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# Correct Usage of relative pronoun "that"

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Intern
Joined: 04 Aug 2010
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Correct Usage of relative pronoun "that" [#permalink]

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20 Oct 2011, 19:45
At the time of the Mexican agrarian revolution, the most radical faction, that of Zapata and his followers, proposed a return to communal ownership of land, to what had been a pre-Columbian form of ownership respected by the Spaniards.

1. land, to what had been a pre-Columbian form of ownership respected by the Spaniards
2. land, a form of ownership of the pre-Columbians and respected by the Spaniards
3. land, respected by the Spaniards and a pre-Columbian form of ownership
4. land in which a pre-Columbian form of ownership was respected by the Spaniards
5. land that had been a pre-Columbian form of ownership respected by the Spaniards

Experts please explain why option E is incorrect.

I understand that "that" in option E seems to modify "land" which is not the intended meaning, but why it isn't modifying the whole phrase "communal ownership of land"? I have seen many questions in Official Guide in which relative pronoun "that" is modifying the phrase instead of modifying the noun alone.

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Re: Correct Usage of relative pronoun "that" [#permalink]

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23 Oct 2011, 08:38
Once again, not an expert, but I did have this same issue early on in my studying and I'm pretty certain that you can not go by a rule such as "The first noun preceding the 'that' or 'which' is what's being referred to," WHEN IN A PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE. For prepositional phrases you have an option as to what the pronoun refers to. Your job (when in a prep phrase) is to determine what that is. Unfortunately here, you have the whole "return to communal ownership of land" from which to pick from. In this sentence, "that" does refer to "communal ownership."

Have you studied subject/verb agreement yet when there is a prepositional phrase?
aka... "I had one of many teachers who was/were awesome." I'm still struggling with this because 99% of what I've seen just crosses out the prep phrase to determine the verb, but I have recently seen two, specifically when it has "one of" that takes a plural verb...!?!?
Re: Correct Usage of relative pronoun "that"   [#permalink] 23 Oct 2011, 08:38
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