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Nobody knows exactly how many languages there are in the world, partly

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Nobody knows exactly how many languages there are in the world, partly  [#permalink]

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New post 04 Feb 2019, 23:22
carajatarora wrote:
It therefore becomes difficult to assume that the stated "it" is correct and correctly refers to the singular language!

Hi Rajat, as long as you realize that the pronoun used at that place in the sentence is intended to refer to a singular noun (a language), then it is easy to understand that the correct pronoun usage is it and not them (because them can only refer to plural nouns).

This is really the only understanding that is required here.
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Re: Nobody knows exactly how many languages there are in the world, partly  [#permalink]

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New post 18 Feb 2019, 14:12
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I have a concern in option A with the first "it".
Though I agree with your explanation but I still have a doubt

the said it is as well in the underlined portion of the sentence and we can never rule out the possibility or a path there. It therefore becomes difficult to assume that the stated "it" is correct and correctly refers to the singular language!
Can you please help enlighten!

Thanks

The easiest way to determine the logical antecedent for pronoun is to substitute what word we think the pronoun is referring to and then evaluate the logic of the construction.

Here's (A): "the difficulty of distinguishing between a language and the sub-languages or dialects within it." Because "it" is singular, it seems to be referring to "language". If we substitute "a language" in place of the pronoun, we'd have "the difficulty of distinguishing between a language and the sublanguages within a language." This makes sense. There's the original language and there are the sublanguages within the original language; we're trying to distinguish between them.

Now consider (B): "the difficulty of distinguishing between a language and the sub-languages or dialects within them." Now "them" is plural and so seems to refer to either the "sub-languages" or the "dialects." Here's what we get if we substitute "sub-languages" in place of the pronoun: "the difficulty of distinguishing between a language and the sub-languages or dialects within the sub-languages." Now it sounds as though we're comparing the original language to sub-languages within other sub-languages! It makes far more sense to say that the sub-languages are within the original language than to imagine an endless hierarchy of sub-languages within other sub-languages.

This is why (A) is better - "it" creates a more logical meaning than "them."

Takeaway: when evaluating a pronoun, always try to substitute the referent in place of that pronoun, and then think through the meaning of the sentence.

I hope that helps!
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Re: Nobody knows exactly how many languages there are in the world, partly  [#permalink]

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New post 10 Mar 2019, 15:48
I fail to understand why them can't refer to both "language and sub-languages". I've come across a rule which states that if a subject is of the form X and Y, it becomes plural. Sub-languages can also have dialects within. So why are we referring to language alone?
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Re: Nobody knows exactly how many languages there are in the world, partly  [#permalink]

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New post 11 Mar 2019, 00:43
rarev22 wrote:
I fail to understand why them can't refer to both "language and sub-languages". I've come across a rule which states that if a subject is of the form X and Y, it becomes plural. Sub-languages can also have dialects within. So why are we referring to language alone?

Hi rarev22, the intent of the sentence is to convey that there is a difficulty of distinguishing between:
i) A language
ii) Sub-languages or dialects within a language

Since the intent is to refer to Sub-languages or dialects within a language, it is the correct pronoun.
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Re: Nobody knows exactly how many languages there are in the world, partly  [#permalink]

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New post 13 Mar 2019, 15:42
Hello Everyone!

Let's tackle this question, one issue at a time, and narrow it down to the right option quickly! To begin, here is the original sentence with any major differences between the options highlighted in orange:

Nobody knows exactly how many languages there are in the world, partly because of the difficulty of distinguishing between a language and the sub-languages or dialects within it, but those who have tried to count typically have found about five thousand.

(A) and the sub-languages or dialects within it, but those who have tried to count typically have found
(B) and the sub-languages or dialects within them, with those who have tried counting typically finding
(C) and the sub-languages or dialects within it, but those who have tried counting it typically find
(D) or the sub-languages or dialects within them, but those who tried to count them typically found
(E) or the sub-languages or dialects within them, with those who have tried to count typically finding

After a quick glance over the options, there are a few major differences we can focus on:

1. it vs. them (pronoun agreement)
2. to count / counting (verbs or meaning)
3. have found / finding / find / found (verb tense)


Let's start with #1 on our list: it vs. them. No matter which one we choose, it will eliminate 2-3 options right away. To figure out which one we need to use, let's ask ourselves what the pronoun it/them is referring to. So...what are sub-languages and dialects considered "within?"

Nobody knows exactly how many languages there are in the world, partly because of the difficulty of distinguishing between a language and the sub-languages or dialects within it, but those who have tried to count typically have found about five thousand.

There you go! The pronoun is referring back to the singular word "language!" Now, let's rule out any options that use a plural pronoun instead:

(A) and the sub-languages or dialects within it, but those who have tried to count typically have found
(B) and the sub-languages or dialects within them, with those who have tried counting typically finding
(C) and the sub-languages or dialects within it, but those who have tried counting it typically find
(D) or the sub-languages or dialects within them, but those who tried to count them typically found
(E) or the sub-languages or dialects within them, with those who have tried to count typically finding

We can rule out options B, D, & E because they use the plural pronoun "them" to refer to a singular noun "language." Pretty easy, right? We just eliminated 3 options really quickly!

Now that we've got this narrowed down to only 2 options, let's tackle #2 & #3 on our list. They both have to do with finding the right verb tenses and creating a clear, concise meaning, so let's read them over and see which one does this better:

(A) and the sub-languages or dialects within it, but those who have tried to count typically have found

This is CORRECT! It doesn't have any problems with pronoun agreement, the verbs make logical sense, and the meaning is clear!

(C) and the sub-languages or dialects within it, but those who have tried counting it typically find

This is INCORRECT because there is an agreement problem with the pronoun "it" that people are trying to count. The pronoun "it" is singular, but it's referring to the plural phrase "sub-languages or dialects."


There you have it - option A was the correct choice all along!


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Re: Nobody knows exactly how many languages there are in the world, partly   [#permalink] 13 Mar 2019, 15:42

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