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A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States reduced

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Re: A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States reduced  [#permalink]

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New post 24 Apr 2014, 20:32
purnima wrote:
rahul wrote:
A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities had been allowed to dump into the Great Lakes.

(A) reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities had been allowed to dump
(B) reduced the phosphate amount that municipalities had been dumping
(C) reduces the phosphate amount municipalities have been allowed to dump
(D) reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities are allowed to dump
(E) reduces the amount of phosphates allowed for dumping by municipalities


Analysis Done :-

1. E option is NG as allowed for is unidiomatic.
2.Options B C are NG as amount of phosphate = phosphate's anount and not phosphate amount.
Now I can not decide between A and D.

I chose A as my understanding of the OS is : Prior to agreement municipalities dumped hence past pefect tense is Ok.

Experts pl help

1.


Dear Purnima,
Thank you for your query. :)

Meghna has addressed the tense issue with choice A beautifully. Please have a look at her post above. If you still have any doubt, then kindly post your question and analysis keeping in mind the analysis Meghna has provided in her post. We’ll take our discussion forward from there. :)

As regards your analysis of other choices, I feel that you are relying heavily on your understanding of idiom issues in these choices and less on the tense and meaning issues in them. Accordingly, I would like to request you to kindly post a thorough meaning analysis of the original sentence and identify the tense and meaning issues, along with any other issues that the choices may have.

Regards,
Neeti.
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Re: A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States reduced  [#permalink]

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New post 24 Mar 2015, 02:11
Thanks EducationAisle. I have read almost all explanations to this question through different sites, and in the end, I decided to remember it as it is. Because I think the answer to this question will always be ambiguous to non - native speakers:)
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Re: A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States reduced  [#permalink]

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New post 24 Mar 2015, 02:49
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Ergenekon wrote:
I think the answer to this question will always be ambiguous to non - native speakers:)

Hi Ergenekon, I don't take that for an answer, because I am a non-native speaker too:).

Let's give it another shot, with a fresh example, that you can better associate with.

Prior to 2012, GMAT used to have two essays as part of AWA. In 2012 however, GMAC introduced the IR section, replacing one of the AWA essays. So:

i) Prior to 2012, GMAT had two essays as part of AWA
ii) Since 2012, GMAT has had one essay as part of AWA.

How would we articulate this in a sentence?

A 2012 change in the pattern of GMAT reduced the number of essays that students are asked to attempt as part of the GMAT exam.

Now, why can’t we articulate the sentence as:

A 2012 change in the pattern of GMAT reduced the number of essays that students had been asked to attempt as part of the GMAT exam.

For this, let’s understand the intent of the sentence. Students are asked to attempt what as part of the GMAT exam? Well, students are asked to attempt essays as part of the GMAT exam. So, that (in that students…) is clearly referring to essays (and not to number of essays).

Summarily, students attempted essays even prior to 2012; students attempt essays even now (and hence the construct: students are asked to attempt, because students are asked to attempt essays even now). The only thing that changed/reduced in 2012 was their number. Hence, the sentence:

GMAT reduced the number of essays that students are asked to attempt as part of the GMAT exam.

Let me know if it is now making some sense:).
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Re: A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States reduced  [#permalink]

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New post 15 May 2016, 19:52
A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities had been allowed to dump into the Great Lakes.

There are two actions and they are not dependent and hence past perfect tense need not be used and secondly, the two clauses are joined as a subordinate clauses "using that". Check out the question : galileo-did-not-invent-the-telescope-but-on-hearing-in-111155.html. Where the past perfect is used properly.

(A) reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities had been allowed to dump
Because of the above reason, this option is incorrect

(B) reduced the phosphate amount that municipalities had been dumping
There is no need to use Past perfect continuous because the events are not dependent and the event need not be continuous.

(C) reduces the phosphate amount municipalities have been allowed to dump
Simple present is completely wrong as this event occurred in the past

(D) reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities are allowed to dump
Correct

(E) reduces the amount of phosphates allowed for dumping by municipalities
Simple present is completely wrong as this event occurred in the past
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Re: A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States reduced  [#permalink]

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New post 27 Feb 2017, 23:47
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There's no doubt about the OA: it is definitely D, and there is nothing wrong with this question (which really is an official GMAT question).

People get confused by this one because of the shifts in time. An agreement that took place in the past (described correctly in the past tense) had an effect on what we are now allowed to do (described correctly in the present tense). Similarly, I could say that a movie made in 1950 "changed the way that we see romantic love" or that a change made to the tax code in 1985 "limits the amount of losses one is able to deduct."

A is absolutely wrong. There's no ambiguity about that either. It starts in past tense and shifts to past perfect. This implies that the law worked backwards in time , changing the amount that people had been allowed to dump before the law was passed! Can we all agree that that makes no sense? :) Remember that the past perfect ("had been") is only used to describe events that precede some other past event in the sentence (or--outside the GMAT--elsewhere in the text). Answer choice A has only one past event, so the absurd interpretation I've provided is actually the only possible meaning! That choice has to go.
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Re: A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States reduced  [#permalink]

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New post 28 Feb 2017, 00:32
DmitryFarber wrote:
There's no doubt about the OA: it is definitely D, and there is nothing wrong with this question (which really is an official GMAT question).

People get confused by this one because of the shifts in time. An agreement that took place in the past (described correctly in the past tense) had an effect on what we are now allowed to do (described correctly in the present tense). Similarly, I could say that a movie made in 1950 "changed the way that we see romantic love" or that a change made to the tax code in 1985 "limits the amount of losses one is able to deduct."

A is absolutely wrong. There's no ambiguity about that either. It starts in past tense and shifts to past perfect. This implies that the law worked backwards in time , changing the amount that people had been allowed to dump before the law was passed! Can we all agree that that makes no sense? :) Remember that the past perfect ("had been") is only used to describe events that precede some other past event in the sentence (or--outside the GMAT--elsewhere in the text). Answer choice A has only one past event, so the absurd interpretation I've provided is actually the only possible meaning! That choice has to go.



Thanks for the detailed explanation. The action stopped after the agreement was passed. In that case if we mention that it could have continued till present times, which is not the case.

So I am still confused why 'are' is used. Am I missing out some point or any rule :? :?
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Re: A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States reduced  [#permalink]

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New post 28 Feb 2017, 00:55
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When you say "the action stopped," are you talking about my discussion of the past perfect in A?

To use the past perfect, we need more than an action that has stopped, or we'd end up using past perfect for all events that have ended. We don't say "I had been born in California" or "Nehru had been the first Prime Minister of India." To use past perfect, we need a sentence that mentions some past event, and we need to be describing something that preceded that past event: "Before the ruling was made, I had been crossing the border every day." "I had studied French for three years when I finally visited France."

As for the present tense in D, maybe it will help to think of it this way. There is an amount that municipalities are allowed to dump. The 1972 agreement reduced that amount, and we are still at that reduced amount. So the amount that municipalities are currently allowed to dump is lower than it used to be. Why? Because the 1972 agreement reduced it.

We could have used "were" instead of "are," but that would restrict the scope to the past, leaving it unclear whether the reduction is still in place, or whether such a limitation even exists anymore! It also would have made this question a lot less tough. ;) However, using the past perfect would be the worst of all. As I said before, since past perfect describes events that precede another past event, this would place the allowance first in our order, meaning that the change affected how much people had already been allowed to dump. In other words, we'd be saying it changed the past!
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Re: A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States reduced  [#permalink]

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New post 24 Jan 2018, 20:14
Great explanation. If a sentence describes a scientific theory in a past tense scenario, does the rule to use the simple present tense work as well?
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Re: A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States reduced  [#permalink]

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New post 26 Jan 2018, 13:06
MisterD wrote:
Great explanation. If a sentence describes a scientific theory in a past tense scenario, does the rule to use the simple present tense work as well?

I certainly wouldn't call it an absolute rule, but I think it's completely OK to discuss a scientific theory in the present tense, since the description is a general characteristic of that theory:

    The theory of spontaneous generation states that living organisms develop from nonliving matter.

Seems totally fine, right? We're describing the general characteristics of the theory of spontaneous generation, so present tense is OK. But I'm not sure that it would be WRONG, exactly, to discuss an old theory in the past tense:

    The theory of spontaneous generation stated that living organisms develop from nonliving matter.

I think this is probably fine, too. Why? Well, the theory of spontaneous generation was debunked a long time ago, and you could easily argue that it's more appropriate to discuss that theory in the past tense.

Bottom line: in some situations, the difference between present tense and past tense is mostly just a stylistic choice by the author. In most cases, you'll be able to figure out which tense is correct based on the context of the sentence. But if two different tenses seem defensible, just look for other errors, and don't automatically assume that one of the two (potentially correct) tenses must be wrong.

I hope this helps, and welcome to GMAT Club, MisterD!
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Re: A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States reduced  [#permalink]

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New post 10 Feb 2018, 08:43
GMATNinja wrote:
This one is a cruel classic that forces you to think really, really carefully about the connection between verb tenses and the intended meaning of the sentence. We covered this one at the end of our webinar on GMAT verb tenses, so head over there if you prefer your explanations in video form.

Quote:
(A) reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities had been allowed to dump

(A) is awfully tempting. The agreement happened in the past (1972), so it’s reasonable enough to use “reduced” here.

But what about the use of past perfect tense (“had been allowed to dump”)? Whenever you see the past perfect tense, it has to describe an action that is completed in the past, but BEFORE some other “time marker” in the past – usually another action in simple past tense. And we do have another action in simple past here: “reduced the amount of phosphates.” Superficially, this looks good.

But those verb tenses don’t actually make sense! Literally, (A) is saying that the 1972 agreement “reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities had been allowed to dump” – meaning that the 1972 agreement changed the amount that municipalities had been allowed to dump BEFORE the agreement went into place. And that makes no sense: how could a 1972 agreement reach even further into the past to change municipalities' behavior?

It’s subtle. And cruel and difficult. And if you wanted to be conservative on your first pass through the answer choices, you certainly could hang onto (A). But as you’ll see in a moment, we definitely have a better option.

Quote:
(B) reduced the phosphate amount that municipalities had been dumping

(B) is an even worse version of (A). How can the 1972 agreement reach back into the even-more-distant past to change the amount that “municipalities had been dumping”? Plus, there’s no good reason to use the progressive tense here, and the phrase “phosphate amount” strikes me as being awfully weird.

But the logic of the sequence of actions is the real problem, just as it is in (A). So (B) is out, too.

Quote:
(C) reduces the phosphate amount municipalities have been allowed to dump

There are all sorts of little problems with this one. First, I don’t think it’s ideal to say that the 1972 agreement “reduces” the phosphate amount. The agreement reduced that amount when it took effect in the past – so it’s hard to argue that the present tense would work here.

Second, the phrase “phosphate amount” still strikes me as weird. I’m not certain that it’s 100% wrong, and I wouldn’t eliminate (C) solely because of it. But “the amount of phosphates” is clearly better.

Finally, I don’t understand why we would use the present perfect “have been allowed to dump” in this sentence, particularly since it’s accompanied by the present tense “reduces.” “Have been allowed” suggests that the action started in the past and continues in the present. So the sentence is literally saying that municipalities “have been allowed” to dump a certain amount beginning in the past, but only because of a 1972 agreement… which “reduces” that amount only in the present? That doesn’t make sense.

So (C) is out.

Quote:
(D) reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities are allowed to dump

I know: this one doesn’t sound great. Why are we mixing the past tense with the present tense in this particular case? Superficially, it just doesn’t seem right.

But keep in mind that the simple present tense in English just describes a general characteristic. If we say “Mike surfs like a champion”, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Mike is surfing right now; it just means that he has the general characteristic of surfing like a champion.

So in this case, “the amount of phosphates that municipalities are allowed to dump” is completely fine: it’s a general statement of how much the municipalities can dump. And back in the past – specifically in 1972 – the agreement reduced that amount to its current levels. So the past tense “reduced” makes sense, and so does the present tense “are allowed.”

It might make us squirm a bit, but we have no reason to eliminate (D).

Quote:
(E) reduces the amount of phosphates allowed for dumping by municipalities

Again, “reduces” doesn’t make a lot of sense here, for the same reasons as we mentioned in answer choice (C). Plus, what the heck is going on with the phrase “allowed for dumping by municipalities”? This is a weird passive construction, and it’s far less clear than “municipalities are allowed to dump.”

So (E) is out, and (D) is the best we can do.


Dear GMATNinja,

I am still confused between A and D.

I had chosen option A because I thought that the municipalities were allowed to dump say "X" amount of phosphates before the agreement, whereas after the agreement, the municipalities are allowed to dump a reduced say "Y" amount of phosphates. (i.e. X > Y) and that the sentence was referring to the "X" amount of phosphates that the municipalities were allowed to dump before the agreement.

Please assist to point out the error in my line of reasoning above.

Regards,
Louis
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Re: A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States reduced  [#permalink]

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New post 26 Apr 2018, 14:08
louisbharnabas wrote:

Dear GMATNinja,

I am still confused between A and D.

I had chosen option A because I thought that the municipalities were allowed to dump say "X" amount of phosphates before the agreement, whereas after the agreement, the municipalities are allowed to dump a reduced say "Y" amount of phosphates. (i.e. X > Y) and that the sentence was referring to the "X" amount of phosphates that the municipalities were allowed to dump before the agreement.

Please assist to point out the error in my line of reasoning above.

Regards,
Louis




Hello Louis/ louisbharnabas,

I am not sure if you still have this doubt. Here is the explanation nonetheless. :-)

Usage of past perfect tense verb denotes an action that is done and over in the distant past. This verb denotes an event that is complete and over.

Going by this logic, the original sentence says that in the past, municipalities had been allowed to dump X amount of phosphates. This means that in the distant past they were allowed to do so. This action used to take place in the past and got over in the past

In 1972, when the agreement came into existence, they were no dumping the X amount of phosphates because they had been allowed to do so in the past. They were not doing so when the agreement came to existence.

So how could the agreement reduce the amount when they were not event dumping the X amount. This is the reason why Choice A is incorrect.

In choice D, use of are allowed is correct because this sentence presents general information. The municipalities are allowed to dump X amount of phosphates which was reduced by the agreement in 1972.

Please note that the sentence will be correct if we replace the simple present tense verb are allowed with simple past tense verb was allowed as this verb tense would present general information in the past.


Hope this helps. :-)
Thanks.
Shraddha
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A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States reduced  [#permalink]

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New post 28 Oct 2018, 08:44
just think about the amount of ........ its a great guidance to understand the meaning of the sentence.
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A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States reduced &nbs [#permalink] 28 Oct 2018, 08:44

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