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# Geologists once thought that the molten rock known as lava

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Geologists once thought that the molten rock known as lava [#permalink]

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31 Jul 2014, 21:28
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NEW PROJECT!: Renew Old Thread => Back to basic => Give your explanation- Get Kudos Point

Geologists once thought that the molten rock known as lava was an underground remnant of Earth's earliest days, sporadically erupting through volcanoes, but they now know that it is continuously created by the heat of the radioactivity deep inside the planet.

(A) was an underground remnant of Earth's earliest days, sporadically erupting
(B) had been an underground remnant of Earth's earliest days and sporadically erupted
(C) was an underground remnant of Earth's earliest days, which sporadically erupted
(D) would be an underground remnant of Earth's earliest days that sporadically erupted
(E) was an underground remnant of Earth's earliest days, having sporadically erupted
[Reveal] Spoiler: OA

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Re: Geologists once thought that the molten rock known as lava [#permalink]

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31 Jul 2014, 22:00
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Geologists once thought that the molten rock known as lava was an underground remnant of Earth's earliest days, sporadically erupting through volcanoes, but they now know that it is continuously created by the heat of the radioactivity deep inside the planet.

Meaning:
Breaking the sentence into clauses:
- Geologists once thought that the molten rock known as lava was an underground remnant of Earth's earliest days, sporadically erupting through volcanoes.
- but they now know that it is continuously created by the heat of the radioactivity deep inside the planet

Meaning is quite clear that something, which was once thought to be true about Lava, is now found to be untrue because of further knowledge about it(lava).

Error Analysis:
SV- No error. Lava is correctly associated with helping verb "was".

V- No error.

P- No error. They and It has a logical and meaningful antecedent.

Modifier- No error, but here we need to think whether Lava is the DOER of the modifier "erupting", since it is the major difference between choice A and E. In this case, Lava is the logical doer of "erupting", hence CORRECT. Further the modifier giving extra information about the clause it is preceding.

idiom- no error found.

POE:
A - CORRECT.
B - "had been" is wrong use bcause there is no proper verb sequencing requirement in the sentence.
C - "which sporadically errupted" modifying "ramnants". So wrong choice.
D - "would be" changes the intended meaning of sentence.
E - "having sporadically..." use unnecessary and changes the way Lava irrupted.
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Re: Geologists once thought that the molten rock known as lava [#permalink]

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27 Sep 2016, 10:40
Hello from the GMAT Club VerbalBot!

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Re: Geologists once thought that the molten rock known as lava [#permalink]

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27 Sep 2016, 16:04
Gnpth wrote:
Geologists once thought that the molten rock known as lava was an underground remnant of Earth's earliest days, sporadically erupting through volcanoes, but they now know that it is continuously created by the heat of the radioactivity deep inside the planet.

(A) was an underground remnant of Earth's earliest days, sporadically erupting
(B) had been an underground remnant of Earth's earliest days and sporadically erupted
(C) was an underground remnant of Earth's earliest days, which sporadically erupted
(D) would be an underground remnant of Earth's earliest days that sporadically erupted
(E) was an underground remnant of Earth's earliest days, having sporadically erupted

I'm happy to respond. Apparently, this is a MGMAT question, and as usual, it's a good one.

One grammatical feature that appears in this sentence is the sequence of tenses. The geologist "thought" something in the past, so the verbs describing the content of what they thought should follow the rules of the sequence of tenses.

When the geologist were alive and doing this "thinking," they thought that in their own present time, the lava was a remnant. This is in the geologists' present time, so it should be in the same tense as we use for the geologists, the past tense. We need the past tense, "was," not the past perfect "had been," nor the hypothetical "would be." We can eliminate choices (B) & (D).

Choices (A) & (C) & (E) are identical up to the comma, and then have
(A) ... sporadically erupting = fine, the correct tense
(C) ... which sporadically erupted = also the correct tense, but a bit wordier
(E) ... having sporadically erupted = changes the tense from the prompt, so this changes the meaning
In (A) & (C), the "erupting" is also in the geologist present time, the same time the remnants existed. In the prompt, all three happen in the same general time period: (1) the geologist thinking, (2) lava was a remnant, and (3) the erupting. Both those choices keep those three events in the same time period. Choice (E) puts the erupting in an earlier time period from the others, and that's a change in meaning, so (E) is wrong.

Both (A) & (C) are grammatically & logically right, but (C) is a little wordier, so (A) is the best.

Does all this make sense?
Mike
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Re: Geologists once thought that the molten rock known as lava [#permalink]

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28 Sep 2016, 01:32
That works for me, except we want a concrete reason to get rid of C. I save "wordy" for a last resort! In this case, C offers us a noun modifier: "which sporadically erupted." Earth's earliest days didn't sporadically erupt, so C is incorrect.
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Re: Geologists once thought that the molten rock known as lava [#permalink]

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28 Sep 2016, 04:08
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Does the ‘which’ in C really refer to the earliest days? I wouldn’t think so because logically one doesn’t expect days to erupt. We might see that the relative pronoun is preceded by a whole noun phrase immediately before and therefore the pronoun refers to the entire noun phrase rather than just the noun it is touching. Looked that way, I feel the pronoun touch rule is not in debate in C

Proof for this treatment comes for the legendary official example of the Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson and the ample enlightenment of the issue by Ron in his observation in the link---
https://www.manhattanprep.com/gmat/foru ... t6529.html
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Re: Geologists once thought that the molten rock known as lava [#permalink]

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28 Sep 2016, 10:55
DmitryFarber wrote:
That works for me, except we want a concrete reason to get rid of C. I save "wordy" for a last resort! In this case, C offers us a noun modifier: "which sporadically erupted." Earth's earliest days didn't sporadically erupt, so C is incorrect.

daagh wrote:
Does the ‘which’ in C really refer to the earliest days? I wouldn’t think so because logically one doesn’t expect days to erupt. We might see that the relative pronoun is preceded by a whole noun phrase immediately before and therefore the pronoun refers to the entire noun phrase rather than just the noun it is touching. Looked that way, I feel the pronoun touch rule is not in debate in C

Proof for this treatment comes for the legendary official example of the Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson and the ample enlightenment of the issue by Ron in his observation in the link---
https://www.manhattanprep.com/gmat/foru ... t6529.html

Dear DmitryFarber & daagh,

My brilliant colleagues, thank you for your responses.

In (C), I thought that "which," a clear noun-modifier, was modifying the noun "remnant," and I was interpreting "of Earth's earliest days" as a vital noun modifier--I believe the MGMAT terms for this is a "mission critical modifier," one that can come before a standard modifier and that modifier's target noun. As I am sure you understand, this is a legitimate exception to the Modifier Touch Rule. In my reading, (C) would be acceptable on its own, and the only grounds for preferring (A) over (C) is that (C) is slightly wordier. In other words, I felt I had to use this last resort.

I would be interested in your opinions.

With great respect,
Mike McGarry
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Re: Geologists once thought that the molten rock known as lava [#permalink]

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29 Sep 2016, 05:22
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Dear Mike:

I agree with your reasoning in toto. Haven't I written so in my response?
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Re: Geologists once thought that the molten rock known as lava [#permalink]

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29 Sep 2016, 18:28
Honestly, one compelling reason to deny "of Earth's earliest days" mission-critical status is precisely to avoid using concision to choose A. I'm not convinced that "it's too wordy" is ever the sole flaw with an answer choice, other than in cases of redundancy.

In any case, there's no good reason to override the touch rule here. There are better ways to express the same idea, and "remnant of Earth's earliest days" is not clearly all one thing, as in "the price of oil," "the queen of Spain," or "the jar of peanut butter." However, the surest way to cut out C may be to look at what happens when we remove the troublesome modifier:

Geologists once thought that the molten rock known as lava was an underground remnant, which sporadically erupted through volcanoes, but they now know that it is continuously created by the heat of the radioactivity deep inside the planet.

From this perspective, the use of "which" doesn't even make sense. We should use the restrictive "that": "lava was an underground remnant that sporadically erupted . . . " This more clearly conveys the intended meaning and maintains parallelism between the two contrasting descriptions of what lava is and does. Now we can cut C with a clear conscience and without invoking the dread W word.
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Re: Geologists once thought that the molten rock known as lava [#permalink]

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26 Feb 2017, 01:40
I was asked in a PM if "sporadically erupting . . . " is a noun modifier that jumps over the previous modifier to apply to "remnant." No, it's not a noun modifier at all, so we are spared the "mission-critical" discussion we had about C.

Generally, when we see an -ing modifier preceded by a comma, it's an adverbial modifier, and that's the case here. This means it modifies the previous action or clause. This one can't really modify the word "was" alone; rather, it tacks on to the previous clause to add meaning. Geologists thought that lava was a remnant, and that every now and then this remnant just happened to erupt through a volcano. This sets up a contrast with the second half of the sentence, in which we learn that lava is produced all the time, not just sporadically.

Note that when we see an -ing modifier without a comma, it is typically a noun modifier.

Charlotte was amazed at the sight of the butterfly emerging from the chrysalis.

Here, "emerging" modifies "butterfly." If we had put a comma in front of it, we would have created some confusion. Was Charlotte amazed to see a butterfly as she herself emerged from a chrysalis? That doesn't seem like the meaning we want!
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Re: Geologists once thought that the molten rock known as lava   [#permalink] 26 Feb 2017, 01:40
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