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# By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited

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By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited  [#permalink]

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07 Aug 2015, 04:04
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62% (01:12) correct 38% (01:24) wrong based on 4539 sessions

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The Official Guide for GMAT Review 2016

Practice Question
Question No.: 137
Page: 699

By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited by planets about the size of Jupiter

(A) had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited by planets

(B) had discovered 17 nearby stars with planets orbiting them that were

(C) had discovered that there were 17 nearby stars that were orbited by planets

(D) have discovered 17 nearby stars with planets orbiting them that are

(E) have discovered that 17 nearby stars are orbited by planets

https://www.nytimes.com/1999/01/10/us/in-new-discoveries-a-planetary-mystery.html

In a stunning run of discoveries over the last three years, astronomers have observed 17 nearby stars that appear to be orbited by planets more or less the size of Jupiter. The most recent detection of a planet around a star other than the Sun was described here today.

17 Stars

(A) CORRECT

(B) Modifier (that)

(C) Meaning

(D) Verb (have discovered); Modifier (that)

(E) Verb (have discovered)

First glance

Three answers begin with had discovered; the other two begin with have discovered. Which one is the correct verb tense for this sentence?

Issues

(1) Verb: have discovered

Had discovered is the past perfect tense, used to signal that something took place before something else in the past. Have discovered is the present perfect tense, used to denote something that started in the past but is still true or still ongoing in the present.

The time marker by 1999 indicates that the action took place prior to 1999. As such, the past perfect tense had discovered is correct: prior to 1999, the astronomers had discovered these stars. Eliminate answers (D) and (E).

(2) Modifier: that
Meaning

It is difficult to choose from among the remaining three choices; this is one of the hardest problems in the Official Guide. Compare the three choices to find the differences:

(A) …17 nearby stars that are orbited by planets…

(B) …17 nearby stars with planets orbiting them that were

(C) …there were 17 nearby stars that were orbited by planets…

Each of these choices presents a reason not to like it…yet one must be the correct answer! Examine each choice in turn.

The opening part of the sentence uses past perfect, so is it okay to switch to present tense, as choice (A) does?

Past perfect does require either a past time marker or a simple past verb—but the sentence does correctly provide the time marker by 1999. The are verb, then, is not required to be in the past tense. Does it make sense to have a present tense verb at this point in the sentence? What if it said were?

Astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited by planets…

Astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that were orbited by planets…

In the first sentence, the stars were orbited by the planets at the time of discovery and they still are today. That meaning is acceptable.

In the second sentence, the stars were orbited by the planets at some point in the past. Was this still happening at the time of the discovery? Or maybe the astronomers discovered something that was true only prior to the discovery? Or perhaps the action was still occurring at the time of discovery but is no longer going on today? The choice of were makes the meaning ambiguous; it’s actually better to use are. Leave choice (A) in.

Choice (B) contains the noun modifier that were about the size of Jupiter. What were about the size of Jupiter: the stars or the planets? And when were they the size of Jupiter?

Noun modifier rules dictate that the modifier be placed as close as possible to the noun that it modifies. In this case, the pronoun them (referring to stars) is closest to the word that. The rules allow, however, for an exception: if another noun modifier also modifies the same noun (for instance, the box of nails, which is on the table…), then you can have two modifiers in a row, each of which refers back to the original noun. So the that modifier could also refer to the planets. It’s impossible to tell whether the stars or the planets are about the size of Jupiter. Answer (B) also introduces ambiguity: when were the stars or planets the size of Jupiter? At the time of discovery? Before? Did they change size later on? Eliminate choice (B) for modifier and meaning issues.

Examine choice (C): The astronomers had discovered that there were 17 nearby stars. When were those stars present? Prior to the discovery? At the time of discovery? What happened later in time—did they disappear? Further, that were orbited creates the same ambiguity: was this true prior to the discovery only, or at the time of the discovery, or at some point after? Did the planets implode? Get pulverized by a meteor? Or maybe the stars were the ones to disappear? Or possibly they are all still there today. Eliminate choice (C) for ambiguity.

Correct answer (A) employs the past perfect had discovered to indicate something that took place by 1999. Further, the modifier and verb choices indicate clearly that the 17 stars continue to be orbited by Jupiter-sized planets today.
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Re: By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited  [#permalink]

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07 Aug 2015, 04:23
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We do require the past perfect here to denote a past event; By 1999 'have discovered' does not make sense. Drop D and E. Among A, B, C:

A: had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited by planets --- correct choice ----- the 17 starts are the object of the verb discovered.

B: had discovered 17 nearby stars with planets orbiting them that were ---‘them’ refers to stars logically, ‘ that were’ renders a wrong meaning that the stars were about the size of Jupiter

C: had discovered that there were 17 nearby stars that were orbited by planets --- This choice alters the meaning that the planets are not any more orbiting the stars
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Re: By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited  [#permalink]

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29 Sep 2015, 03:52
5
5
By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited by planets about the size of Jupiter

A: had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited by planets
B: had discovered 17 nearby stars with planets orbiting them that were
C: had discovered that there were 17 nearby stars that were orbited by planets
D: have discovered 17 nearby stars with planets orbiting them that are
E: have discovered that 17 nearby stars are orbited by planets

Opening with a past date (1999) describing the end point of a period of discovery, this sentence calls for a past perfect main verb to follow the subject astronomers. In order to economize on words and maximize clarity, the object of the main clause, stars, is modified by a passive relative clause that are orbited by planets followed by the adjective phrase about the size of Jupiter. This structure avoids an awkward and confusing clauses and prepositional phrases.
##### General Discussion
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Re: By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited  [#permalink]

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12 May 2016, 13:55
14
11
By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited by planets about the size of Jupiter

A: had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited by planets
B: had discovered 17 nearby stars with planets orbiting them that were
C: had discovered that there were 17 nearby stars that were orbited by planets
D: have discovered 17 nearby stars with planets orbiting them that are
E: have discovered that 17 nearby stars are orbited by planets

Error Type(s):
Verb Tense (Past Perfect; Tense)

A quick scan of the options makes quick work of this one before we read the sentence carefully---Verb Tense is in play. Specifically, because of the word “had” we know to investigate whether there were two events that concluded in the past. If there were, then we got to get rid of options D and E since "have" would be incorrect. If there were not two events in the past, then we get to chuck options A, B and C since "had" would be incorrect. Either way, there’s a big victory to be had right at the start.

Since 1999 is being reference in terms of the discoveries that had taken place at that point, this sentence reverts us back to 1999, and then discusses the discoveries that had already occurred by that point. Past perfect? Yep. The chronology looks like this:

Chronology of Events
Event 1: Discovery of 17 stars with planetary systems
Event 2: 1999
Now (the time the sentence was written)

Chuck D and E. Specifically, these options are out because if we’re referring back to 1999, a point in the past, we wouldn’t use simple present ongoing tense (have).

So now, between options A, B, and C: when is this orbiting happening? The whole way through this discussion: before discovery, after, and ongoing from now. These stars ARE orbited by planets---the orbits didn’t suddenly stop after discovery. That means C is definitely out since it puts the orbit in the past.

With B, “were about the size of Jupiter” suggests that the size of these planets has changed since discovery. Gone.

A, correct as written: past perfect is correctly applied, and the Verb Tense is successfully structured to imply that the rotation and size are ongoing.
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Re: By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited  [#permalink]

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02 Nov 2015, 17:36
5
tronghieu1987 wrote:
Hi,
I wonder whether there is a problem in "were about the size ..." in choice B? Does it indicate that the fact that those planets are about the size of Jupiter is no longer true, and that is the reason why this choice is incorrect.

In choice A, I did not choose it because of the word "are orbited". I though the sentence is about past event, then all verb should be in past tense.

In B, there is an ambiguity. "that" could be referring to the stars or the planets. It's not a solid sentence.
Again, I would say answering based on tenses could be misleading here. There are safer clues you can use. But I think using simple present tense is okay since these planets probably have been orbiting these stars for billions of years and are going to do so for another billions of years.
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Re: By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited  [#permalink]

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03 May 2017, 06:43
5
3
JarvisR wrote:
The Official Guide for GMAT Review 2016

Practice Question
Question No.: 137
Page: 699

By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited by planets about the size of Jupiter.

(A) had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited by planets
(B) had discovered 17 nearby stars with planets orbiting them that were
(C) had discovered that there were 17 nearby stars that were orbited by planets
(D) have discovered 17 nearby stars with planets orbiting them that are
(E) have discovered that 17 nearby stars are orbited by planets

First glance

Three answers begin with had discovered; the other two begin with have discovered. Which one is the correct verb tense for this sentence?

Issues

(1) Verb: have discovered

Had discovered is the past perfect tense, used to signal that something took place before something else in the past. Have discovered is the present perfect tense, used to denote something that started in the past but is still true or still ongoing in the present.

The time marker by 1999 indicates that the action took place prior to 1999. As such, the past perfect tense had discovered is correct: prior to 1999, the astronomers had discovered these stars. Eliminate answers (D) and (E).

(2) Modifier: that

Meaning

It is difficult to choose from among the remaining three choices; this is one of the hardest problems in the Official Guide. Compare the three choices to find the differences:

(A) …17 nearby stars that are orbited by planets…
(B) …17 nearby stars with planets orbiting them that were
(C) …there were 17 nearby stars that were orbited by planets…

Each of these choices presents a reason not to like it…yet one must be the correct answer! Examine each choice in turn.

The opening part of the sentence uses past perfect, so is it okay to switch to present tense, as choice (A) does?

Past perfect does require either a past time marker or a simple past verb—but the sentence does correctly provide the time marker by 1999. The are verb, then, is not required to be in the past tense. Does it make sense to have a present tense verb at this point in the sentence? What if it said were?

Astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited by planets…
Astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that were orbited by planets…

In the first sentence, the stars were orbited by the planets at the time of discovery and they still are today. That meaning is acceptable.

In the second sentence, the stars were orbited by the planets at some point in the past. Was this still happening at the time of the discovery? Or maybe the astronomers discovered something that was true only prior to the discovery? Or perhaps the action was still occurring at the time of discovery but is no longer going on today? The choice of were makes the meaning ambiguous; it’s actually better to use are. Leave choice (A) in.

Choice (B) contains the noun modifier that were about the size of Jupiter. What were about the size of Jupiter: the stars or the planets? And when were they the size of Jupiter?

Noun modifier rules dictate that the modifier be placed as close as possible to the noun that it modifies. In this case, the pronoun them (referring to stars) is closest to the word that. The rules allow, however, for an exception: if another noun modifier also modifies the same noun (for instance, the box of nails, which is on the table…), then you can have two modifiers in a row, each of which refers back to the original noun. So the that modifier could also refer to the planets. It’s impossible to tell whether the stars or the planets are about the size of Jupiter. Answer (B) also introduces ambiguity: when were the stars or planets the size of Jupiter? At the time of discovery? Before? Did they change size later on? Eliminate choice (B) for modifier and meaning issues.

Examine choice (C): The astronomers had discovered that there were 17 nearby stars. When were those stars present? Prior to the discovery? At the time of discovery? What happened later in time—did they disappear? Further, that were orbited creates the same ambiguity: was this true prior to the discovery only, or at the time of the discovery, or at some point after? Did the planets implode? Get pulverized by a meteor? Or maybe the stars were the ones to disappear? Or possibly they are all still there today. Eliminate choice (C) for ambiguity.

Correct answer (A) employs the past perfect had discovered to indicate something that took place by 1999. Further, the modifier and verb choices indicate clearly that the 17 stars continue to be orbited by Jupiter-sized planets today.
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Re: By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited  [#permalink]

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07 Aug 2015, 04:32
4
JarvisR wrote:
By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited by planets about the size of Jupiter

A: had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited by planet
B: had discovered 17 nearby stars with planets orbiting them that were
C: had discovered that there were 17 nearby stars that were orbited by planets
D: have discovered 17 nearby stars with planets orbiting them that are
E: have discovered that 17 nearby stars are orbited by planets

Can you please explain how it can be A? had discovered means the discovery happened before the first action? Are you sure this is from OG?
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Re: By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited  [#permalink]

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24 Jan 2016, 22:25
4
JarvisR wrote:
By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited by planets about the size of Jupiter

A: had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited by planet
B: had discovered 17 nearby stars with planets orbiting them that were
C: had discovered that there were 17 nearby stars that were orbited by planets
D: have discovered 17 nearby stars with planets orbiting them that are
E: have discovered that 17 nearby stars are orbited by planets

Here, 1999 is implied past tense, so the discovery had taken place before 1999 so it takes Had#
eliminate D and E
B what does them refer to is it scientists or stars, this is reference error, so eliminate B
C were is wrong here because it is natural phenomena which is occurring even now so, we can eliminate C
Therefore answer is A
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Re: By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited  [#permalink]

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13 Mar 2016, 15:55
2
This is an excellent question that checks the usage of "That"!

I found this game on "That" - Check it out. It's awesome - made the concept very clear.
http://web.ku.edu/~edit/that.html
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Re: By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited  [#permalink]

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17 Oct 2018, 21:44
2
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blitzkriegxX wrote:
GMATNinja wrote:
Hello Experts,
Can you please elaborate on the exact usage of 'that' here and what does it refer back to ?

Take another look at the OA: "By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited by planets about the size of Jupiter." While it isn't mandatory for relative pronouns such as "that" to touch what they modify, the closest noun is certainly the first place you'd look. Here "that" is closest to "stars," and it makes perfect sense that the stars are "orbited by planets."

For a deeper look into the various uses of "that," check out this article or this video.

I hope that helps!

I would also like to point out one more thing about "that" with some examples -

1. I hate pizzas that have pineapple toppings.
Here "that" is necessary as it acts as a subject here.

2. I love the pizzas that GMATNinja cooks.
Here we see that "GMATNinja" is already the subject, so "that" is not necessary.

GMATNinja please correct me if i am wrong. Grammatically that is! Not with the pizza part.

Grammatically, you're absolutely right. As for your feelings about pizza... actually, I'm not great at cooking pizza. I somehow figured out how to make really great polenta pizza, but "regular" pizza isn't my strength -- with or without pineapple. I make a killer lasagna, though.

But have you ever tried pizza with pineapple and bacon? Or at least Canadian bacon? It's not bad! And if you're ever in Brazil, try some of the fruit pizzas. I think Brazilians might have the most creative pizza topping combos on the planet -- banana curry pizza, anybody?
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Re: By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited  [#permalink]

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07 Jun 2017, 23:26
1
Top Contributor
The alleged ambiguity about 'them' may not sustain logically. The contenders, if at all any, are 1. astronomers, 2. planets, and 3. stars. Obviously, planets orbiting astronomers is too silly. Planets orbiting planets is also equally weird. Therefore, the logical and befitting referent for 'them' is only stars.
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Re: By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited  [#permalink]

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02 Nov 2015, 16:00
Hi,
I wonder whether there is a problem in "were about the size ..." in choice B? Does it indicate that the fact that those planets are about the size of Jupiter is no longer true, and that is the reason why this choice is incorrect.

In choice A, I did not choose it because of the word "are orbited". I though the sentence is about past event, then all verb should be in past tense.

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Re: By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited  [#permalink]

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06 Jun 2017, 08:40
Hello GMATNinja,

Can you help to review whether below analysis is correct?

In option B, we have a subtle meaning shift. By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars with planets. Can we say that astronomers discovered stars with planets is different from the original meaning that astronomers discovered stars?. Also, antecedent of them in choice B is ambiguous.

Similarly, C has a meaning shift - “By 1999, astronomers had discovered that there were 17 nearby stars”.

Since we have unambiguous meaning conveyed in A, we should retain the same.
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Re: By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited  [#permalink]

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07 Jun 2017, 19:35
warriorguy wrote:
Hello GMATNinja,

Can you help to review whether below analysis is correct?

In option B, we have a subtle meaning shift. By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars with planets. Can we say that astronomers discovered stars with planets is different from the original meaning that astronomers discovered stars?. Also, antecedent of them in choice B is ambiguous.

Similarly, C has a meaning shift - “By 1999, astronomers had discovered that there were 17 nearby stars”.

Since we have unambiguous meaning conveyed in A, we should retain the same.

Hello warriorguy,

The meaning change in Choice B that you have mentioned in your post does not really stand.

The thing is whenever we read a sentence, we try to understand the meaning conveyed by it in its entirety. Hence, when we read Choice B, we understand that the sentence intends to say that the scientists had discovered 17 stars and planets orbited them.

The error with Choice B is that it suggests that the planets orbited the stars. They do not do so anymore. This is so because the main verb in Choice B is in past tense. Hence, the verb-ing modifier orbiting adopts the tense of the main verb and thus expresses illogical meaning. However, the correct answer choice A makes it absolutely clear that the planets still orbit these stars.

Choice C too repeats this meaning error. Choice C says that that the 17 stars discovered by the scientists existed in he past, and the planets orbited them in the past. Per the original sentence, the stars do exist in the present because some planets do orbit them.

Hope this helps.
Thanks.
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Re: By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited  [#permalink]

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25 Jun 2017, 00:24
By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited by planets about the size of Jupiter

The sentence says that before 1999, astronomers had discovered something..
So, we have two events one is year 1999 and the other is the discovery of something which happened before 1999.
So to clearly depict this timeline, we need to use "had" - past perfect tense ..
Hence Option D and E are outright wrong.

(A) had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited by planets
As explained above, the tenses are perfectly fine here ...and location of modifier "that ..." and in non-underlined part "about the size.." correctly modifying their respective nouns "stars" and "planets".
Sentence is correct as it is.

(B) had discovered 17 nearby stars with planets orbiting them that were
Usage of "were" suggests that the planets were of the size of Jupiter at that time before 1999 but may not probably of that size now (after 1999).
Also the usage of "with + noun + verb-ing (participle) as a substitute of full clause is incorrect here.

More on this "with + noun + participle" here : - Aha !!
https://magoosh.com/gmat/2015/with-noun-participle-on-gmat-sentence-correction/

(C) had discovered that there were 17 nearby stars that were orbited by planets
again "were" suggest that stars are no longer orbited by planets ..change in meaning

(D) have discovered 17 nearby stars with planets orbiting them that are
Wrong as explained above

(E) have discovered that 17 nearby stars are orbited by planets
Wrong as explained above
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Re: By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited  [#permalink]

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21 Sep 2018, 02:35
Good Tricky Question , went with B in a rush but realized that A was the correct answer option .
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Re: By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited  [#permalink]

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24 Sep 2018, 04:58
Hello Experts,
Can you please elaborate on the exact usage of 'that' here and what does it refer back to ?
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Re: By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited  [#permalink]

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28 Sep 2018, 20:00
Hello Experts,
Can you please elaborate on the exact usage of 'that' here and what does it refer back to ?

Take another look at the OA: "By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited by planets about the size of Jupiter." While it isn't mandatory for relative pronouns such as "that" to touch what they modify, the closest noun is certainly the first place you'd look. Here "that" is closest to "stars," and it makes perfect sense that the stars are "orbited by planets."

For a deeper look into the various uses of "that," check out this article or this video.

I hope that helps!
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By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited  [#permalink]

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13 Oct 2018, 07:03
GMATNinja wrote:
Hello Experts,
Can you please elaborate on the exact usage of 'that' here and what does it refer back to ?

Take another look at the OA: "By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited by planets about the size of Jupiter." While it isn't mandatory for relative pronouns such as "that" to touch what they modify, the closest noun is certainly the first place you'd look. Here "that" is closest to "stars," and it makes perfect sense that the stars are "orbited by planets."

For a deeper look into the various uses of "that," check out this article or this video.

I hope that helps!

I would also like to point out one more thing about "that" with some examples -

1. I hate pizzas that have pineapple toppings.
Here "that" is necessary as it acts as a subject here.

2. I love the pizzas that GMATNinja cooks.
Here we see that "GMATNinja" is already the subject, so "that" is not necessary.

GMATNinja please correct me if i am wrong. Grammatically that is! Not with the pizza part.
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13 Oct 2018, 07:23
Usage of "BY" vs "AT"-

I will just tweak the sentence a little for better understanding.

By the end of 1999, astronomers had discovered XYZ.

Here we see a sequence of events. First we see that the discovery happened and then 1999 ended.
What was the earlier part or first event? The astronomers discovered XYZ.
What was the later part or next event? 1999 ended.

So for the EARLIER part we use PAST PERFECT TENSE.

Now what if we had "AT" in the sentence?

At the end of 1999, astronomers discovered XYZ.

Here we have no sequence of events. The sentence says it is happening at a particular time by using "AT".
So we use SIMPLE PAST TENSE.

Hope it helps.
By 1999, astronomers had discovered 17 nearby stars that are orbited   [#permalink] 13 Oct 2018, 07:23

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