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QOTD: Seldom more than 40 feet wide and 12 feet deep

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QOTD: Seldom more than 40 feet wide and 12 feet deep  [#permalink]

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08 Jan 2018, 11:15
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Verbal Question of The Day: Day 198: Sentence Correction

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Seldom more than 40 feet wide and 12 feet deep, but it ran 363 miles across the rugged wilderness of upstate New York, the Erie Canal connected the Hudson River at Albany to the Great Lakes at Buffalo, providing the port of New York City with a direct water link to the heartland of the North American continent.

(A) Seldom more than 40 feet wide and 12 feet deep, but it ran 363 miles across the rugged wilderness of upstate New York, the Erie Canal connected

(B) Seldom more than 40 feet wide or 12 feet deep but running 363 miles across the rugged wilderness of upstate New York, the Erie Canal connected

(C) It was seldom more than 40 feet wide and 12 feet deep, and ran 363 miles across the rugged wilderness of upstate New York, but the Erie Canal, connecting

(D) The Erie Canal was seldom more than 40 feet wide or 12 feet deep and it ran 363 miles across the rugged wilderness of upstate New York, which connected

(E) The Erie Canal, seldom more than 40 feet wide and 12 feet deep, but running 363 miles across the rugged wilderness of upstate New York, connecting

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QOTD: Seldom more than 40 feet wide and 12 feet deep  [#permalink]

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10 Jan 2018, 21:38
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(A) Seldom more than 40 feet wide and 12 feet deep, but it ran 363 miles across the rugged wilderness of upstate New York, the Erie Canal connected

This is a hot mess. We start with a modifier (“seldom more than 40 feet wide and 12 feet deep”) that needs to describe “the Erie Canal”, but then it takes an eternity to actually get to any mention of the canal. That’s not OK.

Similarly, the pronoun “it” is an awfully long way from its referent (“the Erie Canal”). It can be OK for a pronoun to precede the noun it refers to, but it’s awfully confusing when the “it” is THIS far away from “the Erie Canal.”

Finally, it’s hard to make sense of the phrase beginning with “but.” Logically, I guess the phrase “but it ran 363 miles…” is trying to provide a counterpoint to the fact that the Erie Canal is “seldom more than 40 feet wide and 12 feet deep.” But it’s not structured correctly: “seldom more than 40 feet wide…” is a modifier, and I don’t think a dependent clause starting with “but” could logically provide a counterpoint for a modifier – the initial phrase would need to be an independent clause, not a modifier.

But even if your eyes glazed over reading that last paragraph, there are plenty of other reasons to eliminate (A).

Quote:
(B) Seldom more than 40 feet wide or 12 feet deep but running 363 miles across the rugged wilderness of upstate New York, the Erie Canal connected

I don’t think this sounds great, but I don’t have a problem with it, either. The entire phrase before the comma is just one big, complicated modifier, telling us more about the Erie Canal: it’s “seldom more than 40 feet wide” but runs "363 miles across upstate New York". Fair enough. All of those things reasonably describe the canal.

If you're skeptical: notice that “but” is doing something different in (B) than in (A). In (A), “but” is followed by “it ran..” – so we have a full clause (dependent, in this case) in (A). In (B), “but” is followed by an “-ing” modifier, “running 363 miles…” – and that “-ing” modifier serves as an adjective that modifies the Erie Canal. That's really not a problem at all: the phrase "running 363 miles..." is parallel to the phrase "seldom more than 40 feet deep...", since they both modify a noun ("the Erie Canal").

I don’t see any other potential issues, so let’s keep (B).

Quote:
(C) It was seldom more than 40 feet wide and 12 feet deep, and ran 363 miles across the rugged wilderness of upstate New York, but the Erie Canal, connecting

This one is such a hot mess that it’s oddly tricky to explain why it’s such a hot mess.

The first problem here is that the word “it” is an awfully long way from its referent, “the Erie Canal.” It’s OK to have a pronoun precede its referent on the GMAT, but it’s pretty confusing when there’s so much stuff between the “it” and “Erie Canal.”

Another is that the “but” doesn’t really make sense where it’s placed. The sentence is trying to draw a contrast between the canal’s small size (“seldom more than 40 feet wide and 12 feet deep”) and… well, basically everything else in the sentence, including the fact that it runs 363 miles across the state. So if anything, the “but” needs to be placed BEFORE the phrase “ran 363 miles…”

And then the phrase “but the Erie Canal…” needs a verb somewhere. The sentence starts with an independent clause (“it was seldom more than 40 feet wide…”), and then we have “but” followed by a noun – so we’re going to need a verb next for this to make any sense. And it never happens – we just have more modifiers (“connecting” and “providing”).

But if you just read (C), said “holy poop on a stick, this is a mess”, and crossed it out, that’s cool, too.

Quote:
(D) The Erie Canal was seldom more than 40 feet wide or 12 feet deep and it ran 363 miles across the rugged wilderness of upstate New York, which connected

It’s pretty easy to eliminate (D) based on the modifier “which connected…” Noun modifiers beginning with "which" generally need to modify the immediately preceding noun (or at least a noun that's reasonably close!). So (D) seems to be saying that either “upstate New York” or maybe “the wilderness of upstate New York” connected the Hudson River to the Great Lakes, and that makes zero sense.

You could also argue that it’s illogical to use “and” to connect the phrase “the Erie Canal was seldom more than 40 feet wide…” with “it ran 363 miles.” Ideally, the canal’s small width and depth should be contrasted with its length – so a “but” would be more appropriate.

So (D) is out.

Quote:
(E) The Erie Canal, seldom more than 40 feet wide and 12 feet deep, but running 363 miles across the rugged wilderness of upstate New York, connecting

This thing is basically just a string of modifiers and dependent clauses, and it isn’t actually a sentence at all. We have: “The Erie Canal, (modifier), (dependent clause), (modifier), (modifier).” Not cool.

So we can eliminate (E), and we’re left with (B), even though it arguably sounds kinda funny.
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Re: QOTD: Seldom more than 40 feet wide and 12 feet deep  [#permalink]

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10 Jan 2018, 23:16
+1 B

(A) Seldom more than 40 feet wide and 12 feet deep, but it ran 363 miles across the rugged wilderness of upstate New York, the Erie Canal connected-The it in the opening modifier is unnecessary.

(B) Seldom more than 40 feet wide or 12 feet deep but running 363 miles across the rugged wilderness of upstate New York, the Erie Canal connected-Looks fine,hold it

(C) It was seldom more than 40 feet wide and 12 feet deep, and ran 363 miles across the rugged wilderness of upstate New York, but the Erie Canal, connecting- The subject Erie Canal doesn't have any verb

(D) The Erie Canal was seldom more than 40 feet wide or 12 feet deep and it ran 363 miles across the rugged wilderness of upstate New York, which connected-which is wrongly modifying New York.New York does not connect the Hudson River at Albany to the Great Lakes at Buffalo,The Erie Canal does

(E) The Erie Canal, seldom more than 40 feet wide and 12 feet deep, but running 363 miles across the rugged wilderness of upstate New York, connecting-The subject Erie Canal doesn't have any verb

Hence the right answer is B
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Re: QOTD: Seldom more than 40 feet wide and 12 feet deep  [#permalink]

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11 Jan 2018, 09:54
doesn't B change the meaning with '40 feet wide or 12 feet deep' instead of '40 feet wide and 12 feet deep'. ?
I understand 'it' in B is problematic as pronoun 'it' comes before subject noun 'the Erie canal'.
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Re: QOTD: Seldom more than 40 feet wide and 12 feet deep  [#permalink]

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11 Jan 2018, 10:21
ManSab wrote:
doesn't B change the meaning with '40 feet wide or 12 feet deep' instead of '40 feet wide and 12 feet deep'. ?
I understand 'it' in B is problematic as pronoun 'it' comes before subject noun 'the Erie canal'.

Nice observation. I think the point here is not about the or/and connector. It is about structure. Remaining options are out for want of the correct sentence structure. This option is structurally correct and logically valid too ! The logical meaning here is that in-spite of being 40ft wide or 12 ft deep the canal ran 363 miles across the ruggedness wilderness . The contrast here is between narrow width or shallow depth and length of the river.

Hope this helps !
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Re: QOTD: Seldom more than 40 feet wide and 12 feet deep  [#permalink]

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12 Jan 2018, 01:50
Hi GMATNinja

Is there any other reason why the answer A is wrong? Besides the use of "it"?
Re: QOTD: Seldom more than 40 feet wide and 12 feet deep &nbs [#permalink] 12 Jan 2018, 01:50
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