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# About 5 million acres in the United States have been invaded by leafy

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This question tests modifier.

A: displacing.. and rendering.. are modifier, it modifies the preceding sentence, which in here is "milk sap that gives sores" - so the meaning is wrong, mouth sore doesn't replace grasses
B: correct, as the modifier are in right place
C: not parallel "gives mouth sores... displacing grasses"
D: is a possible answer, but "displaces.. and renders..." could apply to either the 5acres or the plant, so ambiguous subject
E: this is weird to start with as there are much of verb+ing modifier at the back; same issue "giving... and displacing.." seems to modify the milky sap. sap doesn't display grasses
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Hi - two quick questions on option B

Q1)
Does THAT only apply to first phrase [that gives mouth sores to cattle] and NOT to the second phrase [displaces grasses and other cattle food]

OR

Does the THAT apply as well to the second half [displaces grasses and other cattle food]

I am struggling to understand which is better usage

Originally posted by jabhatta2 on 16 Aug 2021, 15:52.
Last edited by jabhatta2 on 16 Aug 2021, 16:08, edited 2 times in total.
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Q2) AjiteshArun AndrewN

I am struggling to understand why in B -- another THAT is not required to be explicitly written out ? Is it perhaps because the first THAT is part of the parallel root and thus is enough to apply to the second half [displaces grasses and other cattle food..] ?

[Example : I dont like pets THAT shed and make a mess. Here THAT i am sure applies to bother parts because THAT is part of the parallel root phrase]

In another post From Andrew - Link 1 and and From Ajitesh - Link 2 -- you mention the "THAT" is needed to be written out explicitly if extend has to be made parallel to Is

Why isn't a second THAT needed here but per this linked posts , a second THAT is needed ?

How to reconcile..
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Q2) AjiteshArun AndrewN

I am struggling to understand why in B -- another THAT is not required to be explicitly written out ? Is it perhaps because the first THAT is part of the parallel root and thus is enough to apply to the second half [displaces grasses and other cattle food..] ?

[Example : I dont like pets THAT shed and make a mess. Here THAT i am sure applies to bother parts because THAT is part of the parallel root phrase]

In another post From Andrew - Link 1 and and From Ajitesh - Link 2 -- you mention the "THAT" is needed to be written out explicitly if extend has to be made parallel to Is

Why isn't a second THAT needed here but per this linked posts , a second THAT is needed ?

How to reconcile..
Hello again, jabhatta2. Yes, I remember that other thread quite well. You kept calling in Expert after Expert to comment on how something I had written was incorrect (mislabeled), yet no one obliged: each Expert kept matters respectful and, I felt, made an honest effort to resolve your doubts. I am not sure what your intention may be with this post, but I will emphasize that situational awareness is more important than establishing firm rules in your approach to SC questions. Look at the five answer choices presented and make the best call you can for whatever reasons you believe there are to qualify or disqualify each option.

I have made no claim that a second inclusion of that always needs to follow a first appearance of the word in a parallel construct, and neither did AjiteshArun in the post you linked to. Sometimes adding a second that gives the sentence much needed clarity, particularly when the first element in the parallel construct may be lengthy. What constitutes "lengthy"? I have no definitive answer for you. Language does not operate as purely as mathematics in many cases, and this is one such case. (Oxford commas and commas after shorter introductory phrases offer two more such cases.) At a certain point, a sentence can become hard to follow, so we incorporate certain cues in our writing to better convey the intended meaning. In this question, if GMAC™ provides an answer in (B) that takes fewer debatable turns than do other options, then you have to take it that that gives mouth sores to cattle and displaces grasses... is fine in this sentence.

I hope you will take the time to learn from posts others have made, rather than seek to put words in anyone's mouth.

- Andrew
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Hi AndrewN - i can assure you my goal neither with the earlier thread nor with this thread is to stir up debate between experts - It's neither to put words in other people's mouths --- my apologize if you got that impression

Well aware, different experts can use different ways to get to the OA

Going back to your earlier usage of the second THAT in the filligree example here - the only reason you advocate for a second THAT was because of the length of the first element, correct ?

Had the first element in the parallel construct been short in the Filigree question -- you would NOT have advocated for a second "THAT" if IS is to be made parallel to
• option B) extends
• option C) extended
• option D) is extending

Please let me know if my understanding is accurate.

Originally posted by jabhatta2 on 17 Aug 2021, 11:18.
Last edited by jabhatta2 on 17 Aug 2021, 12:26, edited 1 time in total.
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Q2) AjiteshArun AndrewN

I am struggling to understand why in B -- another THAT is not required to be explicitly written out ? Is it perhaps because the first THAT is part of the parallel root and thus is enough to apply to the second half [displaces grasses and other cattle food..] ?

[Example : I dont like pets THAT shed and make a mess. Here THAT i am sure applies to bother parts because THAT is part of the parallel root phrase]

In another post From Andrew - Link 1 and and From Ajitesh - Link 2 -- you mention the "THAT" is needed to be written out explicitly if extend has to be made parallel to Is

Why isn't a second THAT needed here but per this linked posts , a second THAT is needed ?

How to reconcile..
Hi jabhatta2,

Such issues (should we repeat that or not?) can be frustrating. For what it's worth, here's one way to approach this decision (from this post). Assuming that both X and Y in X and Y are introduced by that:

1. If we see a that in the first half, a second that is not necessary. Including a second that may help the reader understand the structure of the sentence (especially if it is a long sentence), but it is not required.
1a. ... that {abc and xyz} ← This is not a problem, especially in short sentences.
1b. ... {that abc} and {that xyz} ← This is generally recommended in longer sentences, but it isn't necessary.

2. If we see a that in the second half, we should not remove the first that.
2a. ... {abc} and {that xyz} ← If the second element includes a that (because it is in the non-underlined portion), it would not be a good idea to skip the first that.
2b. ... {that abc} and {that xyz}
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could anyone explain how A is wrong?

Hello sevenplusplus,

Let's take a look at the original sentence:

About 5 million acres in the United States have been invaded by leafy spurge, a herbaceous plant from Eurasia with milky sap that gives mouth sores to cattle, displacing grasses and other cattle food and rendering rangeland worthless.

(Blue = subject, Green = verb, Pink = comma + verb-ing modifiers)

Let's understand what the sentence intends to convey. The sentence states that in the US, some 5 million acres of land have been invaded leafy spurge. Describing the leafy spurge, the sentence states that it's a plant from Eurasia. It has milky sap that gives mouth sores to cattle. This leafy spurge displaces grasses and other cattle food and renders rangeland worthless.

However, the way this sentence is worded, it suggests that because leafy spurge gives mouth sores to cattle, it displaces grasses and other cattle food and has rendered rangeland worthless.

We get this illogical meaning from the sentence because of the incorrect usage of the comma + verb-ing modifiers* displacing and rendering.

The comma + verb-ing modifier must modify the preceding action logically and must also make sense with the doer of the modified action.

In this official sentence, the comma + verb-ing modifiers displacing and rendering illogically modifies the preceding action gives by presenting the result of this action. Grasses and other cattle food are not displaced and rangeland are not rendered worthless because leafy spurge gives mouth sores to cattle.

This is the reason why Choice A is incorrect.

From the context of the sentence, we can understand that because leafy spurge displaces grasses and other cattle food, rangeland are rendered useless. So we do have this logical cause-and-effect in the sentence that must be communicated in correct grammar.

Let's evaluate Choice B now:

About 5 million acres in the United States have been invaded by leafy spurge, a herbaceous plant from Eurasia, with milky sap, that gives mouth sores to cattle and displaces grasses and other cattle food, rendering rangeland worthless.

This choice correctly conveys the logical intended meaning. The comma + verb-ing modifier displacing has been turned to simple present tense verb displaces. The comma + verb-ing modifier rendering correctly modifies the preceding action displaces, presenting the result of this action. Because the leafy spurge displaces grasses and other cattle food, it renders rangeland worthless.

*The correct usage of comma + verb-ing has been covered in great details and with pertinent examples in our SC course, In fact, this concept features in the Free Trail course offered by e-GMAT. You can register for free at e-gmat.com and review the concept.

Hope this helps.
Thanks.

But the clause in option A "a herbaceous pant from Eurasia with milky saps that gives mouth sores to cattle" is set off by COMMAS
So, doesn't it means that both displacing and rendering modifies the noun "leafy spurge",which is written just before the commas?
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Dear Experts,

I read all posts in this forum. But I am still confused (C) and (B).

I can eliminate D & E because
D - It doesn't make sense that an area displaces by itself
E - Fragment
A - Eliminate because displacing and rendering

But I don't understand why C is incorrect. For me, C is better than B

I understand what the sentence intends to convet.
US have been invaded by leafy spurge. Leafy spurge has milky sap. milky sap gives mouth sores to cattle. This leafy spurge displaces grasses and other cattle food. Therefore, These make rangeland worthless

(C) - conveys this meaning.

(B) changes the meaning. Leafy spurge if-self (not milky sap) gives mouth sores to cattle. Also, For me, ", with milk sap, that.... " is awkward.

Could any expert explain me (B) and (C)
Let's take a look at the apparent parallelism in (C). Ignoring the prepositional phrase ("from Eurasia"), we have, "a herbaceous plant from Eurasia (1) having milky sap that gives mouth sores to cattle and (2) displacing grasses and other cattle food..."

Let's jump right to the second part: "[a herbaceous plant] displacing grasses and other cattle food..."

• So leafy spurge is a plant displacing grasses and other cattle food? What exactly does that mean?
• In this context, the -ing form of displacing seems to suggest that this action is going on only temporarily -- that the plant is currently displacing grasses/other cattle food but that this doesn't happen all the time.
• If that doesn't make sense, think of this example: "The man yelling in the street has attracted a lot of attention." Here, "yelling in the street" is not a characteristic of the man; the man is not always yelling in the street. Instead, the man is currently yelling in the street and will presumably stop at some point.
• But is the plant only displacing grasses/other cattle food right now? Will it stop displacing grasses/other cattle food sometime in the near future??
• That doesn't make much sense. "Displacing grasses and other cattle food" is a characteristic of the plant -- something the plant constantly does. If you put that plant anywhere with grasses, the plant will presumably start displacing those grasses. That's what the plant does.
• So it makes more sense to say, "a herbaceous plant THAT displaces grasses." This construction properly suggests that displacing grasses is something that the plant does by nature.

The first part ("a herbaceous plant having milky sap") isn't great, either. I don't see why we would want to use the "-ing" form of "to have" here. You wouldn't say, "I bought a computer having 8GB of RAM." Instead, you would say, "I bought a computer that has 8 GB of RAM." Again, the "-ing" form seems to suggest that the "having" is temporary condition instead of a lasting characteristic, and that doesn't make sense in this context.

Now, please don't misinterpret that as some sort of made-up rule that "-ing" modifiers can ONLY be used to describe temporary conditions -- that's certainly not true.

Consider this example:

"The house facing southeast gets a lot of direct sunlight."

This is fine because the reader KNOWS that this is not a temporary action -- a house doesn't face southeast one moment and then suddenly rotate! (Well, maybe Elon Musk has a rotating house, but most houses stay put.)

On the other hand, "displacing grasses" might be a temporary action or a permanent characteristic of the plant. So IN THIS CONTEXT, the "-ing" modifiers aren't ideal. The parallel structure in (C) might LOOK okay, but it creates a couple of weird meaning issues.

Also, notice that in (C) we have an "-ing" modifier ("rendering") that modifies the parallel set of "-ing" modifiers ("a herbaceous plant having milky sap and displacing grasses and other cattle food"). This causes additional confusion because the reader might initially think that the third "-ing" modifier ("rendering") is part of that parallel list ("having {...} and displacing...").

(B) avoids all of those issues, making the meaning much clearer. (C) might not have any clear-cut grammar mistakes, but (B) is definitely the better choice.

I hope that helps!
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Full disclosure: I totally got punked by this one during our last verbal chat. Join us for the next one! https://gmatclub.com/forum/verbal-chat- ... 78-20.html I mean, it's fun to see a guy with an 800 get embarrassed, right? :-D

As some others have pointed out, this one is all about the intersection of structure and meaning. (And there are already some excellent explanations here, but, well, I promised to write one as penance, so here you go.)

Quote:
A. States have been invaded by leafy spurge, a herbaceous plant from Eurasia with milky sap that gives mouth sores to cattle, displacing grasses and other cattle food and rendering
I really only notice two things in (A). "That gives mouth sores to cattle" seems to modify "milky sap", and I guess that's OK.

But then at the end of the sentence gives us a pair of parallel "-ing" modifiers, "displacing grasses... and rendering rangeland worthless." And what do they modify?

Hold that thought. We'll come back to that in a second.

Quote:
B. States have been invaded by leafy spurge, a herbaceous plant from Eurasia, with milky sap, that gives mouth sores to cattle and displaces grasses and other cattle food, rendering
OK, so the added commas around "with milky sap" change things just a tiny bit: "that gives mouth sores to cattle and displaces grasses..." now clearly modifies "a herbaceous plant from Eurasia." Hm, that makes a lot of sense.

And now "rendering" clearly modifies the preceding clause, "that gives mouth sores to cattle and displaces grasses and other cattle food." That also makes a lot of sense: rangeland is rendered useless by this evil plant that gives mouth sores to cattle and displaces their food sources.

Back to (A), then:
Quote:
A. States have been invaded by leafy spurge, a herbaceous plant from Eurasia with milky sap that gives mouth sores to cattle, displacing grasses and other cattle food and rendering
So wait: in (A), it's the milky sap that gives the mouth sores to cattle -- not the leafy spurge itself, as (B) would indicate. In that sense, (B) seems to be a slightly better choice. It's a bigger problem, presumably, if the entire plant gives mouth sores to cattle.

More importantly: "displacing grasses and rendering rangeland useless", would generally modify the preceding clause. And that's pretty illogical in (A): "that gives mouth sores to cattle" has absolutely nothing to do with "displacing grasses." And in that sense, (B) is much clearer.

So (A) is gone. And the rest are easier to eliminate:

Quote:
C. States have been invaded by leafy spurge, a herbaceous plant from Eurasia having milky sap that gives mouth sores to cattle and displacing grasses and other cattle food, rendering
Parallelism in (C) is clearly wrong: "... and displacing grasses" is parallel to what, exactly? "Having milky sap", I guess? That's a mess. We can comfortably eliminate (C).

Quote:
D. States, having been invaded by leafy spurge, a herbaceous plant from Eurasia with milky sap that gives mouth sores to cattle, displaces grasses and other cattle food, and renders
I really don't love "having been invaded" in this case. In general, "having + verb" needs to be the first of two actions, and that's just not happening here. (For more on this topic, see our last chat transcript.)

Also, the parallelism at the end of the sentence isn't ideal: "... with milky sap that gives mouth sores to cattle, displaces grasses..., and renders rangeland worthless." The sap displaces grasses? That doesn't make sense. (D) is gone.

Quote:
E. States, having been invaded by leafy spurge, a herbaceous plant from Eurasia that has milky sap giving mouth sores to cattle and displacing grasses and other cattle food, rendering
(E) is similar to (D): "having been" doesn't seem quite right, and "giving mouth sores to cattle" is parallel to "displacing grasses", suggesting that the milky sap displaces grasses -- and that doesn't make sense. (E) is gone, too, and (B) is our winner.

GMATNinja egmat

In Option A,

About 5 million acres in the United States have been invaded by leafy spurge, a herbaceous plant from Eurasia with milky sap that gives mouth sores to cattle, displacing grasses and other cattle food and rendering rangeland worthless.

I am trying to break the sentence-

If "a herbaceous plant" is a modifier for "Leafy spurge"

And if

"from Eurasia with milky sap" is giving extra information for "a herbaceous plant"

and if

"that gives mouth sores to cattle" is providing extra information about "milky sap".

Then why can't

"displacing" and "rendering", modify "leafy spurge"?

V-ing modifier without comma?

Also as we know, that modifier can modify faraway noun/clause, if there is another modifier in between and if in between modifier can't take any other place.

Also In option B-

About 5 million acres in the United States have been invaded by leafy spurge, a herbaceous plant from Eurasia, with milky sap, that gives mouth sores to cattle and displaces grasses and other cattle food, rendering rangeland worthless.

Why, "that" can't modify "milky sap"?
Is it because of "comma" before "that"?

Also wouldn't it would sound a little illogical, that "a herbaceous plant gives mouth sore"?
Shouldn't it be "milky sap" as per the original meaning?

Help me out, in understanding these points.

Thanks & Regards
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About 5 million acres in the United States have been invaded by leafy spurge, a herbaceous plant from Eurasia with milky sap that gives mouth sores to cattle, displacing grasses and other cattle food and rendering rangeland worthless.

A. States have been invaded by leafy spurge, a herbaceous plant from Eurasia with milky sap that gives mouth sores to cattle, displacing grasses and other cattle food and rendering “Gives” is not parallel to “displacing” and “rendering”. Also, “Eurasia with milky sap” is awkward as it seems like Eurasia has milky sap.

B. States have been invaded by leafy spurge, a herbaceous plant from Eurasia, with milky sap, that gives mouth sores to cattle and displaces grasses and other cattle food, rendering “Gives” is parallel to “displaces”. The use of “rendering” implies that the consequence of this invasion is being referred to. Also, “with milky sap” as a set-off is much better usage.

C. States have been invaded by leafy spurge, a herbaceous plant from Eurasia having milky sap that gives mouth sores to cattle and displacing grasses and other cattle food, rendering Although the use of “rendering” implies that the consequence of this invasion is being referred to, “gives” is not parallel to “displacing”. Also, “Eurasia having milky sap” is awkward as it seems like Eurasia has milky sap.

D. States, having been invaded by leafy spurge, a herbaceous plant from Eurasia with milky sap that gives mouth sores to cattle, displaces grasses and other cattle food, and renders The main verb “have” has been taken over by the modifying clause – “having been invaded by leafy spurge, a herbaceous plant from Eurasia with milky sap that gives mouth sores to cattle, displaces grasses and other cattle food, and renders”. This sentence now has no verb. Best way to check: simplify the sentence – “About 5 million acres in the United States, having been invaded by spurge that gives sores, displaces grass and renders rangeland worthless”…What? The sentence is incomplete because the verb is missing now.

E. States, having been invaded by leafy spurge, a herbaceous plant from Eurasia that has milky sap giving mouth sores to cattle and displacing grasses and other cattle food, rendering Same as Option D

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Hi GMATNinja AjiteshArun – one follow-up on B. Using a visual aid for my question.

For Option B specifically - Highlighted the X marker (in yellow highlight) and the Y marker (in green highligh) in my visual aid.

The yellow and green are parallel because of the “And”
--- The X marker (in yellow highlight) from a logical meaning obviously refers to the milky sap [Reason : herbaceous plant by itself cannot cause sores obviously. Per logic, it is the milky sap INSIDE the plant that is causing the sores]
--- So, the Y marker (in green highlight) should also refer to milky sap] because of the parallelism.

BUT the Y marker referring to milky sap is illogical - How can milky sap by itself displace grasses and other cattle food?

The Y marker in green from a logical meaning perspective refers to another different noun (herbaceous plant)

Hence, I though B was wrong because you have a parallelism in which, the X marker refers to noun (Milky Sap) and the Y marker logically referring to another noun [a herbaceous plant]

Thoughts ?
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--- The X marker (in yellow highlight) from a logical meaning obviously refers to the milky sap [Reason : herbaceous plant by itself cannot cause sores obviously. Per logic, it is the milky sap INSIDE the plant that is causing the sores]
Hi jabhatta2,

This is where I think you made a mistake. "a plant that gives mouth sores to cattle" is fine, so we really should not force the that to refer to milky sap. As for whether it should, we'd need additional information to take that call: is it the plant that's bad for cattle, or is it a particular type of milky sap that's bad for cattle? The best thing to do here is to avoid that call entirely.
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--- The X marker (in yellow highlight) from a logical meaning obviously refers to the milky sap [Reason : herbaceous plant by itself cannot cause sores obviously. Per logic, it is the milky sap INSIDE the plant that is causing the sores]
Hi jabhatta2,

This is where I think you made a mistake. "a plant that gives mouth sores to cattle" is fine, so we really should not force the that to refer to milky sap. As for whether it should, we'd need additional information to take that call: is it the plant that's bad for cattle, or is it a particular type of milky sap that's bad for cattle? The best thing to do here is to avoid that call entirely.

Thanks so much AjiteshArun for responding.

It has to be the MILKY SAP that causes the sores

Poison Ivy for example causes irratation because if you rub Poison ivy, the oil from the Poison Ivy is the reason for the irritation.

Simirlarly, w/o having ANY real life knowledge of plants -- the herbaceous plant BY itself cannot cause sores. It has to be some chemical in the herbaceous plant (oil or in this case, MILKY SAP) that is causing the sores.

Just based on reasoning alone, sores are not caused by plants by itself. It has to be the MILKY SAP
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Thanks so much AjiteshArun for responding.

It has to be the MILKY SAP that causes the sores

Poison Ivy for example causes irratation because if you rub Poison ivy, the oil from the Poison Ivy is the reason for the irritation.

Simirlarly, w/o having ANY real life knowledge of plants -- the herbaceous plant BY itself cannot cause sores. It has to be some chemical in the herbaceous plant (oil or in this case, MILKY SAP) that is causing the sores.

Just based on reasoning alone, sores are not caused by plants by itself. It has to be the MILKY SAP
Hi jabhatta2,

There are a couple of points to note here:

1. Take another look at that poison ivy sentence ("poison ivy causes..."). Is it really wrong to say something like "poison ivy causes irritation" or "poison ivy causes allergic reactions" just because there's no mention of the exact thing that causes the reaction? Another example could be "cigarettes cause cancer".

2. I still think that we need more outside information than the GMAT can ask us to bring in to say that it is the sap that causes sores in cattle (or that an oil causes irritation). However, at the end of the day, that's my opinion, and you're welcome to disagree with it. That's how we learn.
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Quote:
GMATNinja egmat

In Option A,

About 5 million acres in the United States have been invaded by leafy spurge, a herbaceous plant from Eurasia with milky sap that gives mouth sores to cattle, displacing grasses and other cattle food and rendering rangeland worthless.

I am trying to break the sentence-

If "a herbaceous plant" is a modifier for "Leafy spurge"

And if

"from Eurasia with milky sap" is giving extra information for "a herbaceous plant"

and if

"that gives mouth sores to cattle" is providing extra information about "milky sap".

Then why can't

"displacing" and "rendering", modify "leafy spurge"?

V-ing modifier without comma?
The short answer is that when an "-ing" modifier follows "full clause + comma," it will modify the entire clause, rather than describing an individual noun, so if the modifier doesn't logically describe the relevant clause, it's a problem.

For a more detailed discussion about the modifier issues in (A), check out our post here and let us know if you still have questions.

Quote:
Also as we know, that modifier can modify faraway noun/clause, if there is another modifier in between and if in between modifier can't take any other place.

Also In option B-

About 5 million acres in the United States have been invaded by leafy spurge, a herbaceous plant from Eurasia, with milky sap, that gives mouth sores to cattle and displaces grasses and other cattle food, rendering rangeland worthless.

Why, "that" can't modify "milky sap"?
Is it because of "comma" before "that"?

Also wouldn't it would sound a little illogical, that "a herbaceous plant gives mouth sore"?
Shouldn't it be "milky sap" as per the original meaning?
If the writer intended for "that" to modify "milky sap," it's certainly an odd decision to separate the two with a comma, but the larger point here is that you could argue that either interpretation makes sense. Sure, the plant might itself might be the culprit, but why can't the sap from the plant cause mouth sores? As Ajitesh notes, the GMAT can't possibly expect every test-taker to know esoteric details about leafy spurge and its sap!

If the modifier could work either way, you don't want to treat it as an error. Hang on to it and move on to other issues.

I hope that helps a bit!
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Hi GMATNinja MartyTargetTestPrep

Sorry about raking up an already discussed question. But I couldn't find a post that clarifies my doubt and hence this post.

"About 5 million acres in the United States have been invaded by leafy spurge, a herbaceous plant from Eurasia with milky sap that gives mouth sores to cattle, displacing grasses and other cattle food and rendering rangeland worthless."

In this given sentence, can't we consider "a herbaceous plant from Eurasia with milky sap that gives mouth sores to cattle" as a non-essential modifier and thereby having core as "About 5 million acres in the United States have been invaded by leafy spurge, displacing grasses and other cattle food and rendering rangeland worthless."
Now isn't "displacing grasses and other cattle food and rendering rangeland worthless." modifying the entire clause "About 5 million acres in the United States have been invaded by leafy spurge" ?
Not sure if I am right but the only problem I can identify in this is a comma before 'and rendering'. i.e. if the sentence had been "About 5 million acres in the United States have been invaded by leafy spurge, displacing grasses and other cattle food, and rendering rangeland worthless." couldn't it be right ?
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Hi GMATNinja MartyTargetTestPrep

Sorry about raking up an already discussed question. But I couldn't find a post that clarifies my doubt and hence this post.

"About 5 million acres in the United States have been invaded by leafy spurge, a herbaceous plant from Eurasia with milky sap that gives mouth sores to cattle, displacing grasses and other cattle food and rendering rangeland worthless."

In this given sentence, can't we consider "a herbaceous plant from Eurasia with milky sap that gives mouth sores to cattle" as a non-essential modifier and thereby having core as "About 5 million acres in the United States have been invaded by leafy spurge, displacing grasses and other cattle food and rendering rangeland worthless."
Perfect.

Quote:
Now isn't "displacing grasses and other cattle food and rendering rangeland worthless." modifying the entire clause "About 5 million acres in the United States have been invaded by leafy spurge" ?
Perfect.

Quote:
Not sure if I am right but the only problem I can identify in this is a comma before 'and rendering'. i.e. if the sentence had been "About 5 million acres in the United States have been invaded by leafy spurge, displacing grasses and other cattle food, and rendering rangeland worthless." couldn't it be right ?
First, let's get that comma out of the way. No comma is necessary there. The two part list "displacing ... and rendering" doesn't need a comma.

Now, let's consider what you have above, and simplify it a bit more.

About 5 million acres in the United States have been invaded ..., displacing grasses and other cattle food and rendering rangeland worthless.

As you said, "displacing grasses and other cattle food and rendering rangeland worthless" modifies the entire preceding clause. As a result, the above sentence version conveys the nonsensical meaning that, in the process of being invaded, 5 million acres have been "displacing grasses and other cattle food and rendering rangeland worthless."