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# The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness

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The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness [#permalink]

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27 Oct 2009, 08:18
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The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius in two letters to the historian Tacitus.

(A) The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius in two letters to the historian Tacitus.
(B) To the historian Tacitus, the nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote two letters, being the only eyewitness accounts of the great eruption of Vesuvius.
(C) The only eyewitness account is in two letters by the nephew of Pliny the Elder writing to the historian Tacitus an account of the great eruption of Vesuvius.
(D) Writing the only eyewitness account, Pliny the Elder’s nephew accounted for the great eruption of Vesuvius in two letters to the historian Tacitus.
(E) In two letters to the historian Tacitus, the nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius

[Reveal] Spoiler:
Guys one more full underline SC ,
my work is as below:

in B letters are said as only eyewitness accounts
C is wordy for using only eyewitness account.......an account
D also looks ackward for using nephew accounted for the great eruption

now for me (A) and (E) are same why to choose one over other???

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[Reveal] Spoiler: OA
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Re: The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness [#permalink]

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27 Oct 2009, 11:57
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I don't think there is anything technically wrong with A. It has proper subject-verb agreement, there are not any issues with plural / singular nouns and verbs. The problem I have with A is that it is so wordy. Look at how many prepositional phrases are used. "of Pliny the Elder", "of the great eruption", "of Versuvius", "in two letters", "to the historian Tacitus." That's a lot of prep phrases. E has about the same number, but the phrases are better organized.

I like the way E uses the appositive in the beginning to "set the stage".

E seems like a more consice, clear sentence as opposed to A. Once you narrow it to A or E, it's not an easy choice.

sacmanitin wrote:
The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius in two letters to the historian Tacitus.

(A) The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius in two letters to the historian Tacitus.
(B) To the historian Tacitus, the nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote two letters, being the only eyewitness accounts of the great eruption of Vesuvius.
(C) The only eyewitness account is in two letters by the nephew of Pliny the Elder writing to the historian Tacitus an account of the great eruption of Vesuvius.
(D) Writing the only eyewitness account, Pliny the Elder’s nephew accounted for the great eruption of Vesuvius in two letters to the historian Tacitus.
(E) In two letters to the historian Tacitus, the nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius

Guys one more full underline SC ,
my work is as below:

in B letters are said as only eyewitness accounts
C is wordy for using only eyewitness account.......an account
D also looks ackward for using nephew accounted for the great eruption

now for me (A) and (E) are same why to choose one over other???

Experts Explain

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Re: The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness [#permalink]

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02 Nov 2009, 01:54
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jallenmorris , in terms of concisesness ,both are equally worded ,if you see you ll find an extra "," in E ,but as per my understanding the great eruption of Vesuvius in two letters to the historian Tacitus. ,is trying to sense it like the eruption occured in two letters !!,whereas in E it is clearly stated that it is the first object ,subject wrote ,make sense ??
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Re: The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness [#permalink]

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02 Nov 2009, 07:39
A looks like a run on sentence. Eruption in two letters or wrote in two letters?
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Re: The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness [#permalink]

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02 Nov 2009, 09:17
If you ll see the option A it will look like eruption in two letter instead of wrote in two letter
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Re: The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness [#permalink]

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02 Oct 2011, 18:15
I do not understand.
Doesn't (E) changes the meaning of the sentence?

(E) In two letters to the historian Tacitus, the nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius.

In two letters to the historian Tacitus, - we do not know who gave these letters to Tacitus. Somehow Tacitus got two letters.
the nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius. - In the letter, it is mentioned that Pliny wrote only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius.

So (E) is telling that Tacitus got two letters from someone, somehow, and in those letters, only the fact that Pliny wrote only what he saw about the great eruption is mentioned. But original sentence is supposed to mean that Pliny wrote 2 letters, which has description of the eruption, to Tacitus.
Isn't it?
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Re: The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness [#permalink]

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10 Oct 2011, 09:04
Torn between A and E. Picked A. Can someone post the OA?
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Re: The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness [#permalink]

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10 Oct 2011, 10:55
A has too many prepositions after one another... it becomes ambiguous. For instance, the eruption of V is followed with 'in two letters'. The eruption clearly did not take place in the letters.

It is better to have 'two letters' closer to the verb "wrote"...

E solves this.
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Re: The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness [#permalink]

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11 Oct 2011, 08:28
Between E and A, I picked E.

E seems to give more clarity. No other reason.

OA with OE will be appreciated
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Re: The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness [#permalink]

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02 Nov 2011, 02:03
sacmanitin wrote:
The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius in two letters to the historian Tacitus.

(A) The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius in two letters to the historian Tacitus.
(B) To the historian Tacitus, the nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote two letters, being the only eyewitness accounts of the great eruption of Vesuvius.
(C) The only eyewitness account is in two letters by the nephew of Pliny the Elder writing to the historian Tacitus an account of the great eruption of Vesuvius.
(D) Writing the only eyewitness account, Pliny the Elder’s nephew accounted for the great eruption of Vesuvius in two letters to the historian Tacitus.
(E) In two letters to the historian Tacitus, the nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius

Guys one more full underline SC ,
my work is as below:

in B letters are said as only eyewitness accounts
C is wordy for using only eyewitness account.......an account
D also looks ackward for using nephew accounted for the great eruption

now for me (A) and (E) are same why to choose one over other???

Experts Explain

A changes the meaning of the sentence. Almost sounds as if the great erruption is happening in the 2 letters. E corrects the issue.
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Re: The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness [#permalink]

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04 Nov 2011, 03:41
I am confused between C & E.
The issue that i see with E the ",nephew of Pliny the Elder" seems to refer to historian Tacitus.
C on the other hand is wordy but clear.

Can someone please explain why is C incorrect?
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Re: The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness [#permalink]

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04 Nov 2011, 12:01
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Since you have posted a doubt on C and E, lets consider choices A, C, and E only:

Meaning Analysis - (Choice A)

• The sentence talks about a person X - who is nephew of Pliny the Elder
• Person X wrote the only eyewitness account.
• This account is of the great eruption of Vesuvius
• He wrote the account in two letters
• The letters were written to the historian Tacitus

Errors Analysis of Choice A

The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius in two letters to the historian Tacitus.

Logically the modifier in “red” should provide additional information about the action – wrote – where did he write this only eyewitness account. But its placement after “eruption of Vesuvius” implies that the “eruption took place in two letters”. This is illogical. This is the error in choice A.

Answer Choice Analysis – Choice C

The only eyewitness account is in two letters by the nephew of Pliny the Elder writing to the historian Tacitus an account of the great eruption of Vesuvius.

First of all this choice only communicates partial meaning:
• It is not clear that the “only eyewitness account” is of the great eruption of Vesuvius”. This sentence seems to imply that the ONLY eyewitness account is in the letters that contain an account of the eruption of Vesuvius. This is clearly not what we want to communicate. We want to talk specifically about the ONLY eyewitness account of eruption of Vesuvius.

Secondly, the expression “nephew …writing to the historian Tacitus..” non-sensically describes the nephew and somehow gives the sense that the nephew is still writing the letters. This should instead express a one- time action done by the nephew.

Answer Choice Analysis – Choice E

In two letters to the historian Tacitus, the nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius.
This sentence correctly communicates the meaning.

Your statement that "nephew of Pliny the Elder" seems to refer to historian Tacitus.” is not correct. Note that the modifier is not “historian Tacitus”. The complete modifier is “in two letters to the historian Tacitus”. Now this prepositional modifier provides more information about the action – wrote. Where did the nephew write? In the 2 letters to historian Tacitus.

Take-away

– Focus on the meaning of the sentence and pay close attention to how the sentence structure of the sentences.

Payal
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Re: The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness [#permalink]

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05 Nov 2011, 01:48
A looks like a run on sentence

I will go with E
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Re: The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness [#permalink]

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17 Jul 2012, 01:04
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egmat wrote:
Since you have posted a doubt on C and E, lets consider choices A, C, and E only:

Meaning Analysis - (Choice A)

• The sentence talks about a person X - who is nephew of Pliny the Elder
• Person X wrote the only eyewitness account.
• This account is of the great eruption of Vesuvius
• He wrote the account in two letters
• The letters were written to the historian Tacitus

Errors Analysis of Choice A

The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius in two letters to the historian Tacitus.

Logically the modifier in “red” should provide additional information about the action – wrote – where did he write this only eyewitness account. But its placement after “eruption of Vesuvius” implies that the “eruption took place in two letters”. This is illogical. This is the error in choice A.

Answer Choice Analysis – Choice C

The only eyewitness account is in two letters by the nephew of Pliny the Elder writing to the historian Tacitus an account of the great eruption of Vesuvius.

First of all this choice only communicates partial meaning:
• It is not clear that the “only eyewitness account” is of the great eruption of Vesuvius”. This sentence seems to imply that the ONLY eyewitness account is in the letters that contain an account of the eruption of Vesuvius. This is clearly not what we want to communicate. We want to talk specifically about the ONLY eyewitness account of eruption of Vesuvius.

Secondly, the expression “nephew …writing to the historian Tacitus..” non-sensically describes the nephew and somehow gives the sense that the nephew is still writing the letters. This should instead express a one- time action done by the nephew.

Answer Choice Analysis – Choice E

In two letters to the historian Tacitus, the nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius.
This sentence correctly communicates the meaning.

Your statement that "nephew of Pliny the Elder" seems to refer to historian Tacitus.” is not correct. Note that the modifier is not “historian Tacitus”. The complete modifier is “in two letters to the historian Tacitus”. Now this prepositional modifier provides more information about the action – wrote. Where did the nephew write? In the 2 letters to historian Tacitus.

Take-away

– Focus on the meaning of the sentence and pay close attention to how the sentence structure of the sentences.

Payal

Hey egmat
In Choice E, I came to conclusion that the phrase "In two letters to the historian Tacitus" is modifying "the nephew of Pliny the Elder", which is the subject of next clause as well. I scratched the choice E while answering this and now I am scratching my head wondering the principle behind prepositional Modifier logic used here. MGMAT explicit says that a modifying phrase should pair up with the closest noun it is associated with. WIth that in mind, I visualized that "the nephew is in two letters" and selected A upon E. What am I missing here?
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Re: The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness [#permalink]

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17 Jul 2012, 01:11
(A) Vs (E)
+1 for (E) - concision
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Re: The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness [#permalink]

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17 Jul 2012, 11:19
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joshnsit wrote:
Hey egmat
In Choice E, I came to conclusion that the phrase "In two letters to the historian Tacitus" is modifying "the nephew of Pliny the Elder", which is the subject of next clause as well. I scratched the choice E while answering this and now I am scratching my head wondering the principle behind prepositional Modifier logic used here. MGMAT explicit says that a modifying phrase should pair up with the closest noun it is associated with. WIth that in mind, I visualized that "the nephew is in two letters" and selected A upon E. What am I missing here?

Hi @joshnsit,

Prepositional phrases are very versatile modifiers. They can modify nouns as well as verbs. When a prepositional phrase modifies a noun, then it must be placed as close to the noun it modifies as possible. This is important to avoid any ambiguity in modification and to keep the intended meaning of the sentence clear.

So whenever we come across a prepositional phrase, we must first ascertain whether it is modifying a noun or a verb. So let’s bring in the OG question here and identify the entity the prepositional phrase should modify.

The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius in two letters to the historian Tacitus.

The sentence says that the nephew of Pliny the elder was the only eyewitness to the great eruption of Vesuvius. So he wrote this eyewitness account in two letters to the historian Tacitus.

The meaning of the sentence helps us determine which identity the prepositional phrase should modify. Here the prepositional phrase “in two letters” should modify the verb “wrote”. Where did the nephew of Pliny the Elder write his eyewitness account? He wrote it in two letters. So this prepositional phrase is modifying the verb “wrote”.

Now notice that “in two letters” is placed close to “the great eruption of Vesuvius”. Since prepositional phrases can also modify nouns, in choice A it seems that this modifier is actually modifying “eruption”. The modification seems to suggest that the eruption actually took place in two letters. Hence, the placement of “in two letters” is not correct in choice A.

Now let’s analyze choice E:

In two letters to the historian Tacitus, the nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius.

The opening modifier in this choice is correctly modifying the following main clause. It is correctly modifying that what happened in tow letters. In two letters, the nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote what he saw. Hence, choice E is the correct answer.

Take Away:
1. Prepositional phrases can modify both nouns and verbs.
2. First ascertain the entity the prepositional phrase should modify and then see if their placement is correct.
3. If the prepositional phrase should modify a noun entity then place it after that noun entity.

Hope this helps.
Thanks.
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Re: The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness [#permalink]

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17 Jul 2012, 16:27
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egmat wrote:
joshnsit wrote:
Hey egmat
In Choice E, I came to conclusion that the phrase "In two letters to the historian Tacitus" is modifying "the nephew of Pliny the Elder", which is the subject of next clause as well. I scratched the choice E while answering this and now I am scratching my head wondering the principle behind prepositional Modifier logic used here. MGMAT explicit says that a modifying phrase should pair up with the closest noun it is associated with. WIth that in mind, I visualized that "the nephew is in two letters" and selected A upon E. What am I missing here?

Hi @joshnsit,

Prepositional phrases are very versatile modifiers. They can modify nouns as well as verbs. When a prepositional phrase modifies a noun, then it must be placed as close to the noun it modifies as possible. This is important to avoid any ambiguity in modification and to keep the intended meaning of the sentence clear.

So whenever we come across a prepositional phrase, we must first ascertain whether it is modifying a noun or a verb. So let’s bring in the OG question here and identify the entity the prepositional phrase should modify.

The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius in two letters to the historian Tacitus.

The sentence says that the nephew of Pliny the elder was the only eyewitness to the great eruption of Vesuvius. So he wrote this eyewitness account in two letters to the historian Tacitus.

The meaning of the sentence helps us determine which identity the prepositional phrase should modify. Here the prepositional phrase “in two letters” should modify the verb “wrote”. Where did the nephew of Pliny the Elder write his eyewitness account? He wrote it in two letters. So this prepositional phrase is modifying the verb “wrote”.

Now notice that “in two letters” is placed close to “the great eruption of Vesuvius”. Since prepositional phrases can also modify nouns, in choice A it seems that this modifier is actually modifying “eruption”. The modification seems to suggest that the eruption actually took place in two letters. Hence, the placement of “in two letters” is not correct in choice A.

Now let’s analyze choice E:

In two letters to the historian Tacitus, the nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius.

The opening modifier in this choice is correctly modifying the following main clause. It is correctly modifying that what happened in tow letters. In two letters, the nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote what he saw. Hence, choice E is the correct answer.

Take Away:
1. Prepositional phrases can modify both nouns and verbs.
2. First ascertain the entity the prepositional phrase should modify and then see if their placement is correct.
3. If the prepositional phrase should modify a noun entity then place it after that noun entity.

Hope this helps.
Thanks.

This was certainly helpful. I found something which is worth sharing and I can draw a parallel with what you describe. I found it on http://www.chompchomp.com/terms/prepositionalphrase.htm

A prepositional phrase will function as an adjective or adverb. (This becomes parallel with your first take away: Prepositional phrases can modify both nouns and verbs because they modify by qualifying verbs and nouns in the sentence.)

What explained next is really good.
As an adjective, the prepositional phrase will answer the question Which one?
The book on the bathroom floor is swollen from shower steam.
Which book? The one on the bathroom floor!

The sweet potatoes in the vegetable bin are green with mold.
Which sweet potatoes? The ones forgotten in the vegetable bin!

As an adverb, a prepositional phrase will answer questions such as How? When? or Where?
Freddy is stiff from yesterday's long football practice.
How did Freddy get stiff? From yesterday's long football practice!

Before class, Josh begged his friends for a pencil.
When did Josh do his begging? Before class!

The second example for prepositional phrase here explains the choice E here.

Your example has definitely reinforced what I found. The method of splitting sentence as used by you for choice A is really a good approach for identifying the nature of preposition(noun/adjective or verbal/adverb). Thanks a lot for explaining this.
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Last edited by joshnsit on 24 Jul 2012, 05:18, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness [#permalink]

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23 Jul 2012, 08:36
Thank you e- gmat.
the standard e-gmat process also work well for this kind of question, which is underlined all.

I see this kind of question is hard and takes us a lot of time.

I am an e gmat customer and wish that you write an article of how to approch this kind of question. Of course, the process is similar to your standard process but you can add more detail on the step: accertain the entity which the prepositional phrase should modify.

The problem we face when doing this kind of question is that after reading the original sentence, we understand nothing. HOw we can infer the intended meaning . The prepositional phrases are misplaced. HOw can we infer the intended meaing and correct places.

normally, if preposinal phrase modifying noun is misplaced, we can reliace the illogicness and can find the correct place/intended meaning. But when the prepositional phrase modifying a verb is misplaced, I can hardly realize the intended meaning/correct places.

do you have any idea of this problem? pls, explain.
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Re: The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness [#permalink]

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23 Jul 2012, 10:11
The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius in two letters to the historian Tacit us.

(A) The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius in two letters to the historian Tacit us. ---- The eruption of Vesuvius in two letters is wrong word order; After all, the eruption did not occur in two letters

(B) To the historian Tacitus, the nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote two letters, being the only eyewitness accounts of the great eruption of Vesuvius. ---- is it the accounts or account? The plural term -accounts - is wrong in this context. In addition, the letters being called as eyewitness accounts distorts the meaning. Do letters witness?

(C) The only eyewitness account is in two letters by the nephew of Pliny the elder writing to the historian Tacitus an account of the great eruption of Vesuvius. ----- The shift of tense to present –is- is not acceptable. In addition, if a present participle does not have a comma before it, it is supposed to modify the noun it touches. If the writing refers to Pliny the Elder, who actually wrote the letters?

(D) Writing the only eyewitness account, Pliny the Elder’s nephew accounted for the great eruption of Vesuvius in two letters to the historian Tacitus.---- same error as in A; In addition - accounted for –is wrong diction: It may also mean be responsible for and that the nephew took responsibility for the eruption

(E) In two letters to the historian Tacitus, the nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius; the best

Very often, in convoluted and complex structures, You will find some easy grammar clues to tide over the jumble. You can keep this in mind as a handy tool
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Re: The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness [#permalink]

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09 Nov 2013, 12:29
Quote:
Hi @joshnsit,

Prepositional phrases are very versatile modifiers. They can modify nouns as well as verbs. When a prepositional phrase modifies a noun, then it must be placed as close to the noun it modifies as possible. This is important to avoid any ambiguity in modification and to keep the intended meaning of the sentence clear.

So whenever we come across a prepositional phrase, we must first ascertain whether it is modifying a noun or a verb. So let’s bring in the OG question here and identify the entity the prepositional phrase should modify.

The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius in two letters to the historian Tacitus.

The sentence says that the nephew of Pliny the elder was the only eyewitness to the great eruption of Vesuvius. So he wrote this eyewitness account in two letters to the historian Tacitus.

The meaning of the sentence helps us determine which identity the prepositional phrase should modify. Here the prepositional phrase “in two letters” should modify the verb “wrote”. Where did the nephew of Pliny the Elder write his eyewitness account? He wrote it in two letters. So this prepositional phrase is modifying the verb “wrote”.

Now notice that “in two letters” is placed close to “the great eruption of Vesuvius”. Since prepositional phrases can also modify nouns, in choice A it seems that this modifier is actually modifying “eruption”. The modification seems to suggest that the eruption actually took place in two letters. Hence, the placement of “in two letters” is not correct in choice A.

Now let’s analyze choice E:

In two letters to the historian Tacitus, the nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius.

The opening modifier in this choice is correctly modifying the following main clause. It is correctly modifying that what happened in tow letters. In two letters, the nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote what he saw. Hence, choice E is the correct answer.

Take Away:
1. Prepositional phrases can modify both nouns and verbs.
2. First ascertain the entity the prepositional phrase should modify and then see if their placement is correct.
3. If the prepositional phrase should modify a noun entity then place it after that noun entity.

Hope this helps.
Thanks.

Honestly, this post shows again the paradoxity of egmat. I mean, youre post is excellent. But why dont you provide stuff like that to your customers? Why do I - as a customer - have to search in a public forum for such a great explanation from you. That is totally ridicolous.
Re: The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness   [#permalink] 09 Nov 2013, 12:29

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