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QOTD: In 1995 Richard Stallman, a well-known critic of the patent

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QOTD: In 1995 Richard Stallman, a well-known critic of the patent [#permalink]

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New post 02 Jan 2018, 03:15
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Verbal Question of The Day: Day 193: Sentence Correction


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In 1995 Richard Stallman, a well-known critic of the patent system, testified in Patent Office hearings that, to test the system, a colleague of his had managed to win a patent for one of Kirchhoff's laws, an observation about electric current first made in 1845 and now included in virtually every textbook of elementary physics.

(A) laws, an observation about electric current first made in 1845 and
(B) laws, which was an observation about electric current first made in 1845 and it is
(C) laws, namely, it was an observation about electric current first made in 1845 and
(D) laws, an observation about electric current first made in 1845, it is
(E) laws that was an observation about electric current, first made in 1845, and is

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QOTD: In 1995 Richard Stallman, a well-known critic of the patent [#permalink]

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New post 03 Jan 2018, 20:25
Quote:
(A) laws, an observation about electric current first made in 1845 and

The biggest thing that jumps out at me here is the word "and." Something has to be parallel with the phrase that follows the word "and." And I think we're in good shape: "... one of Kirchhoff's laws, an observation about electric current first made in 1845 and now included in virtually every textbook of elementary physics." Cool, "first made in 1845" and "now included in virtually every textbook" both modify "an observation about electric current" -- and that makes perfect sense.

So let's keep (A).

Quote:
(B) laws, which was an observation about electric current first made in 1845 and it is

The "which" jumps out at me first in (B): "which was an observation..." modifies "one of Kirchoff's laws." That's OK, though we probably don't really even need the phrase "which was." It's not a big deal, but (A) is more succinct because it skips those extra couple of words. That's not a definite error, but it's a mild reason to prefer (A) over (B).

The bigger problem is the parallelism. Following the "and", we have a brand-new clause: "it is now included in virtually every textbook..." But I don't think that the clause is logically parallel to anything. And more importantly: there's no good reason to start a brand-new clause here, partly because we're just trying to describe the observation, so a simple modifier would be cleaner than a brand-new clause.

So (B) isn't a complete disaster, but it's definitely not as good as (A).

Quote:
(C) laws, namely, it was an observation about electric current first made in 1845 and

This is a classic comma splice:

  • Independent clause #1: "In 1995 Richard Stallman, a well-known critic of the patent system, testified in Patent Office hearings that, to test the system, a colleague of his had managed to win a patent for one of Kirchhoff's laws..."
  • Independent clause #2: "...it was an observation about electric current first made in 1845 and now included in virtually every textbook of elementary physics."

Those two independent clauses are separated by only a comma, and that's not cool. (Commas and comma splices are very briefly discussed in this YouTube video on GMAT punctuation if you're curious to learn more about that crap.) So we can eliminate (C).

Quote:
(D) laws, an observation about electric current first made in 1845, it is

(D) has basically the same comma splice problem as (C):

  • Independent clause #1: "In 1995 Richard Stallman, a well-known critic of the patent system, testified in Patent Office hearings that, to test the system, a colleague of his had managed to win a patent for one of Kirchhoff's laws..."
  • Independent clause #2: "...it is now included in virtually every textbook of elementary physics."

So (D) is out, too.

Quote:
(E) laws that was an observation about electric current, first made in 1845, and is

(E) isn't a total disaster, but it's definitely not as good as (A).

For starters, I'm not sure why we would say something like "...one of Kirchoff's laws that was an observation about electric current..." First, there's no good reason to emphasize the past tense in this case: sure, the observation was first made in the past, but there's no good reason to suggest that the law itself somehow existed only in the past -- and that's exactly what seems to be happening in (A). Second, the phrase "one of Kirchoff's laws that was an observation about electric current" suggests that Kirchoff had other laws that were NOT about electric current, and we have no idea if that's actually the case.

The other problem is the placement of the modifier "first made in 1845." This is subtle and annoying, but because "first made in 1845" is surrounded by commas (an appositive phrase, if you like grammar jargon), it seems to modify ONLY the preceding noun, "electric current." So if we think about the sentence strictly and literally, it's saying that electric current was first made in 1845, and that's really not what the sentence is trying to say -- it's trying to say that the observation was first made in 1845, not the electric current itself.

So (E) can be eliminated, and (A) is the best we can do.
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Re: QOTD: In 1995 Richard Stallman, a well-known critic of the patent [#permalink]

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New post 03 Jan 2018, 23:17
In 1995 Richard Stallman, a well-known critic of the patent system, testified in Patent Office hearings that, to test the system, a colleague of his had managed to win a patent for one of Kirchhoff's laws, an observation about electric current first made in 1845 and now included in virtually every textbook of elementary physics.

(A) laws, an observation about electric current first made in 1845 and
Correct

(B) laws, which was an observation about electric current first made in 1845 and it is
1. Which was --SV agreement
2. Law still exists; we can't use past tense
3. It has no referent

(C) laws, namely, it was an observation about electric current first made in 1845 and
Wordy

(D) laws, an observation about electric current first made in 1845, it is
Run on

(E) laws that was an observation about electric current, first made in 1845, and is
That was has SV agreement
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Re: QOTD: In 1995 Richard Stallman, a well-known critic of the patent   [#permalink] 03 Jan 2018, 23:17
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