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Pronoun ambiguity

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Pronoun ambiguity  [#permalink]

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New post 27 Jun 2017, 04:37
Hi guys,

I have a question regarding pronoun ambiguity.

According to what i have learned - pronouns ambiguity occurs when there is more than one potential antecedent that the pronoun can refer to. For example: in the sentence "Computer A is next to computer B, and it is broken" there is an pronoun ambiguity because the pronoun "it" can refer logically to computer A as well as to computer B.

But look at this Manhattan's sentence: "Researches claim to have developed new "nano-papers" incorporating tiny cellulose fibers, which they allege give them the strength of cast iron". According to Manhattan's explanation - "both they and them have ambiguous antecedents. Either pronoun could refer back to researches or to "nano-papers". But according to what i have learned there is no ambiguity regarding the pronoun "they" in the sentence because this pronoun cannot logically refer to "nano-papers" as "nano-papers" cannot allege something (it's a material).

So what i don't understand is when can i conclude that there is a pronoun ambiguity - just when both optional antecedent can makes sense or in any situation that i have technically two different antecedents.

Thanks in advance!
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Re: Pronoun ambiguity  [#permalink]

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New post 05 Jul 2017, 16:58
Don't worry too much about ambiguous pronouns. The GMAT is wishy-washy about them. There are lots of examples of problems where a pronoun is technically ambiguous, but the answer choice it appears in is the right one.

On the test, base your thinking on the splits that you see in the problem. If one answer choice uses a pronoun that could technically be ambiguous, but another answer choice replaces it with a noun, pick the answer choice that uses the noun (assuming that everything else is the same). But if you don't see a split that looks like that, ignore the issue and work with something else.
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Re: Pronoun ambiguity  [#permalink]

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New post 07 Jul 2017, 23:43
oryahalom wrote:
"Researches claim to have developed new "nano-papers" incorporating tiny cellulose fibers, which they allege give them the strength of cast iron".


In my humble opinion, there is one problem in the cited sentence, although I'm not sure whether it should be categorized as a "pronoun ambiguity" error.

Logically, in case no pronoun is used, the sentence can be rewritten as follow:

Researches claim to have developed new "nano-papers" incorporating tiny cellulose fibers, which researchers allege give "nano-papers"/cellulose fibers the strength of cast iron".

In the same sentence, how can pronouns "they" and "them" refer to 2 different nouns? As far as I'm concerned, in this case, "they" and "them" must refer to only one particular noun.

Also, I guess "them" may refer to "nano-papers", because in case pronoun "them" refers to "tiny cellulose fibers", that pronoun should be changed to "themselves" instead ("fibers" plays the role of both subject and object of the clause).

Expert DmitryFarber, please correct me if I'm wrong. Thank you.
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Re: Pronoun ambiguity   [#permalink] 07 Jul 2017, 23:43
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