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Experts' Topic of the Week, 6/26/17: WTF is THAT doing in my sentence?

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Experts' Topic of the Week, 6/26/17: WTF is THAT doing in my sentence?  [#permalink]

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New post 26 Apr 2018, 07:18
thank you for this post.

Quote:
son of a gun


Can 'who' follow after, 'son of a gun'?

Also is it okay to use 'that' to refer to a person?
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Re: Experts' Topic of the Week, 6/26/17: WTF is THAT doing in my sentence?  [#permalink]

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New post 28 Apr 2018, 22:50
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ENEM wrote:
Also is it okay to use 'that' to refer to a person?
It's not likely, at least on the GMAT exam. Outside the GMAT exam, opinion is divided. Some people think it's perfectly okay, whereas others don't think it's appropriate to use that to refer to a person. For what it's worth, I think it's fine.
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Experts' Topic of the Week, 6/26/17: WTF is THAT doing in my sentence?  [#permalink]

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New post 04 Nov 2018, 02:00
Hi GMATNinja

I have a doubt with the use of that as a pronoun in comparisons.

Official question #758 OG 2018
I read on one of the blogs that when your making adverbial comparison you use it was, they were
but when your making a noun comparison you use that or those to create a copy.

Is this understanding right. If so and I were to apply it to below OG question.

1) Prices at the producer level are higher today than they were yesterday.
Here they refers to => Prices at the producer level ?
also is this comparison correct?

2) Prices at the producer level are higher today than yesterday.
this also I guess is right ?

3) But when we see the correct answer choice it uses
Prices at the producer level are higher now than those of a year ago.
a) Although right what naturally came to my mind was that it should be they were ?
b) if the sentence would have been prices of "production" are higher now than those of a year ago, then those would not make sense ? Is this understanding correct. In such cases it will be better to use they were?
c) That said if I use demonstrative pronouns (that) to make a copy of the noun for eg. American Prices in the above statement does it bring American as an adjective to the copy.
d) If I use they, does it bring the original noun + any modifier with it. I guess they means the exact same thing?
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Re: Experts' Topic of the Week, 6/26/17: WTF is THAT doing in my sentence?  [#permalink]

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New post 28 Nov 2018, 15:45
I think your third example in the Demonstrative Pronoun section (Many teenagers undergo stress...) is actually an example of a "that" working as a modifier rather than a demonstrative pronoun.
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Re: Experts' Topic of the Week, 6/26/17: WTF is THAT doing in my sentence?  [#permalink]

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New post 26 Dec 2018, 09:15
https://youtu.be/5mra28Dkh7M?t=2399

in this video by PrepScholar, it is asserted that "which" MUST refer to closest noun. By this rule, Q4 choice C is eliminated. So, has the "touch rule" exception only for "that", not for "which"...?
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Re: Experts' Topic of the Week, 6/26/17: WTF is THAT doing in my sentence?  [#permalink]

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New post 26 Dec 2018, 20:05
faltan wrote:
https://youtu.be/5mra28Dkh7M?t=2399

in this video by PrepScholar, it is asserted that "which" MUST refer to closest noun. By this rule, Q4 choice C is eliminated. So, has the "touch rule" exception only for "that", not for "which"...?
I'm not sure what you mean by "the touch rule", but a which does not always refer to the closest noun. If it is unclear what which is referring to, you have to check whether any other option does a better job (without introducing more serious errors).
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Re: Experts' Topic of the Week, 6/26/17: WTF is THAT doing in my sentence?  [#permalink]

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New post 05 Jul 2019, 15:15
GMATNinja - do you mind explaining what "that" does in the sentences below? Many thanks!

Responding to the public’s fascination with―and sometimes undue alarm over―possible threats from asteroids, astronomers have developed a scale for rating the likelihood that a particular asteroid or comet will collide with Earth.

Researchers are using computer images to help surgeons plan difficult operations and to develop programs that will work for doctors and nurses in the same way that flight simulators do for pilots, letting medical personnel practice their techniques and test their reflexes before they ever see a patient. 

My understanding is that both "that"'s are functioned as Usage #3: subordinating clauses with “that", but just wanted to confirm with you. :)
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Re: Experts' Topic of the Week, 6/26/17: WTF is THAT doing in my sentence?  [#permalink]

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New post 19 Aug 2019, 02:58
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GMATNinja wrote:

Verbal Experts’ Topic of the Week, June 26-30, 2017


WTF is “that” doing in my sentence?



Let’s start with yet another pop quiz, because we’re still cruel like that.

Except that this one is pretty easy. Here’s the question: is the following sentence acceptable on the GMAT?

    Bogdan's favorite restaurant is in Brooklyn that serves delicious Ukrainian vareniki.

Easy, right? Unless you’re brand-new to the GMAT, you’ve probably learned that “that” must modify the immediately preceding noun. So the sentence is illogical, since it’s literally saying that Brooklyn serves delicious Ukrainian vareniki – not the restaurant.

Easy enough. So how about this one?

    Although nearly everybody agrees that Carmelo Anthony is a terrible fit for the modern NBA, he nevertheless earns more than $30 million per year.

If you’re blindly following the “rule” that the word “that” must always modify the immediately preceding noun, you might hastily conclude that this sentence is incorrect, because “that” follows the verb (“agrees”). But this sentence is completely fine, and that brings us to an oddly nuanced question: what are the different uses of “that” on the GMAT?

So in the spirit of our previous posts on “-ing” and “-ed” words, here’s a guide to the GMAT’s four main uses of “that”.


Usage #1: "that” as a pronoun


I hear plenty of worries on GMAT Club about the use of “that” as a modifier, but in many cases, “that” is actually a noun. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Like the poetry of Bruce Willis, that of Chuck Norris is flowery and pretty.
  • Some have compared Russell Westbrook’s fashion sense to that of Kim Kardashian.

Whenever “that” is used as this type of pronoun (called a “demonstrative pronoun”, if you like jargon), it’s always singular. It’s just a tiny bit different from “it”, though: “that” basically creates a “copy” of the noun it refers back to.

So here’s what you always want to do when you see “that” used as a pronoun: replace “that” with the singular noun it “copies”, and then see if it actually makes logical sense. In my silly examples above, here’s what you’d have:

  • Like the poetry of Bruce Willis, the poetry of Chuck Norris is flowery and pretty.
  • Some have compared Russell Westbrook’s fashion sense to the fashion sense of Kim Kardashian.

Both of these make sense, so we’re all good. But the GMAT’s favorite trap with the pronoun “that” is to stick it in random places where it doesn’t belong. Check out this recent SC Question of the Day for a great example of “that” used (or misused, depending on the answer choice) as a pronoun. If you’re diligent about replacing “that” with the noun it “copies”, you won’t have any trouble at all.

Some of our other favorite official questions with demonstrative pronouns can be found here, here, and here. And this one is a particular favorite of mine, since it really forces you to think about what “that” is actually doing in the sentence.

On to the second use of “that” on the GMAT:


Usage #2: “that” as an article


The second use of “that” really isn’t all that interesting, and it rarely causes any trouble on the GMAT: “that” can just be an article that precedes a noun. A couple of examples:

  • Mike read Lord of the Flies in high school; like most teenagers, he absolutely detested that book, and prefers literature by Tripathi and Hitler.
  • Charlie is obsessed with Neerob, a Bengali eatery in the Bronx, because that restaurant’s shrimp dopeaja is consistently amazing.

In both examples, “that” is simply an article, and it’s not all that different from “the book” or “the restaurant”, except it refers back to a specific case mentioned earlier. Now, we’re not just talking about “a book” or “a restaurant” – we’re discussing that particular book or that particular restaurant.

And don’t worry: you’ll never have to choose between “that” and “the” on the GMAT. The GMAT isn’t going to do anything tricky with “that” as an article – you just don’t want to develop a case of tunnel vision, and mistake the article “that” for a noun or a modifier.

Need an official example? Here's a nice, harmless question, featuring the word “that” used as an article.

I know: that really wasn’t very exciting. Let's move on to usage #3:


Usage #3: subordinating clauses with “that”


Remember this sentence from the beginning of this thread?

    Although nearly everybody agrees that Carmelo Anthony is a terrible fit for the modern NBA, he nevertheless earns more than $30 million per year.

Occasionally, I’ll hear GMAT test-takers say that this example is wrong, because “that” must modify a noun, not a verb. But in this example, “that” is just the beginning of a subordinate clause: what is it that everybody agrees on? That “Carmelo Anthony is a terrible fit for the modern NBA.” A good example of this type of usage on the GMAT can be found in this Question of the Day, which also features some nice parallelism issues.

Again, this particular use of “that” is unlikely to cause trouble for you on the GMAT, unless you develop yet another terrible case of tunnel vision, and decide that “that” can only modify nouns.

And now for the fun stuff:


Usage #4: "that" as a modifier (the “touch rule" and its exceptions)


As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, one of the first things most people learn about GMAT sentence correction is the so-called “touch rule”: noun modifiers beginning with “that” (or “which” or “who” or “when” or “where” or “whose”) must always “touch” the noun being modified. Back to our silly example from earlier:

    Bogdan's favorite restaurant is in Brooklyn that serves delicious Ukrainian vareniki.

You’re probably still not fooled by this one: it’s literally saying that Brooklyn serves Ukrainian vareniki, and that’s simply not logical.

OK, so how about this one?

    The son of a gun that burned my dinner deserves to be punished.

If you’re being too hasty with this, you might say, “Wait, the gun didn't burn my dinner – the son did. So it’s wrong!” (For those of you who aren’t familiar with obsolete American slang: “son of a gun” is basically a really silly, mid-20th century synonym for “jerk.”)

But the sentence isn’t wrong at all, because this is a perfectly acceptable exception to the “touch rule.” The noun modifier “that burned by dinner” is “reaching back” to modify “the son” – not the gun – and that’s completely fine here. Why is that acceptable? The phrase “of a gun” is a prepositional phrase that also modifies “the son.” And it can be perfectly OK for a noun modifier to “reach behind” a prepositional phrase, as long as it’s necessary for the meaning of the sentence.

Here’s a less-slangy example:

    The first-class airline tickets to Antarctica that were purchased using Amber’s retirement savings were worth every penny.

Again, if you’re being too hasty, you might assume that the sentence is literally saying that “Antarctica were purchased using Amber’s retirement savings” – and that’s obviously incorrect. But notice that “to Antarctica” is another prepositional phrase, so it’s possible for “that were purchased” to “reach behind” the prepositional phrase if need be.

And in this case, that seems perfectly reasonable: the “first-class airline tickets… that were purchased…” makes sense. So this sentence is completely fine.


Please don’t hallucinate the exceptions!


Here’s the important thing to remember: in the vast majority of GMAT questions, “that” and other noun modifiers (“which”, “who”, “where”, “when”, etc.) will still “touch” the noun being modified. The exceptions exist, but they’re relatively rare.

So if you think you might have an exception to the “touch rule”, look for two major characteristics:

    1) “that” (and similar noun modifiers) can generally only “reach behind” prepositional phrases -- not verbs or clauses (there are exceptions, but they're relatively rare)
    2) the meaning of the sentence must give you a compelling reason to “reach behind” the prepositional phrase

So please keep in mind that exceptions to the “touch rule” are relatively rare – and that the word “that” might not even be a modifier at all.

If you want official examples of violations of the “touch rule”, check out some of our favorites here, here, or here.


Want more?




In Usage #4, how can that modify son? That is used for things not for people right?
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Re: Experts' Topic of the Week, 6/26/17: WTF is THAT doing in my sentence?  [#permalink]

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New post 24 Aug 2019, 14:10
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RK007 wrote:
In Usage #4, how can that modify son? That is used for things not for people right?

Good question. There's some debate among grammar nerds, but at least in everyday language, modifiers beginning with "that" can describe either people or things. ("Which", for whatever it's worth, can only modify things.)

The GMAT generally doesn't make a big deal out of this distinction. I can't think of any official GMAT questions in which "that" is used to describe people in the correct answer, but the GMAT also never seems to use "that" vs. "who" as a deciding factor in any questions.

So as far as we know, it's not really a big issue. In usage #4 above, my point is just that noun modifiers beginning with "that" (or "which" or "who" or "when" or "where") don't always have to modify the immediately preceding noun: under certain circumstances, it's OK for the modifier to "reach back" a bit. If you prefer, swap "that" for "who", and the point still stands.

I hope this helps a bit!
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Re: Experts' Topic of the Week, 6/26/17: WTF is THAT doing in my sentence?   [#permalink] 24 Aug 2019, 14:10

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