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The Smiths avoid the Browns because they dislike their

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The Smiths avoid the Browns because they dislike their [#permalink] New post 01 Jan 2013, 17:20
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The Smiths avoid the Browns because they dislike their children.

Question asks to identify pronoun and their antecedents and correct the sentence if their is any ambiguity.
Solution says:The original sentence is ambiguous. The antecedent of they could be the Smiths or the Browns.Likewise, the antecedent of their could be the Smiths or the Browns.

My question is - on the basis of this rule that 'A pronoun in subject position in one clause may often be presumed to refer to the subject of a parallel clause' wouldn't they clearly refers to Smiths ?
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Re: Ambiguous Pronoun [#permalink] New post 02 Jan 2013, 12:19
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It's a leap from "may often be presumed" to "clearly." Think about the following examples:

My parents don't like dogs because they bark.

Here, "they" clearly does not refer to the subject of the first clause--it's the dogs that bark.

My parents support charities because they are good people.

Here, "they" clearly refers to the original subject--the charities are not "good people."

My parents had lunch with my grandparents before they left town.

Here, it's really hard to tell the author's intent. From the sentences above, we see that such a pronoun could go either way. A good writer avoids this kind of ambiguity, so the GMAT won't have it in a correct sentence. The other two sentences could easily be correct answer choices, because there's no real ambiguity.
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Re: Ambiguous Pronoun [#permalink] New post 01 Jan 2013, 19:59
In my opinion, though Smiths are the subject of the first part of the sentence, both 'they' and 'their' have more than one possible antecedents. Even from meaning perspective, both Smiths and Browns can possibly take the place for 'they' and 'their'. This sentence needs to be reworded. Its unlikely that GMAT will leave such ambiguity in the correct answer choice.
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Re: Ambiguous Pronoun   [#permalink] 01 Jan 2013, 19:59
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