subject/verb agreement issue, actually is rarely the cause of a SC split, and the error is usually something else.
Re: One of Kirchoff's laws, which was an observation... OG   [#permalink] 22 Nov 2011, 17:31
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