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Officials at the United States Mint believe that the Sacagawea dollar

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Officials at the United States Mint believe that the Sacagawea dollar  [#permalink]

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New post 21 May 2014, 13:12
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'Idiomatic usage' of comparison markers



Is 'idiomatic usage' of comparison markers a good way to eliminate options in questions that test comparisons?

My answer: not so much. The problem with focusing on idiomatic usage to analyze options is that our understanding of ‘typically’ correct idioms interferes with our understanding of the meaning that the option conveys. You need to be particularly careful about understanding the intended logic of the sentence when it makes a comparison.

Let's look at this official question to illustrate this point. I'd especially like to focus on why we can't argue that the correct answer is not 'really' correct because it doesn't use the "more X than Y" construction.

Officials at the United States Mint believe that the Sacagawea dollar coin will be used more as a substitute for four quarters rather than for the dollar bill because its weight, only 8.1 grams, is far less than four quarters, which weigh 5.67 grams each.

A) more as a substitute for four quarters rather than for the dollar bill because its weight, only 8.1 grams, is far less than
B) more as a substitute for four quarters than the dollar bill because it weighs only 8.1 grams, far lighter than
C) as a substitute for four quarters more than for the dollar bill because it weighs only 8.1 grams, far less than
D) as a substitute for four quarters more than the dollar bill because its weight of only 8.1 grams is far lighter than it is for
E) as a substitute more for four quarters rather than for the dollar bill because its weight, only 8.1 grams, is far less than it is for


Here’s how I would go about understanding this question. The original sentence contains a comparison that is expressed using the comparison marker ‘more than’. Okay, so my focus needs to be on whether the comparison makes logical sense in the original sentence. If it does, I know I need a correct answer that doesn’t change the intended logic. But if it doesn’t make sense in the original sentence, then I need to infer the correct logic from the original sentence, and then look for an answer that also uses the correct intended meaning.

So far so good. Let’s do the meaning analysis.

Meaning Analysis

Since we're looking at the use of ‘more than’, I’m going to focus only on the comparison in this meaning analysis.

Officials at the United States Mint believe that the Sacagawea dollar coin will be used more as a substitute for four quarters rather than for the dollar bill because its weight, only 8.1 grams, is far less than four quarters, which weigh 5.67 grams each.

So the original sentence has two comparisons:

1. the Sacagawea dollar coin will be used more as a substitute for four quarters rather than for the dollar bill => Comparison between ‘four quarters’ and ‘the dollar bill’
2. its weight… is far less than four quarters => Comparison between ‘its weight’ and ‘four quarters’

While the first comparison is logically correct, the second clearly isn’t. ‘Weight’ can’t be compared to ‘quarters’. The weight of something can logically be compared only with the weight of something else.

Error Analysis

Comparison errors in this sentence:

1. the Sacagawea dollar coin will be used more as a substitute for four quarters rather than for the dollar bill => ‘More’ can’t be followed by ‘rather than’. ‘More’ indicates a comparison while ‘rather than’ is used to show contrast. Note that in the case of option A, it is perfectly fine to eliminate the option based on the usage of ‘more than’ compared to the usage of ‘rather than’. This is because the two phrases are used for different purposes. We already know from our meaning analysis that this sentence is making a comparison, not a contrast. So ‘rather than’ is out.
2. its weight… is far less than four quarters => Illogical comparison between ‘its weight’ and ‘four quarters’.

Process of Elimination:

As I've done above, I’m going to focus on the comparison issue to eliminate choices.

Option A: INCORRECT as discussed.

Option B: INCORRECT.

1. Comparison Error: ‘More as a substitute for four quarters than the dollar bill’ => This comparison is ambiguous. It could mean one of two things:

i) The dollar coin will be used more as a substitute for four quarters than the dollar bill WILL. => Comparison between the dollar coin and the dollar bill.
ii) The dollar coin will be used more as a substitute for four quarters than FOR the dollar bill. => Comparison between four quarters and the dollar bill.

So you can see, there’s no justification for applying the ‘more X than Y’ logic here. In fact, I would say it’s a misconception that this use is ‘idiomatic’. Saying so implies that this structure is always correct, whereas really, it’s correct only when it conveys the intended logic correctly.

Option C: CORRECT

This choice says that the dollar coin will be used as a substitute for four quarters more than FOR the dollar bill. So, it clearly resolves the ambiguity present in option B.

Option D: INCORRECT

1. Comparison Error: ‘For’ is missing, leading to ambiguity.

Option E: INCORRECT

1. Comparison Error: ‘More’ is followed by ‘rather than’.

So, as you can see, going by idiomatic usage is unlikely to be the best way to solve a comparison question. Focusing on the logic behind the comparison is the way to go.

I hope these observations help. :-)

Meghna
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Re: Officials at the United States Mint believe that the Sacagawea dollar  [#permalink]

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New post 26 May 2014, 22:31
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eGMAT- Great question indeed! Kudos :-)

Please share more 700+ questions of this kind...


Just a quick check - both the statements below are right I think,
1. more as a substitute for four quarters than for the dollar bill because it weighs only 8.1 grams, far lighter than

comparison between four quarters and bill

2. as a substitute for four quarters more than the dollar bill because it weighs only 8.1 grams, far less than

comparison between coin and bill

Correct me please, if I'm wrong.
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KUDOS please, if you like the post or if it helps :-)

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Re: Officials at the United States Mint believe that the Sacagawea dollar  [#permalink]

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New post 04 Jun 2014, 23:45
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Hi @bagdbmba,

Thanks for the appreciation. :)

As explained above, "for" is required so that the comparison has no ambiguity. Given the context of the sentence, I think it's ideal to place "as a substitute" before "more". However, I wouldn't say the second version is correct since it doesn't have "for" before "the dollar bill" and hence contains ambiguity.

Hope this helps!

Meghna
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Re: Officials at the United States Mint believe that the Sacagawea dollar  [#permalink]

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New post 12 Jun 2015, 00:41
egmat wrote:
Is 'idiomatic usage' of comparison markers a good way to eliminate options in questions that test comparisons?

My answer: not so much. The problem with focusing on idiomatic usage to analyze options is that our understanding of ‘typically’ correct idioms interferes with our understanding of the meaning that the option conveys. You need to be particularly careful about understanding the intended logic of the sentence when it makes a comparison.

Let's look at this official question to illustrate this point. I'd especially like to focus on why we can't argue that the correct answer is not 'really' correct because it doesn't use the "more X than Y" construction.

Officials at the United States Mint believe that the Sacagawea dollar coin will be used more as a substitute for four quarters rather than for the dollar bill because its weight, only 8.1 grams, is far less than four quarters, which weigh 5.67 grams each.

A) more as a substitute for four quarters rather than for the dollar bill because its weight, only 8.1 grams, is far less than
B) more as a substitute for four quarters than the dollar bill because it weighs only 8.1 grams, far lighter than
C) as a substitute for four quarters more than for the dollar bill because it weighs only 8.1 grams, far less than
D) as a substitute for four quarters more than the dollar bill because its weight of only 8.1 grams is far lighter than it is for
E) as a substitute more for four quarters rather than for the dollar bill because its weight, only 8.1 grams, is far less than it is for

Here’s how I would go about understanding this question. The original sentence contains a comparison that is expressed using the comparison marker ‘more than’. Okay, so my focus needs to be on whether the comparison makes logical sense in the original sentence. If it does, I know I need a correct answer that doesn’t change the intended logic. But if it doesn’t make sense in the original sentence, then I need to infer the correct logic from the original sentence, and then look for an answer that also uses the correct intended meaning.

So far so good. Let’s do the meaning analysis.

Meaning Analysis

Since we're looking at the use of ‘more than’, I’m going to focus only on the comparison in this meaning analysis.

Officials at the United States Mint believe that the Sacagawea dollar coin will be used more as a substitute for four quarters rather than for the dollar bill because its weight, only 8.1 grams, is far less than four quarters, which weigh 5.67 grams each.

So the original sentence has two comparisons:

1. the Sacagawea dollar coin will be used more as a substitute for four quarters rather than for the dollar bill => Comparison between ‘four quarters’ and ‘the dollar bill’
2. its weight… is far less than four quarters => Comparison between ‘its weight’ and ‘four quarters’

While the first comparison is logically correct, the second clearly isn’t. ‘Weight’ can’t be compared to ‘quarters’. The weight of something can logically be compared only with the weight of something else.

Error Analysis

Comparison errors in this sentence:

1. the Sacagawea dollar coin will be used more as a substitute for four quarters rather than for the dollar bill => ‘More’ can’t be followed by ‘rather than’. ‘More’ indicates a comparison while ‘rather than’ is used to show contrast. Note that in the case of option A, it is perfectly fine to eliminate the option based on the usage of ‘more than’ compared to the usage of ‘rather than’. This is because the two phrases are used for different purposes. We already know from our meaning analysis that this sentence is making a comparison, not a contrast. So ‘rather than’ is out.
2. its weight… is far less than four quarters => Illogical comparison between ‘its weight’ and ‘four quarters’.

Process of Elimination:

As I've done above, I’m going to focus on the comparison issue to eliminate choices.

Option A: INCORRECT as discussed.

Option B: INCORRECT.

1. Comparison Error: ‘More as a substitute for four quarters than the dollar bill’ => This comparison is ambiguous. It could mean one of two things:

i) The dollar coin will be used more as a substitute for four quarters than the dollar bill WILL. => Comparison between the dollar coin and the dollar bill.
ii) The dollar coin will be used more as a substitute for four quarters than FOR the dollar bill. => Comparison between four quarters and the dollar bill.

So you can see, there’s no justification for applying the ‘more X than Y’ logic here. In fact, I would say it’s a misconception that this use is ‘idiomatic’. Saying so implies that this structure is always correct, whereas really, it’s correct only when it conveys the intended logic correctly.

Option C: CORRECT

This choice says that the dollar coin will be used as a substitute for four quarters more than FOR the dollar bill. So, it clearly resolves the ambiguity present in option B.

Option D: INCORRECT

1. Comparison Error: ‘For’ is missing, leading to ambiguity.

Option E: INCORRECT

1. Comparison Error: ‘More’ is followed by ‘rather than’.

So, as you can see, going by idiomatic usage is unlikely to be the best way to solve a comparison question. Focusing on the logic behind the comparison is the way to go.

I hope these observations help. :-)

Meghna


Shouldn't we employ "as a substitute more for x than for y" ?
Why have we used " as a substiture for x more than for y" ?
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Re: Officials at the United States Mint believe that the Sacagawea dollar  [#permalink]

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New post 02 Apr 2018, 00:16
egmat wrote:
Is 'idiomatic usage' of comparison markers a good way to eliminate options in questions that test comparisons?


Officials at the United States Mint believe that the Sacagawea dollar coin will be used more as a substitute for four quarters rather than for the dollar bill because its weight, only 8.1 grams, is far less than four quarters, which weigh 5.67 grams each.


C) as a substitute for four quarters more than for the dollar bill because it weighs only 8.1 grams, far less than four quarters




Hello egmat,
Nice question! As a follower of your teachings, I want to get the following doubt clarified by you.
Shouldn't the highlighted portion incorrect, and hence be modified to only 8.1 grams, far less than that (or weight) of four quarters ?
OR
only 8.1 grams, far lighter than four quarters
I had selected C for the reasons mentioned in your post, but then eliminated because of the highlighted portion.
Thank you.
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Re: Officials at the United States Mint believe that the Sacagawea dollar  [#permalink]

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New post 25 Aug 2018, 09:20
egmat wrote:
Officials at the United States Mint believe that the Sacagawea dollar coin will be used more as a substitute for four quarters rather than for the dollar bill because its weight, only 8.1 grams, is far less than four quarters, which weigh 5.67 grams each.

C) as a substitute for four quarters more than for the dollar bill because it weighs only 8.1 grams, far less than


Hi,

Thank you for the explanation. My question is how you justify the the last part of the sentence that is underlined above in choice C? The portion doesn't seem to be a noun modifier. Could you or any of you guys who read the discussion please comment on that?

Thank you
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Re: Officials at the United States Mint believe that the Sacagawea dollar  [#permalink]

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New post 25 Aug 2018, 11:02
jawele wrote:
egmat wrote:
Officials at the United States Mint believe that the Sacagawea dollar coin will be used more as a substitute for four quarters rather than for the dollar bill because its weight, only 8.1 grams, is far less than four quarters, which weigh 5.67 grams each.

C) as a substitute for four quarters more than for the dollar bill because it weighs only 8.1 grams, far less than


Hi,

Thank you for the explanation. My question is how you justify the the last part of the sentence that is underlined above in choice C? The portion doesn't seem to be a noun modifier. Could you or any of you guys who read the discussion please comment on that?

Thank you
It is noun + noun modifier or an absolute phrase modifying weighs
( remember--> noun+ noun modifier is very versatile and can modify nearest noun, intermediate noun or far away noun)

Weights far less than four quarters.

Hope this helps. Consider kudos if that helped.

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Re: Officials at the United States Mint believe that the Sacagawea dollar  [#permalink]

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New post 25 Aug 2018, 11:53
sumit411 wrote:
jawele wrote:
egmat wrote:
Officials at the United States Mint believe that the Sacagawea dollar coin will be used more as a substitute for four quarters rather than for the dollar bill because its weight, only 8.1 grams, is far less than four quarters, which weigh 5.67 grams each.

C) as a substitute for four quarters more than for the dollar bill because it weighs only 8.1 grams, far less than


Hi,

Thank you for the explanation. My question is how you justify the the last part of the sentence that is underlined above in choice C? The portion doesn't seem to be a noun modifier. Could you or any of you guys who read the discussion please comment on that?

Thank you
It is noun + noun modifier or an absolute phrase modifying weighs
( remember--> noun+ noun modifier is very versatile and can modify nearest noun, intermediate noun or far away noun)

Weights far less than four quarters.

Hope this helps. Consider kudos if that helped.

Sent from my ONEPLUS A3003 using GMAT Club Forum mobile app


Hi sumit411,

Thanks for the reply. Could you please explain how do you get the absolute modifier? Again, the answer C claims that "<...>as a substitute for four quarters more than for the dollar bill because it weighs only 8.1 grams, far less than <...>". The portion "<...>, far less than four quarters<...>" is not really a noun, at least I think so because naturally, you may ask "what's far less than four quarters?". For me, the portion seems to be incorrectly dangling there. I agree that an absolute modifier could correct the mistake. Is my understanding of noun incorrect in this case? If so, pleaes elaborate.

Thank you
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Re: Officials at the United States Mint believe that the Sacagawea dollar  [#permalink]

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New post 25 Aug 2018, 12:07
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jawele wrote:
sumit411 wrote:
jawele wrote:
[quote="egmat"]
Officials at the United States Mint believe that the Sacagawea dollar coin will be used more as a substitute for four quarters rather than for the dollar bill because its weight, only 8.1 grams, is far less than four quarters, which weigh 5.67 grams each.

C) as a substitute for four quarters more than for the dollar bill because it weighs only 8.1 grams, far less than


Hi,

Thank you for the explanation. My question is how you justify the the last part of the sentence that is underlined above in choice C? The portion doesn't seem to be a noun modifier. Could you or any of you guys who read the discussion please comment on that?

Thank you
It is noun + noun modifier or an absolute phrase modifying weighs
( remember--> noun+ noun modifier is very versatile and can modify nearest noun, intermediate noun or far away noun)

Weights far less than four quarters.

Hope this helps. Consider kudos if that helped.

Sent from my ONEPLUS A3003 using GMAT Club Forum mobile app


Hi sumit411,

Thanks for the reply. Could you please explain how do you get the absolute modifier? Again, the answer C claims that "<...>as a substitute for four quarters more than for the dollar bill because it weighs only 8.1 grams, far less than <...>". The portion "<...>, far less than four quarters<...>" is not really a noun, at least I think so because naturally, you may ask "what's far less than four quarters?". For me, the portion seems to be incorrectly dangling there. I agree that an absolute modifier could correct the mistake. Is my understanding of noun incorrect in this case? If so, pleaes elaborate.

Thank you[/quote]Hi Jewele,

Your answer is in your question itself. When you ask--what's far less than four quarters?" you do get an answer - -> dollar bill weight
Dollar bill weight is far less than four quarters. So this part is not dangling.

Hope this clears. Do shoot a question if I was not clear.

Consider kudos if that helped.

Sent from my ONEPLUS A3003 using GMAT Club Forum mobile app
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Re: Officials at the United States Mint believe that the Sacagawea dollar  [#permalink]

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New post 26 Aug 2018, 02:26
sumit411 wrote:
Hi Jewele,

Your answer is in your question itself. When you ask--what's far less than four quarters?" you do get an answer - -> dollar bill weight
Dollar bill weight is far less than four quarters. So this part is not dangling.

Hope this clears. Do shoot a question if I was not clear.

Consider kudos if that helped.

Sent from my ONEPLUS A3003 using GMAT Club Forum mobile app


Hi sumit411,

I see. But you said it yourself that you need a noun+noun modifier to form an absolute phrase. However, in the portion "far less than four quarters" the four quarters isn't the thing that would normally describe "it weighs only 8.1 grams" in different terms - you need some kind of noun, such as as in "a weight far less than four quarters". What could make this omission be correct?

Additionally, you claim that "it" refers to 'the dollar bill'. Why can't it refer to 'the Sacagawea dollar coin'? Both could make sense as per the context of this sentence. Consider:
Option 1. The coin will be used as a substitute for the quarters because the coin weight less than the quarters (the quarters>the coin)
Option 2. The coin will be used as a substitute for the quarters because the bill weight less than the quarters (the quarters>the coin>the bill)

Although I agree that Option 2 would make the sentence more sound structurally because the contrast that is provided by "rather than" would be ignored in Option 1, there are two options right there, causing a slight ambiguity. Don't you agree?

Thanks for the discussion.
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Re: Officials at the United States Mint believe that the Sacagawea dollar &nbs [#permalink] 26 Aug 2018, 02:26
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