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Surpassed only vs only surpassed - understanding

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Joined: 11 Aug 2011
Posts: 182
Location: United States
Concentration: Economics, Finance
GMAT Date: 10-16-2013
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Surpassed only vs only surpassed - understanding [#permalink] New post 26 Feb 2014, 06:58
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Question Stats:

77% (01:41) correct 23% (01:05) wrong based on 48 sessions
Diabetes, together with its serious complications, ranks as the nation's third leading cause of death, surpassed only by heart disease and cancer
(a) ranks as the nation's third leading cause of death, surpassed only
(b) rank as the nation's third leading cause of death, only surpassed
(c) has the rank of the nation's third leading cause of death, only surpassed
(d) are the nation's third leading causes of death, surpassed only
(e) have been ranked as the nation's third leading causes of death, only surpassed

I understand why the official answer is correct in the question and dont have a problem is that.
However my question is regarding the usage of surpassed only and only surpassed.
As per the OG explanation , "Placed before surpassed , only would more ambiguously limit surpassed."
I am not able to understand this.
To give an example , is there any difference in the following two sentences.

1. Diabetes ranks as the nation's third leading cause of death, surpassed only by heart disease and cancer.
2. Diabetes ranks as the nation's third leading cause of death, only surpassed by heart disease and cancer.

Kindly explain my doubt here !!!!
[Reveal] Spoiler: OA

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Re: Surpassed only vs only surpassed - understanding [#permalink] New post 27 Feb 2014, 02:54
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akhil911 wrote:
Diabetes, together with its serious complications, ranks as the nation's third leading cause of death, surpassed only by heart disease and cancer
(a) ranks as the nation's third leading cause of death, surpassed only
(b) rank as the nation's third leading cause of death, only surpassed
(c) has the rank of the nation's third leading cause of death, only surpassed
(d) are the nation's third leading causes of death, surpassed only
(e) have been ranked as the nation's third leading causes of death, only surpassed

I understand why the official answer is correct in the question and dont have a problem is that.
However my question is regarding the usage of surpassed only and only surpassed.
As per the OG explanation , "Placed before surpassed , only would more ambiguously limit surpassed."
I am not able to understand this.
To give an example , is there any difference in the following two sentences.

1. Diabetes ranks as the nation's third leading cause of death, surpassed only by heart disease and cancer.
2. Diabetes ranks as the nation's third leading cause of death, only surpassed by heart disease and cancer.

Kindly explain my doubt here !!!!


Hi Akhil,

Here's the difference in usage.

1. When "only" is placed before "surpassed", it modifies "surpassed".
2. When "only" is placed before "by heart disease and cancer", it modifies "by heart disease and cancer".

Where we place "only" depends on the intended meaning of the sentence. Let's look at a couple of examples before we address this question.

1. Yesterday, I went only to the museum.

Meaning: I didn't go anywhere else yesterday - only to the museum.

2. Yesterday, I only went to the museum.

Here, "only" modifies the action "went". So the meaning of this sentence is: I didn't do anything yesterday except go to the museum.

In this question, the writer means to say that diabetes is surpassed only by two other diseases in terms of the number of deaths it causes. So, we want "only" to refer to these two diseases, and not to "surpassed".

This is a fairly subtle differentiation in terms of meaning. In official sentences, there are usually other ways to eliminate options with such problems. For example, option C in this question can also be eliminated on the basis of wordiness.

I hope this helps to clarify your doubt.

Regards,
Meghna
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Re: Surpassed only vs only surpassed - understanding [#permalink] New post 27 May 2015, 04:31
Hello from the GMAT Club VerbalBot!

Thanks to another GMAT Club member, I have just discovered this valuable topic, yet it had no discussion for over a year. I am now bumping it up - doing my job. I think you may find it valuable (esp those replies with Kudos).

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Re: Surpassed only vs only surpassed - understanding   [#permalink] 27 May 2015, 04:31
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