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pronoun reference

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pronoun reference [#permalink] New post 26 Jun 2010, 08:29
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Sorry for this basic question:

Imagine this sentence:

A machine searching for extraterrestrial life, will not find it.

I have problems with the pronoun "it": how I know to which does "it" refer to? to the subject machine? to the object??

Please clarify.

Thanks in advance.
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Re: pronoun reference [#permalink] New post 27 Jun 2010, 02:25
noboru
IMO : You can't. "it" is ambiguous. Since "searching" is not a verb its a gerund.

"find" is a verb and "it" is in object position. "machine" and "extraterrestrial life" are both singular which causes confusion.

Where did you see such a sentence ?

noboru wrote:
Sorry for this basic question:

Imagine this sentence:

A machine searching for extraterrestrial life, will not find it.

I have problems with the pronoun "it": how I know to which does "it" refer to? to the subject machine? to the object??

Please clarify.

Thanks in advance.

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Re: pronoun reference [#permalink] New post 27 Jun 2010, 02:32
nusmavrik wrote:
noboru
IMO : You can't. "it" is ambiguous. Since "searching" is not a verb its a gerund.

"find" is a verb and "it" is in object position. "machine" and "extraterrestrial life" are both singular which causes confusion.

Where did you see such a sentence ?

noboru wrote:
Sorry for this basic question:

Imagine this sentence:

A machine searching for extraterrestrial life, will not find it.

I have problems with the pronoun "it": how I know to which does "it" refer to? to the subject machine? to the object??

Please clarify.

Thanks in advance.


The sentence is part of a CR passage, and when I saw it, I thought: "mmm...if this were a SC, there would be ambiguity??"
Any more thoughts?
Thanks,
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Re: pronoun reference [#permalink] New post 27 Jun 2010, 05:19
Yes but make a wholesome call - not just based on pronoun ambiguity. If gmat has to muddy the correct answer - it will make it unattractive - Not the girl in the baywatch :-D

If this sentence is in CR then I will assume that "it" is referring to extraterrestrial life.
noboru wrote:

The sentence is part of a CR passage, and when I saw it, I thought: "mmm...if this were a SC, there would be ambiguity??"
Any more thoughts?
Thanks,

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Re: pronoun reference [#permalink] New post 27 Jun 2010, 05:46
noboru wrote:
Sorry for this basic question:

Imagine this sentence:

A machine searching for extraterrestrial life, will not find it.

I have problems with the pronoun "it": how I know to which does "it" refer to? to the subject machine? to the object??

Please clarify.

Thanks in advance.


It refers to "extraterrestrial life". The use of pronoun is ambiguous only if it creates two logical sentences by refering to two or more antecedents.
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Re: pronoun reference [#permalink] New post 27 Jun 2010, 20:21
to clarify, your sentence really doesn't make sense unless it [your sentence] is corrected by either the following:

This machine, searching for extraterrestrial life, will not find it.

In this example, i made the present participle + prepositional phrase modifier (searching for ET life) a nonessential (nonrestrictive) modifer. To do this, i need to specific the machine with the word This. [Note also that searching is NOT a gerund in this example; searching is serving as an adjective (present participle to be exact) that modifies machine.]

Or, you can correct the sentence by removing the comma:

A machine searching for extraterrestrial life will not find it.

It can be referred to machine or to life... ask the question: does it make sense to say, a machine will not find this machine? sounds quite funny, but still, it can be ambiguous even if it's quite obvious that the it should refer to life.

hope that helps
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Re: pronoun reference   [#permalink] 27 Jun 2010, 20:21
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