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QOTD: A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States

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QOTD: A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States [#permalink]

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Verbal Question of The Day: Day 131: Sentence Correction


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A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities had been allowed to dump into the Great Lakes.

(A) reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities had been allowed to dump
(B) reduced the phosphate amount that municipalities had been dumping
(C) reduces the phosphate amount municipalities have been allowed to dump
(D) reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities are allowed to dump
(E) reduces the amount of phosphates allowed for dumping by municipalities

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QOTD: A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States [#permalink]

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This one is a cruel classic that forces you to think really, really carefully about the connection between verb tenses and the intended meaning of the sentence. We covered this one at the end of our webinar on GMAT verb tenses, so head over there if you prefer your explanations in video form.

Quote:
(A) reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities had been allowed to dump

(A) is awfully tempting. The agreement happened in the past (1972), so it’s reasonable enough to use “reduced” here.

But what about the use of past perfect tense (“had been allowed to dump”)? Whenever you see the past perfect tense, it has to describe an action that is completed in the past, but BEFORE some other “time marker” in the past – usually another action in simple past tense. And we do have another action in simple past here: “reduced the amount of phosphates.” Superficially, this looks good.

But those verb tenses don’t actually make sense! Literally, (A) is saying that the 1972 agreement “reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities had been allowed to dump” – meaning that the 1972 agreement changed the amount that municipalities had been allowed to dump BEFORE the agreement went into place. And that makes no sense: how could a 1972 agreement reach even further into the past to change municipalities' behavior?

It’s subtle. And cruel and difficult. And if you wanted to be conservative on your first pass through the answer choices, you certainly could hang onto (A). But as you’ll see in a moment, we definitely have a better option.

Quote:
(B) reduced the phosphate amount that municipalities had been dumping

(B) is an even worse version of (A). How can the 1972 agreement reach back into the even-more-distant past to change the amount that “municipalities had been dumping”? Plus, there’s no good reason to use the progressive tense here, and the phrase “phosphate amount” strikes me as being awfully weird.

But the logic of the sequence of actions is the real problem, just as it is in (A). So (B) is out, too.

Quote:
(C) reduces the phosphate amount municipalities have been allowed to dump

There are all sorts of little problems with this one. First, I don’t think it’s ideal to say that the 1972 agreement “reduces” the phosphate amount. The agreement reduced that amount when it took effect in the past – so it’s hard to argue that the present tense would work here.

Second, the phrase “phosphate amount” still strikes me as weird. I’m not certain that it’s 100% wrong, and I wouldn’t eliminate (C) solely because of it. But “the amount of phosphates” is clearly better.

Finally, I don’t understand why we would use the present perfect “have been allowed to dump” in this sentence, particularly since it’s accompanied by the present tense “reduces.” “Have been allowed” suggests that the action started in the past and continues in the present. So the sentence is literally saying that municipalities “have been allowed” to dump a certain amount beginning in the past, but only because of a 1972 agreement… which “reduces” that amount only in the present? That doesn’t make sense.

So (C) is out.

Quote:
(D) reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities are allowed to dump

I know: this one doesn’t sound great. Why are we mixing the past tense with the present tense in this particular case? Superficially, it just doesn’t seem right.

But keep in mind that the simple present tense in English just describes a general characteristic. If we say “Mike surfs like a champion”, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Mike is surfing right now; it just means that he has the general characteristic of surfing like a champion.

So in this case, “the amount of phosphates that municipalities are allowed to dump” is completely fine: it’s a general statement of how much the municipalities can dump. And back in the past – specifically in 1972 – the agreement reduced that amount to its current levels. So the past tense “reduced” makes sense, and so does the present tense “are allowed.”

It might make us squirm a bit, but we have no reason to eliminate (D).

Quote:
(E) reduces the amount of phosphates allowed for dumping by municipalities

Again, “reduces” doesn’t make a lot of sense here, for the same reasons as we mentioned in answer choice (C). Plus, what the heck is going on with the phrase “allowed for dumping by municipalities”? This is a weird passive construction, and it’s far less clear than “municipalities are allowed to dump.”

So (E) is out, and (D) is the best we can do.

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Re: QOTD: A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States [#permalink]

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New post 23 Oct 2017, 18:31
i am thinking D. Can someone please explain?

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QOTD: A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States [#permalink]

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Quote:

A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities had been allowed to dump into the Great Lakes.

(A) reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities had been allowed to dump
(B) reduced the phosphate amount that municipalities had been dumping
(C) reduces the phosphate amount municipalities have been allowed to dump
(D) reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities are allowed to dump
(E) reduces the amount of phosphates allowed for dumping by municipalities


My explanation:

First Split is between reduced and reduces. IMO both are fine as long as the further verbs in the sentence make sense.

(C) reduces the phosphate amount municipalities have been allowed to dump
This is definitely wrong. You need that after phosphate amount to describe that the amount is reduced. Moreover there is SV error. Amount --> Have been.

(E) reduces the amount of phosphates allowed for dumping by municipalities
Way too wordy. Allowed for dumping by municipalities.

(B) reduced the phosphate amount that municipalities had been dumping
This changes the meaning. Original sentence says agreement reduced the amount of phosphates that was ALLOWED. So agreement has reduced the maximum limit, not the actual amount that municipalities had been dumping!

For me its a tough call between A and D. The split is past perfect vs simple present. I would go with D for 2 reasons.

1. The actions [ reducing the amount, municipalities allowed to dump] does not need to be in sequence.
2. Past perfect tense implies that the action happened before but the effect is still present. Whereas in this case, municipalities will still continue to dump the phosphates but in reduced amount.

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Re: QOTD: A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States [#permalink]

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New post 23 Oct 2017, 23:48
A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities had been allowed to dump into the Great Lakes.

C, E out since event happened in the past.
Eliminate B because actually agreement couldn't reduce the waste that already was dumping

I would go for D instead of A because of the same reason as above.

(A) reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities had been allowed to dump
(B) reduced the phosphate amount that municipalities had been dumping
(C) reduces the phosphate amount municipalities have been allowed to dump
(D) reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities are allowed to dump
(E) reduces the amount of phosphates allowed for dumping by municipalities

There has been a discussion here https://gmatclub.com/forum/a-1972-agree ... 9-420.html but I still cannot find any simple explanation.

Waiting for expert's
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Re: QOTD: A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States [#permalink]

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New post 23 Oct 2017, 23:55
I would go with D.(reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities are allowed to dump)
Reduced the amount is correct here because agreement was signed in 1972.
Are allowed is correct because it the controlling the dumping in the present.

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Re: QOTD: A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States [#permalink]

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New post 24 Oct 2017, 00:16
I'll go with A

(A) reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities had been allowed to dump
=> the best
(B) reduced the phosphate amount that municipalities had been dumping
=> I think "that municipalities ..." should refer to "phosphates"
and "had been dumping" is not appropriate tense (the dumping action was happening while they are trying to reduce the phosphates amount"

(C) reduces the phosphate amount municipalities have been allowed to dump
=> reduces: inappropriate tense with time indicator "A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States"
(D) reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities are allowed to dump
=> are allowed: inappropriate tense with event sequence
(E) reduces the amount of phosphates allowed for dumping by municipalities
=> reduces: inappropriate tense with time indicator "A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States"

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Re: QOTD: A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States [#permalink]

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New post 24 Oct 2017, 01:07
Option A uses past perfect tense, which is not required under the given situation.
Hence, Option D is the correct answer.

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QOTD: A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States [#permalink]

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New post 24 Oct 2017, 02:28
A tough call between A and D. I fell for A , but here is why I feel D should be the answer :

The point of contention is whether or not past perfect tense is justified in this case. It is not - because the two actions talked about : reduced and allowed are not in sequence here. Municipalities are still being allowed to draw after a reduced amount that was set in 1972. The sequencing is corrected by removing past perfect form. Hence option D.
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Re: QOTD: A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States [#permalink]

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New post 24 Oct 2017, 02:39
People refer this link ... https://e-gmat.com/blog/official-guide- ... canada-and
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Re: QOTD: A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States [#permalink]

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D wins.

A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities had been allowed to dump into the Great Lakes.

(A) reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities had been allowed to dump - Its more about logical meaning - Municipalities are still dumping phosphates. 'Had been' says prior to 1972 municipalities were dumping reduced amount - that is illogical. If amount was already reduced then why an agreement was held?
(B) reduced the phosphate amount that municipalities had been dumping - allowed is missing, and amount of phosphate is correct
(C) reduces the phosphate amount municipalities have been allowed to dump
(D) reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities are allowed to dump
(E) reduces the amount of phosphates allowed for dumping by municipalities

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Re: QOTD: A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States [#permalink]

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New post 24 Oct 2017, 17:43
IMO D.

Only D articulates proper tenses.
Here the agreement is in 1972 hence active verb 'reduce' should be in past tense. 'Reduced' is correct.
The use of past perfect continuous is incorrect because 'dumping' continues in the present. hence 'are' is the correct usage

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QOTD: A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States [#permalink]

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New post 25 Oct 2017, 10:59
A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities had been allowed to dump into the Great Lakes.

(A) reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities had been allowed to dump
(B) reduced the phosphate amount that municipalities had been dumping
(C) reduces the phosphate amount municipalities have been allowed to dump
(D) reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities are allowed to dump
(E) reduces the amount of phosphates allowed for dumping by municipalities

Its clearly a 3:2 split. As its a 1972 agreement, therefore reduces is not in the correct tense. We need a simple past tense not the simple present tense. Therefore, options C and E are eliminated.

Also, the amount of phosphates is a bit more clearer than phosphate amount. Though its not a deterministic error.

Also, allowed to dump is preferred over allowed for dumping.

(A) reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities had been allowed to dump
If the municipalities had been allowed to dump means they were not dumping anymore during the passage of the agreement than what is the agreement for. The meaning is NON SENSICAL. Incorrect.

(B) reduced the phosphate amount that municipalities had been dumping
If the municipalities had been allowed to dump means they were not dumping anymore during the passage of the agreement than what is the agreement for. The meaning is NON SENSICAL. Incorrect.

(D) reduced the amount of phosphates that municipalities are allowed to dump
Are allowed to dump is a simple present tense in passive form and it is used to state a general fact. This usage is correct. Because the passage of agreement reduced the amount of phosphates which municipalities are generally allowed to dump.

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Re: QOTD: A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States [#permalink]

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New post 03 Nov 2017, 22:55
I am caught off guard that many people choose A.
A changes the meaning b/c "had" indicates that the dumping occurred before the the agreement took place.

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Re: QOTD: A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States [#permalink]

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New post 04 Nov 2017, 05:44
:thumbup: IMO D
correct tense usage

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Re: QOTD: A 1972 agreement between Canada and the United States   [#permalink] 04 Nov 2017, 05:44
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