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# QOTD: In 1713, Alexander Pope began

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QOTD: In 1713, Alexander Pope began [#permalink]

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08 Dec 2017, 03:36
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Verbal Question of The Day: Day 174: Sentence Correction

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In 1713, Alexander Pope began his translation of the Illiad, a work that, taking him seven years until completion, and that literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced the greatest translation in any language.

(A) his translation of the Illiad, a work that, taking him seven years until completion, and that literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced

(B) his translation of the Illiad, a work that took him seven years to complete and that literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced

(C) his translation of the Illiad, a work that had taken seven years to complete and that literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced it is

(D) translating the Illiad, a work that took seven years until completion and that literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced it as

(E) translating the Illiad, a work that had taken seven years to complete and literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced it

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[Reveal] Spoiler: OA

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QOTD: In 1713, Alexander Pope began [#permalink]

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08 Dec 2017, 03:37
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I can think of plenty of official GMAT questions that are harder, but this one seems to generate a disproportionate amount of pain. Most of you have probably heard me preach about this sort of thing before, but if you’re able to be really really strict and literal with the meaning of the sentence, this question is much, much easier.

Let’s start by lining (A) and (B) up side-by-side, because that will make it easier to see the problem with one of them.

Quote:
A. his translation of the Illiad, a work that, taking him seven years until completion, and that literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced
B. his translation of the Illiad, a work that took him seven years to complete and that literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced

Notice the nice parallelism in (B): “a work that took him seven years to complete and that literary critic Samuel Johnson… pronounced….” No problem: we have two nice, parallel phrases that describe the word “work.”

In (A), that first modifier makes less sense: “…a work that, taking him seven years until completion…” Huh? Why not just say “a work that took him seven years to complete”? There’s no good reason to stick “taking him seven years…” into a separate little modifying phrase, wedged between more commas. Plus, you could also argue that “seven years to complete” is a more elegant phrase than “seven years until completion.”

Clearly, (B) is better than (A), so let’s hang onto (B), and ditch (A).

Quote:
C. his translation of the Illiad, a work that had taken seven years to complete and that literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced it is

The lowest-hanging fruit here is the use of the past perfect “had taken”, which doesn’t make any sense at all.

In general, a verb in past perfect denotes an action that happens in the “distant past”, before some other past action or “time marker” in the past – in most cases, a second action that is in the simple past tense. We have one of those here: “in 1713, Alexander Pope began translating…” But if we think about the verb tenses literally, the sentence is saying that the work “had taken seven years to complete” BEFORE Pope began translating it. And that’s nonsense. (More on past perfect and other verb tenses in this webinar.)

The other problem is with the pronoun “it.” The referent is clear enough: “it” must refer to “a work.” But there’s no reason to include “it” in the middle of a phrase that modifies the word “work” to begin with: “a work that… literary critic Samuel Johnson… pronounced it as the greatest translation…”

Huh? There’s no reason for the “it” there. If you aren’t totally convinced, try completely stripping out the modifiers for a moment, and replace “it” with “the work”: “… a work that Samuel Johnson pronounced the work as the greatest translation…” Fail.

For those two reasons, we can get rid of (C).

Quote:
D. translating the Illiad, a work that took seven years until completion and that literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced it as

There are two serious problems with (D). The first one is the same as in (C): the use of the word “it” makes no sense at all. See the explanation for (C) above for more on that issue.

The second problem is a little bit more subtle. The beginning of the underlined portion now uses the phrase “translating the Illiad”, instead of “his translation of the Illiad.” Neither of those things are inherently wrong by themselves, but the phrase is followed by a description: “a work that took seven years…” The sentence is trying to say that Alexander Pope took seven years to write the translation, but (D) is literally suggesting that the Illiad itself is “a work” that took Pope seven years to complete. And that’s nonsense: the Illiad itself wasn’t “a work” completed by Pope; the Illiad was written by Homer, and the translation is Pope’s actual “work.”

Finally, the phrase “a work that took seven years until completion” would be much nicer if it said “a work that took seven years to complete”, but the version in (D) isn’t WRONG, exactly. But the other two issues are a pretty big deal. (D) is out.

Quote:
E. translating the Illiad, a work that had taken seven years to complete and literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced it

(E) basically just combines all of the worst errors that we saw in the other answer choices. The use of the past perfect “had taken” is wrong, for the same reasons as in (C) -- see above for a full explanation. The use of “it” is also wrong for exactly the same reasons as (C), and “translating the Illiad” is wrong for exactly the same reasons as (D).

Those three things give us more than enough reasons to eliminate (E), and (B) is the best we can do.
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Re: QOTD: In 1713, Alexander Pope began [#permalink]

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08 Dec 2017, 03:58
In 1713, Alexander Pope began his translation of the Illiad, a work that, taking him seven years until completion, and that literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced the greatest translation in any language.

A. his translation of the Illiad, a work that, taking him seven years until completion, and that literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced
1. Not a complete sentence 2. taking should be parallel to pronounced

B. his translation of the Illiad, a work that took him seven years to complete and that literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced
Correct

C. his translation of the Illiad, a work that had taken seven years to complete and that literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced it is
1. past perfect is not required 2."pronounced it is" --> it is not required (breaks parallelism)

D. translating the Illiad, a work that took seven years until completion and that literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced it as
1. "pronounced it is" --> it is not required (breaks parallelism) 2. I am not really sure about the usage of until completion; it is making the sentence convoluted unnecessarily

E. translating the Illiad, a work that had taken seven years to complete and literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced it
1. past perfect is not required 2."pronounced it" --> it is not required (breaks parallelism)
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Re: QOTD: In 1713, Alexander Pope began [#permalink]

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08 Dec 2017, 07:15
In 1713, Alexander Pope began his translation of the Illiad, a work that, taking him seven years until completion, and that literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced the greatest translation in any language.

A. his translation of the Illiad, a work that, taking him seven years until completion, and that literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced
-- 'that' should be followed by n/v clause

B. his translation of the Illiad, a work that took him seven years to complete and that literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced

C. his translation of the Illiad, a work that had taken seven years to complete and that literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced it is
-- 'had' past perfect is not required // 'it' is redundant

D. translating the Illiad, a work that took seven years until completion and that literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced it as
-- 'work' incorrectly refers Illiad rather than translation // 'it' is redundant

E translating the Illiad, a work that had taken seven years to complete and literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced it
-- 'work' incorrectly refers Illiad rather than translation // 'had' past perfect is not required // 'it' is redundant
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Re: QOTD: In 1713, Alexander Pope began [#permalink]

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08 Dec 2017, 12:43
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Re: QOTD: In 1713, Alexander Pope began [#permalink]

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05 Apr 2018, 06:12
GMATNinja wrote:
I can think of plenty of official GMAT questions that are harder, but this one seems to generate a disproportionate amount of pain. Most of you have probably heard me preach about this sort of thing before, but if you’re able to be really really strict and literal with the meaning of the sentence, this question is much, much easier.

Let’s start by lining (A) and (B) up side-by-side, because that will make it easier to see the problem with one of them.

Quote:
A. his translation of the Illiad, a work that, taking him seven years until completion, and that literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced
B. his translation of the Illiad, a work that took him seven years to complete and that literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced

Notice the nice parallelism in (B): “a work that took him seven years to complete and that literary critic Samuel Johnson… pronounced….” No problem: we have two nice, parallel phrases that describe the word “work.”

In (A), that first modifier makes less sense: “…a work that, taking him seven years until completion…” Huh? Why not just say “a work that took him seven years to complete”? There’s no good reason to stick “taking him seven years…” into a separate little modifying phrase, wedged between more commas. Plus, you could also argue that “seven years to complete” is a more elegant phrase than “seven years until completion.”

Clearly, (B) is better than (A), so let’s hang onto (B), and ditch (A).

Quote:
C. his translation of the Illiad, a work that had taken seven years to complete and that literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced it is

The lowest-hanging fruit here is the use of the past perfect “had taken”, which doesn’t make any sense at all.

In general, a verb in past perfect denotes an action that happens in the “distant past”, before some other past action or “time marker” in the past – in most cases, a second action that is in the simple past tense. We have one of those here: “in 1713, Alexander Pope began translating…” But if we think about the verb tenses literally, the sentence is saying that the work “had taken seven years to complete” BEFORE Pope began translating it. And that’s nonsense. (More on past perfect and other verb tenses in this webinar.)

The other problem is with the pronoun “it.” The referent is clear enough: “it” must refer to “a work.” But there’s no reason to include “it” in the middle of a phrase that modifies the word “work” to begin with: “a work that… literary critic Samuel Johnson… pronounced it as the greatest translation…”

Huh? There’s no reason for the “it” there. If you aren’t totally convinced, try completely stripping out the modifiers for a moment, and replace “it” with “the work”: “… a work that Samuel Johnson pronounced the work as the greatest translation…” Fail.

For those two reasons, we can get rid of (C).

Quote:
D. translating the Illiad, a work that took seven years until completion and that literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced it as

There are two serious problems with (D). The first one is the same as in (C): the use of the word “it” makes no sense at all. See the explanation for (C) above for more on that issue.

The second problem is a little bit more subtle. The beginning of the underlined portion now uses the phrase “translating the Illiad”, instead of “his translation of the Illiad.” Neither of those things are inherently wrong by themselves, but the phrase is followed by a description: “a work that took seven years…” The sentence is trying to say that Alexander Pope took seven years to write the translation, but (D) is literally suggesting that the Illiad itself is “a work” that took Pope seven years to complete. And that’s nonsense: the Illiad itself wasn’t “a work” completed by Pope; the Illiad was written by Homer, and the translation is Pope’s actual “work.”

Finally, the phrase “a work that took seven years until completion” would be much nicer if it said “a work that took seven years to complete”, but the version in (D) isn’t WRONG, exactly. But the other two issues are a pretty big deal. (D) is out.

Quote:
E. translating the Illiad, a work that had taken seven years to complete and literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced it

(E) basically just combines all of the worst errors that we saw in the other answer choices. The use of the past perfect “had taken” is wrong, for the same reasons as in (C) -- see above for a full explanation. The use of “it” is also wrong for exactly the same reasons as (C), and “translating the Illiad” is wrong for exactly the same reasons as (D).

Those three things give us more than enough reasons to eliminate (E), and (B) is the best we can do.

Great Detailed explanation. Thanks a lot.
Re: QOTD: In 1713, Alexander Pope began   [#permalink] 05 Apr 2018, 06:12
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