With less than thirty thousand dollars in advance ticket sales and fewer acceptances by guest-speakers than expected, the one-day symposium on art and religion was canceled for lack of interest.
(A) less than thirty thousand dollars in advance ticket sales and fewer
(B) fewer than thirty thousand dollars in advance ticket sales and less
(C) fewer than thirty thousand dollars in advance ticket sales and fewer
(D) lesser than thirty thousand dollars in advance ticket sales and fewer
(E) less than thirty thousand dollars in advance ticket sales and as few
Please answer with your explanations
Right away, we should notice that this SC problem boils down to two "less vs. fewer" splits. Note that this is *not* very GMAT-like, but it is a good problem for making sure you've mastered this issue.
Before we go any further, you should all take a few seconds to watch this video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGWiTvYZR_w
So, why does Weird Al think we should say "15 items or fewer
" rather than "15 items or less
"? This boils down to the difference between countable
Let's look at an easier examples. "Hats" is a countable noun, but "water" is an uncountable noun. We say "fewer hats" but "less water". In the grocery store, "items" is of course a countable
noun – after all, the whole point of that sign is to get you count
your items to make sure you have fewer
than 15 things in your shopping cart.
In this particular sentence, we're thinking about fewer than / less than 30K dollars, and fewer / less acceptances.
"Acceptances" is clearly countable, so eliminate (B). (E) incorrectly uses "as few" instead of "fewer" – the "as few" construction goes "as few X as Y" and should be used only for comparisons. Eliminate (E).
The dollar portion is trickier. We can definitely count our money, but we actually treat "money" as an uncountable noun (e.g., "We all have less
money than we would like.") What about dollars? If you actually have 30K one dollar bills, then treat it as countable (you can count the dollars out one-by-one); otherwise, "30K dollars" is acting as an amount and should be treated as uncountable.
Think about the following analogy: "dollars" is to "water" as "dollar bills" is to "water molecules". "Dollars" and "water" should both be treated as uncountable, whereas "dollar bills" and "water molecules" are clearly countable.
All of this is to say that in the initial split we should go with "less than". Eliminate (C).
In (D), "lesser than" is unidiomatic. This leaves (A) as the correct answer.
Mark Sullivan | Manhattan GMAT Instructor | Seattle, WA
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