Noun Modifiers can Modify slightly far away noun : GMAT Sentence Correction (SC)
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# Noun Modifiers can Modify slightly far away noun

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NOUN MODIFIERS CAN MODIFY SLIGHTLY FAR AWAY NOUN

INTRODUCTION

Noun modifiers, as the name suggests, modify noun entities. They are generally placed as close to the noun entity they modify as possible to avoid any ambiguity in modification. This is necessary for the sentence to convey the logical intended meaning.

In practice, placing the modifier “as close to the noun entity as possible” has become placing the modifier “immediately after the noun entity” they modify. Now most of the times, this practice helps us arrive at the correct answer choice. However, this does not mean that a “noun modifier” should ALWAYS modify the immediately preceding noun. There are several instances in which a “noun modifier” modifies slightly far away noun.

However, since test takers blindly follow this practice or rule, they eliminate answer choices if they see that it does not make sense for the “noun modifier” to modify the immediately preceded noun. And in certain instances this may result in elimination of a correct answer choice. If you have experienced this while solving SC questions, then this article will be an eye-opener one for you.

Following are the two OFFICIAL EXAMPLES OF CORRECT SENTENCES in which the “noun modifiers” do not modify the immediately preceding noun. They actually modify the noun that is placed slightly far away

1: Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson, which were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumber her letters to anyone else. (OG 13#29, Choice E)

In this sentence, the noun modifier “which were written…” correctly modifies slightly far away noun – “letters”. It does not modify immediately preceding noun “Susan”.

2: Although she had been known as an effective legislator first in the Texas Senate and later in the United States House of Representatives, Barbara Jordan did not become a nationally recognized figure until 1974, when she participated in the hearings on the impeachment of President Richard Nixon, which were televised nationwide. (GMAT Prep, Choice B)
In this sentence, the noun modifier “which were televised…” correctly modifies slightly far away noun – “hearings”. It does not modify immediately preceding noun “Nixon” or “impeachment”.

HOW FAR AWAY MODIFICATION MAKES SENSE

The above two sentences confirm that GMAC accepts the usage of “noun modifiers” modifying a slightly far away noun. This usage is not uncommon in OG and GMAT Prep SC problems. So let’s see how it makes sense for the “noun modifier” to modify a noun that does precede it.

Simple Example

Let’s start with simple sentences to understand the working behind this usage:

1. The committee chose Mr. Smith, who was the most experienced member, to lead all the management-related operations.

Needless to say that in this sentence, the relative pronoun “who”, a “noun modifier”, modifies the immediately preceding noun “Mr. Smith”. The relative pronoun clause is giving some extra information about “Mr. Smith”, the entity it modifies.

2. The committee chose Mr. Smith of Left Block, who was the most experienced member, to lead all the management-related operations.

Many of you will right away discard this sentence as “incorrect” because “who” is not preceded by “Mr. Smith”, the noun it should logically refer to. Well, this sentence is absolutely correct. There is no modification error here. Here “who” correctly modifies “Mr. Smith”.

This is so because the newly added prepositional phrase “of Left Block” is a modifier that modifies “Mr. Smith”. So it is placed next to that entity. This prepositional cannot be placed elsewhere in the sentence without violating the structure and the meaning of the sentence. So now instead of just “Mr. Smith” in sentence 1, we have a “noun phrase” in sentence 2 – “Mr. Smith of Left Block”. In this scenario, “who” has the liberty to jump over the preceding preposition phrase (modifier) to modify the HEAD of this noun phrase – “Mr. Smith”

Additionally, “who was the …” cannot logically and grammatically modify the immediately preceding noun – Left Block.

Complex Example

• The National Association of Large Distribution Businesses, known as Anged, appealed to the Supreme Court in Madrid, which then asked the Court of Justice for a ruling on how to apply European law covering working times.

This is a sentence taken from an article in nytimes.com. In this sentence, the relative pronoun “which” is correctly modifying “Supreme Court” even though it is preceded by a noun entity “Madrid”. This modification is absolutely ‘sensical’ because the prepositional phrase “in Madrid” cannot be placed anywhere in the sentence without violating the structure and the meaning of the sentence. In this case, we now have noun phrase “Supreme Court in Madrid” and hence, “which” has the liberty to jump over the immediately preceding prepositional phrase
(modifier) to modify the head of this noun phrase – “Supreme Court”.

Again, logically it will not make sense for “which” to modify “Madrid”. “Madrid” is a place that will require “where” to modify it.

Here we will discuss the correct sentences of the two official problems that we mentioned in the beginning of the article and will see how in both the sentences the noun modifier modifies the noun entity that is not placed immediately before it.

OG 13#29
1: Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson, which were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumber her letters to anyone else.

Let us quickly get the meaning of this senetnce. This sentence talks about ED’s letters to her sister in law SHD. These letters that were written over a period starting from a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death outnumber Emily’s letters to anyone else.

Now let's analyze the modifier. In this sentence, relative pronoun “which” correctly modifies “letters”, a noun entity that is not placed immediately before “which”. Now “letters” is followed by a prepositional phrase “to SHD” that modifies the “letters”. It tells us who the letters were written to. This prepositional phrase cannot be placed elsewhere in the sentence. So we have a big noun phrase preceding “which” – “ED’s letters to SHD”. In this case, “which” has the liberty to jump over “to SHD” and modify the head of the big noun phrase. This modification leads to no ambiguity at all.

Furthermore logically and grammatically it does not make sense to say that SHD was written over a period…Thus, the closest noun cannot be modified by this modifier.

GMAT Prep

2: Although she had been known as an effective legislator first in the Texas Senate and later in the United States House of Representatives, Barbara Jordan did not become a nationally recognized figure until 1974, when she participated in the hearings on the impeachment of President Richard Nixon, which were televised nationwide.

As always, let's begin with the meaning first. This sentence talks about Barbara Jordan. She was known as an effective legislator first in Texas Senate and then in US House of Representatives. However, she became nationally recognized figure in 1974, when she participated in the hearings on the impeachment of President Nixon. These hearing were televised all across the nation.

Now it's time to understand the role of teh modifier. In this sentence, we have two relative pronouns. The first relative pronoun “when” modifies the preceding noun “1974”. However, the second relative pronoun “which” does not follow the suit.

The sentence says that Jordan participated in “hearings”. What were these hearing about? These hearings were on the impeachment of President Nixon. The prepositional phrase “on the impeachment” modifies “the hearings” while “of President Nixon” modifies “the impeachment”. The modifiers appear after the entities (all nouns) they modify. Hence, together we have a huge noun phrase “the hearings on the impeachment of President Richard Nixon”.

Note that none of these prepositional phrases can be placed anywhere else in the sentence. So here, “which” comfortably jumps over both the prepositional phrases to modify “the hearings”, an absolutely acceptable usage.

Both the above examples explain how the relative pronouns can modify a slightly far away noun. The thing to keep in mind is that this rule is applicable to all noun modifiers. Following is an example of another GMAT Prep problem in which in the correct answer choice, verb-ing modifier modifies a far-away noun.

GMAT Prep

3: Like the great navigators who first sailed around the Earth gathering information about its size and the curvature of its surface, astronomers have made new observations that show with startling directness the large-scale geometry of the universe. (Choice D)

After reading this one, almost all of you will say that “gathering” is a verb-ing modifier that is placed after “Earth” and is not preceded by a comma. Hence, it must modify “Earth”. This modification makes no sense because Earth dis not gather information. The great navigators did. This sentence is incorrect. BUT IN REALITY, this sentence is absolutely correct. Here is why.

Structurally, “who first sailed around the Earth” is a clause. Here “who” stands for “the great navigators”. Now together “the great navigators who first sailed around the Earth” is a big noun phrase (refer to the mini article on noun phrases and Noun modifiers).

Many of you may argue that this entity contains a “who clause”. How can we classify as a noun phrase. We can classify this as a noun phrase since it has a noun at its head. It is of the construction – Noun + Clause.

The head of this big noun phrase is “the great investigators”. Now the “who” clause that modifies “the great investigators” cannot be placed anywhere else in the sentence. This gives “gathering”, a noun modifier, the liberty to jump over the preceding modifier and modify the head – “the great investigators”. Hence, “gathering” in this sentence is correctly modifying “the great investigators”.

Futhermore, logically “earth” cannot gather information.

WHEN FAR AWAY MODIFICATION IS NOT POSSIBLE

So now we know that noun modifiers not only can modify the immediate preceding noun but also can modify a slightly far-away noun. The modification completely depends on the context and the structure of the sentence. However, there can be instances where such modification will not be possoble. In such cases, a noun modifier cannot jump over preceding modifiers to refer to the head of the noun phrases.

Let’s take a few examples:

Simple Example

Let’s bring back the simple example that we discussed earlier. In this example, it makes sense for the “noun modifier” to modify a slightly far-away noun.

1. The committee chose Mr. Smith of Left Block, who was the most experienced member, to lead all the management-related operations.

We have already seen how “who” correctly modifies “Mr. Smith” in this sentence. Compare this with the following sentence:

2. The committee chose Mr. Smith in the last meeting, who was the most experienced member, to lead all the management-related operations.

If you notice, structurally there is no difference between sentences 1 and 2. In both, “Mr. Smith” is followed by prepositional phrase. However, the second sentence is not correct. Here “who” ends up modifying immediately preceding noun “the last meeting”, resulting in modifier error.
This is so because “in the last meeting” does not modify “Mr. Smith”. It rather modifies the action “chose”. When did the committee choose? It did in the last meeting. This prepositional phrase can actually be placed right in the beginning of the sentence, after “The committee”, or before “Mr. Smith” to convey the intended meaning. Hence, here “who” cannot jump over the preceding noun. Notice how per the context of this sentence, the expression “Mr. Smith in the last meeting” is not a noun phrase. Contrast this with the noun phrase in the original sentence “Mr. Smith of Left Block”.

Here is a small exercise for all our readers. Analyze the following two sentences and tell us which one is correct and which one is not and give reasons for the same.

1. The decision of the European leaders to use the Continent’s bailout funds to recapitalize struggling banks would provide help to banks without directly adding to the sovereign debt of countries, which has been a problem for Spain and potentially for Italy.

2: The decision of the European leaders to use the Continent’s bailout funds to recapitalize struggling banks would provide help to banks without directly adding to the sovereign debt in the coming months, which has been a problem for Spain and potentially for Italy.

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Last edited by egmat on 31 Jul 2013, 12:44, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Noun Modifiers can Modify slightly far away noun [#permalink]

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1. The decision of the European leaders to use the Continent’s bailout funds to recapitalize struggling banks would provide help to banks without directly adding to the sovereign debt of countries, which has been a problem for Spain and potentially for Italy.

I believe the above sentence is right as which in the sentence refers to the Sovereign debt. The Propositional phrase "Of Countries" modifies Sovereign Dept hence can not be placed anywhere else.

2: The decision of the European leaders to use the Continent’s bailout funds to recapitalize struggling banks would provide help to banks without directly adding to the sovereign debt in the coming months, which has been a problem for Spain and potentially for Italy.

In the above sentence, which can not refer to sovereign debt because propositional phrase "in the coming month" is referring to "would provide help to banks". Hence, "which" can not refer t the Sovereign Debt.

Please let me know if my reasoning is correct.

BTW: An excellent article. Even after preparing from MGMAT Sentence correction guide i was not sure about the second sentence case.
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19 Jul 2012, 11:24
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Aximili85 wrote:
indeed very helpful, I took it as sacrosanct that "which" had to address the noun/article before it, this explains when the exceptions are valid. Thanks Sharddha.

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Re: Noun Modifiers can Modify slightly far away noun [#permalink]

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17 Jul 2012, 17:46
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Excellent article!

1) The decision of the European leaders to use the Continent’s bailout funds to recapitalize struggling banks would provide help to banks without directly adding to the sovereign debt of countries, which has been a problem for Spain and potentially for Italy.

In this sentence "which" is referring to sovereign debt and even though there is prepositional phrase " of countries" between which and the noun- sovereign debt, the sentence is correct because " of countries" is correctly modifying the noun sovereign debt.

2)The decision of the European leaders to use the Continent’s bailout funds to recapitalize struggling banks would provide help to banks without directly adding to the sovereign debt in the coming months, which has been a problem for Spain and potentially for Italy.

In this sentence "which" is referring to sovereign debt as well, however the prepositional phrase -"in the coming months" that is between "which" and the noun- sovereign debt is not modifying the noun but instead modifying "provide help"
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Re: Noun Modifiers can Modify slightly far away noun [#permalink]

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18 Jul 2012, 14:44
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thangvietnam wrote:
Can I say that when the phrase inserted between the far noun and its modifier modifies that noun, the modifier is acceptable ?

When the phrase inserted between the far noun and its modifier DOSE NOT modify that noun, the modifier is not acceptable?

can the rule be good for all cases?

Hi there,

Yes, your understanding is correct. If the inserted phrase is modifying the head of the noun phrase they make together then a noun modifier can modify this slightly far away noun. If this inserted phrase is not doing so, then the noun modifier will moidfy the preceding noun.

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Re: Noun Modifiers can Modify slightly far away noun [#permalink]

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18 Jul 2012, 11:20
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Hi,

Here is a foundation concept on Noun phrases and Noun modifiers.

noun-modifiers-can-modify-slightly-far-away-noun-prequel-135910.html#p1105284

-Rajat
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Re: Noun Modifiers can Modify slightly far away noun [#permalink]

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18 Jul 2012, 14:40
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Hi Simba2012,
I'm glad that you liked the article. But what makes me really happy that now you understand in which scenario "which" can modify a slightly far away noun.
Let me also congratulate for solving the execise correctly. Great job there.

You can also check out a foundation concept on Noun phrases and Noun modifiers.

noun-modifiers-can-modify-slightly-far-away-noun-prequel-135910.html#p1105284

Thanks.
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Re: Noun Modifiers can Modify slightly far away noun [#permalink]

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10 Dec 2012, 13:30
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bagdbmba wrote:
Can you please explain it in a bit detail to help me understand as I'm having problem to gauge why 'has grown a market' is right here..?

Is it because of the fact that the verb 'grown' precedes the subject 'market' here..?

Hi bagdbmba,

Out of America’s fascination with all things antique have grown a market for bygone styles of furniture and fixtures that are bringing back the chaise lounge, the overstuffed sofa, and the daw-footed bathtub.

In the original sentence as well as in all the answer choices, relative pronoun is “that” appears right after “fixtures”. However, it does not make sense for “that” to modify “fixtures” because then the sentence will non-sensically convey that “fixtures” or for that matter “furniture and fixtures” are bringing back the chaise lounge and other furniture.

This relative pronoun cannot logically as well grammatically refer to “fascination” because it has to jump over the verb “have grown”. The relative pronoun can at the maximum jump over a modifier such as a prepositional phrase to refer to a slightly far-away. Under no condition it can jump over a verb to do so.

This is the reason why this sentence has been written in inverted SV form where the verb appears first and then comes the subject so that the relative modifier “that” can be used.

Let’s try to write this sentence is normal SV structure form:

Out of America’s fascination with all things antique, a market has grown for bygone furniture and fixtures that is bringing back the chaise lounge, the overstuffed sofa, and the daw-footed bathtub.

In this sentence, “that” cannot modify “a market” because it will have to jump over a word to do so. But doing so is not a possibility. Hence, we need to stick to the inverse SV format for this sentence.

Hope this helps.
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Re: Noun Modifiers can Modify slightly far away noun [#permalink]

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02 Aug 2012, 12:29
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Hi folks,

Solve this question from OG 11#116 to see how a noun modifer is modifying a little far away noun in this problem.

Out of America’s fascination with all things antique have grown a market for bygone styles of furniture and fixtures that are bringing back the chaise lounge, the overstuffed sofa, and the daw-footed bathtub.

(A) things antique have grown a market for bygone styles of furniture and fixtures that are bringing
(B) things antique has grown a market for bygone styles of furniture and fixtures that is bringing
(C) things that are antiques has grown a market for bygone styles of furniture and fixtures that bring
(D) antique things have grown a market for bygone styles of furniture and fixtures that are bringing
(E) antique things has grown a market for bygone styles of furniture and fixtures that bring
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Re: Noun Modifiers can Modify slightly far away noun [#permalink]

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13 Aug 2012, 20:14
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Quote:
Solve this question from OG 11#116 to see how a noun modifer is modifying a little far away noun in this problem.

Out of America’s fascination with all things antique have grown a market for bygone styles of furniture and fixtures that are bringing back the chaise lounge, the overstuffed sofa, and the daw-footed bathtub.

Is B the correct choice? - (B) things antique has grown a market for bygone styles of furniture and fixtures that is bringing

that - is modifying the market and should be using singular verb. "that" can jump over the prepositional phrase 'of X and Y' to modify far away noun 'market'.
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Re: Noun Modifiers can Modify slightly far away noun [#permalink]

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25 Oct 2012, 08:24
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mandyrhtdm wrote:
Is THAT modifying "market" or "Fascination" ??

Hi there,

Relative pronoun "that" canoot modify "fascination" because there is a verb in between. The relative pronoun cannot jump over a verb to refer to a noun. In the correct choice B, "that" correctly refers to "market" to say that the market is bringing back some by-gone furnitures.

Hope this helps.
Thanls.
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Re: Noun Modifiers can Modify slightly far away noun [#permalink]

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07 Dec 2012, 13:01
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thangvietnam wrote:
Thank you e gmat experts.

pls help more. in the following from og 13, A and B are considered wrong because noun is far. This contradict with what is said in this posting.
pls explain.

The reason is that "slightly far noun" is considered inferior though acceptable. if we have a chance to avoid the "slightly far noun" , we should do so. Is that right? , pls help

It is called a sea, but the landlocked Caspian is
actually the largest lake on Earth, which covers more
than four times the surface area of its closest rival in
size, North America's Lake Superior.
(A) It is called a sea, but the landlocked Caspian is
actually the largest lake on Earth, which covers
(B) Although it is called a sea, actually the
landlocked Caspian is the largest lake on Earth,
which covers
(C) Though called a sea, the landlocked Caspian is
actually the largest lake on Earth, covering
(D) Though called a sea but it actually is the largest
lake on Earth, the landlocked Caspian covers
(E) Despite being called a sea, the largest lake on
Earth is actually the landlocked Caspian,
Covering

Hi @thangvietnam,

It is called a sea, but the landlocked Caspian is actually the largest lake on Earth, which covers more than four times the surface area of its closest rival in size, North America's Lake Superior.

I would not say that “which” modifies the preceding noun “Earth” in choices A and B and that is the reason why these two choices are incorrect.

I would reject choice A because of its construction. This choice introduces the pronoun first and then brings in the antecedent. Through PoE, I do find a better constructed, more precise, and an absolutely clear answer choice.

In choice B, I don’t agree with the placement of “actually”. I would prefer it to appear after “is” the way it does in the original answer choice. Again, I do have a better clear answer choice so I can comfortably reject choice B.

Hope this helps.
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Re: Noun Modifiers can Modify slightly far away noun [#permalink]

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30 Apr 2013, 10:25
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Hi Vignesh,

This is the sentence that you present:
Sunspots, vortices of gas associated with strong electromagnetic activity, appear as dark spots on the suns surface, which have never been sighted on the suns poles or equators.

Now let me present another variation of this sentence:
Sunspots, vortices of gas associated with strong electromagnetic activity, appear on the suns surface as dark spots, which have never been sighted on the suns poles or equators.

You must keep in mind what the prepositional phrase “on the sun’s surface” modifies. It modifies the verb “appears”. It is not the part of the noun “dark spots”. This is the reason why, in the first sentence, “which” cannot jump over “on the sun’s surface” to modify “dark spots”. In the second sentence, there is no need of jumping over because “which” is placed next to dark spots.

You may read the part of the article where to talks about when the slightly far away modification does not stand.

Hope this helps.
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Re: Noun Modifiers can Modify slightly far away noun [#permalink]

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17 Jul 2013, 05:30
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Hi Veenu,

An economic recession can result from a lowering of employment rates triggered by a drop in investment, which causes people to cut consumer spending and starts a cycle of layoffs leading back to even lower employment rates.

(a) a lowering of employment rates triggered by a drop in investment, which causes people to cut consumer spending and start a cycle of layoffs leading back to even lower employment rates.

(b) a lowering of employment rates triggered by dropping investment, which causes people to cut consumer spending and starts a cycle of layoffs leading back to even lower employment rates.

(c) falling employment rates triggered by a drop in investment, which cause cutbacks in consumer spending, starting a cycle of layoffs that lead to even lower employment rates.

(d) falling employment rates that are triggered by a drop in investment, causing people to cut consumer spending and starting a cycle of layoffs that lead back to even lower employment rates.

(e) falling employment rates that are triggered by a drop in investment, causing cutbacks in consumer spending and starting a cycle of layoffs leading to even lower employment rates.

This one is very interesting. The key to solve this one is to understand the intended logical meaning of the sentence. So let’s do that.

MEANING ANALYSIS:

Economic recession can result from falling employment rates. By the way, the employment rates
fall is triggered by a drop in investment. Coming back to what we were talking about, the falling investment rates cause cuts in consumer spending and start a cycle of layoffs that lead to even lower employment rates.

Now that we understand the meaning of the question, I would like you to take a stab at this question. Analyze yourself the role of various modifiers in each answer choice and find the correct answer. Post your analysis here so that I can understand your analysis.

So all the very best.

Thanks.
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Re: Noun Modifiers can Modify slightly far away noun [#permalink]

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28 Jan 2014, 10:18
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code19 wrote:

I have one question regarding this GMATPrep question

Naked mole rats form colonies of approximately 20 animals, each of which consists of a single reproductive female and workers that defend her

A. each of which consists
B. with each of them consisting
C. each colony consisting
D. and each of them consist
E. and each colony consisting

The OA is C, and I understand why it is much superior GMAT style answer; resumptive appositive "each colony" is unambiguously placed at the end of sentence which is also modified by the present participle "consisting of ..."

My question is different - can we use the approach you suggest to justify the answer choice A?
Using the "meaning" we know which cannot refer to the "animals" because an animal cannot consist of "a female rat and workers that defend her" - so it can also jump animals and modify the head of the phrase "colonies".

Can we say (if above justification is ok) although A can be justified but C is much superior and clear therefore better answer choice?

Thank you

Hi code19,

Yes, your analysis of answer Choice A is absolutely correct. It is evident that "which" logically CANNOT modify "animals". Hence it may jump over modify to "colonies". However, Choice C is far more superior in clarity and conciseness and hence, is the correct answer.

In Choice C, we have the Noun (each colony) + Noun Modifier (consisting) that conveys the intended meaning clearly.

Hope this helps.
Thanks.
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Re: Noun Modifiers can Modify slightly far away noun [#permalink]

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17 Jul 2012, 18:37
great articles.

regarding impossible far modification.

Can I say that when the phrase inserted between the far noun and its modifier modifies that noun, the modifier is acceptable ?

When the phrase inserted between the far noun and its modifier DOSE NOT modify that noun, the modifier is not acceptable?

can the rule be good for all cases?
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Re: Noun Modifiers can Modify slightly far away noun [#permalink]

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18 Jul 2012, 10:39

You mention in the end that Modifiers Relative Pronouns concept has been explained already. Can you please share that link?

Thanks.
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Re: Noun Modifiers can Modify slightly far away noun [#permalink]

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18 Jul 2012, 17:25
egmat wrote:
Hi Simba2012,
I'm glad that you liked the article. But what makes me really happy that now you understand in which scenario "which" can modify a slightly far away noun.
Let me also congratulate for solving the execise correctly. Great job there.

You can also check out a foundation concept on Noun phrases and Noun modifiers.

noun-modifiers-can-modify-slightly-far-away-noun-prequel-135910.html#p1105284

Thanks.

Thanks Shraddha for the compliment! The concept is crystal clear to me now! You guys are awesome at E-gmat bringing in such great articles with examples! Kudos to you!!
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Re: Noun Modifiers can Modify slightly far away noun [#permalink]

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19 Jul 2012, 11:19
indeed very helpful, I took it as sacrosanct that "which" had to address the noun/article before it, this explains when the exceptions are valid. Thanks Sharddha.
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Re: Noun Modifiers can Modify slightly far away noun [#permalink]

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19 Jul 2012, 11:27
Never thought I would ever use 'elegant' to describe a GMAT article but I am compelled to do so by this article.

Beautifully written and replete with lucid and relevant examples. Kudos!

Cheers,
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Re: Noun Modifiers can Modify slightly far away noun   [#permalink] 19 Jul 2012, 11:27

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