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QOTD: Starfish, with anywhere from five to eight arms

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QOTD: Starfish, with anywhere from five to eight arms [#permalink]

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Verbal Question of The Day: Day 151: Sentence Correction


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Starfish, with anywhere from five to eight arms, have a strong regenerative ability, and if one arm is lost it quickly replaces it, sometimes by the animal overcompensating and growing an extra one or two.

(A) one arm is lost it quickly replaces it, sometimes by the animal overcompensating and
(B) one arm is lost it is quickly replaced, with the animal sometimes overcompensating and
(C) they lose one arm they quickly replace it, sometimes by the animal overcompensating,
(D) they lose one arm they are quickly replaced, with the animal sometimes overcompensating,
(E) they lose one arm it is quickly replaced, sometimes with the animal overcompensating,

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Re: QOTD: Starfish, with anywhere from five to eight arms [#permalink]

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So there’s an interesting thing in this question: “starfish” could, in theory, be either singular or plural. (Much like the word “media” or “data” or “deer” or diabetes.) The GMAT has a very consistent habit in these cases: the sentence will always give you some other indication of whether the word is singular or plural.

And in this case? In the non-underlined portion, we have the phrase “Starfish… have a strong regenerative capacity…” So “starfish” is definitely plural, at least in the beginning of the sentence. (And yes, this explanation has been edited to correct my original error. File under: even ninjas write dumb things in the wee hours of the morning.)

Quote:
(A) one arm is lost it quickly replaces it, sometimes by the animal overcompensating and

Hopefully, the word “it” leaps off the page at you immediately – both of them. Logically, we know that the first “it” needs to refer back to “starfish”, and the second “it” refers back to “arm.” But in its current form, it’s awfully confusing: “it” appears twice in close succession, but the two pronouns refer back to different things? That’s not cool.

And more importantly, “it” can’t refer back to “starfish” anyway, since the beginning of the sentence indicates that “starfish” is plural.

Plus, the meaning of the last part of the underlined portion is funky: the phrase “by the animal overcompensating” suggests that the overcompensation is how the starfish replaces its arm. And that doesn’t actually make sense.

Either way, we can do better than (A).

Quote:
(B) one arm is lost it is quickly replaced, with the animal sometimes overcompensating and

OK, this “it” looks much better. The word “arm” is the closest potential referent to “it”, so we’re OK here: “… if one arm is lost [the arm] is quickly replaced…” Cool.

I don’t love the use of “with” here, but I can’t see why it’s wrong, exactly. And the meaning makes sense: sometimes, the animal overcompensates and grows an extra arm. That’s kind of creepy from a biological standpoint, but perfectly OK grammatically. “Overcompensating” and “growing” are two parallel actions that are sometimes taken by the animal – and I see no reason why the two actions can’t be parallel.

Let’s keep (B).

Quote:
(C) they lose one arm they quickly replace it, sometimes by the animal overcompensating,

The pronouns aren’t horrible here: “it” clearly refers to the arm and “they” presumably refers to starfish. But I think you could make a case that there MIGHT be a pronoun ambiguity issue with “they”, since “arms” is actually the singular noun that’s closest to the pronoun “they.” This isn’t an automatic elimination, since pronoun ambiguity isn’t an absolute rule on the GMAT, but it’s something you should always notice. (More on pronoun ambiguity in this YouTube video.)

But here’s the really important part: the use of “by the animal overcompensating” still doesn’t make any sense (see answer choice A above). The starfish doesn’t replace the arm by overcompensating; it just happens to overcompensate sometimes and grow an extra arm.

Because of the meaning issue, (C) can be eliminated.

Quote:
(D) they lose one arm they are quickly replaced, with the animal sometimes overcompensating,

Again, we could argue that the first “they” isn’t automatically wrong, even though it’s potentially ambiguous – “they” could again refer to “arms” or “starfish.” But the second “they” is absolute nonsense, since “arm” is a singular noun in this particular chunk of the sentence. So (D) is gone, too.

Quote:
(E) they lose one arm it is quickly replaced, sometimes with the animal overcompensating,

This is awfully tempting, and I don’t think that there are any DEFINITE reasons to prefer (E) over (B). But there are a bunch of things that make (B) very, very slightly better.

Let’s line this one up with (B) to make it easier to compare them:

    (B) one arm is lost it is quickly replaced, with the animal sometimes overcompensating and
    (E) they lose one arm it is quickly replaced, sometimes with the animal overcompensating,

So we have three meaningful differences here, and none of them are smoking guns, but all of them seem to point in the same direction.

In that first chunk of the sentence, the big difference is that (E) uses the pronoun “they”, which is potentially ambiguous, since it could refer back to “starfish” or “arms” – and since “arms” is the most recent plural, you could argue that “they” is a legit problem here. Honestly, I’m not completely convinced by this – there are plenty of official SC questions with similar ambiguities in the correct answers. But in this case, the pronoun issue gives me a very slight preference for (B).

Second, we have some funny business with the placement of the word “sometimes.” The thing that “sometimes” happens is “overcompensating”, so it makes sense to have “sometimes” right next to that word. Is it totally wrong to say “sometimes with the animal overcompensating”? Nope. But again, I’d have a very slight preference for (B) based on the placement of “sometimes.”

And the third thing? In (B), “overcompensating” and “growing” are two parallel actions. In other words, the animal sometimes does two things: it overcompensates and grows an extra arm or two. That makes enough sense. In (E), “growing” has been turned into a modifier (“sometimes with the animal overcompensating, growing an extra arm or two”), and I’m not sure that it’s wrong, but it seems a little bit odd to me: when do you ever see an "-ing" participle modifying another "-ing" participle? Meaning-wise, I suppose you could argue that “growing” tells us extra information about when happens when the animal is “overcompensating”, but I think it makes more sense to keep the two actions (“growing” and “overcompensating”) parallel.

Honestly, I don’t think that any of these three issues are crystal-clear, slam-dunk reasons to eliminate (E). If I were seeing this question on an actual exam for the very first time, I’d say a quick prayer to the GMAT gods before picking (B) and moving on -- but at least I'd be comforted by the notion that all three of those little issues point in half-assed unison toward (B).
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Re: QOTD: Starfish, with anywhere from five to eight arms [#permalink]

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Starfish, with anywhere from five to eight arms, have a strong regenerative ability, and if one arm is lost it quickly replaces it, sometimes by the animal overcompensating and growing an extra one or two.

A one arm is lost it quickly replaces it, sometimes by the animal overcompensating and
Here, from the non-underlined part, it is clear that STARFISH is used in PLURAL form, so the usage of pronoun "it" leads to PRONOUN NUMBER agreement error. Also, here the pronoun "it" is referring to two antecedents, by saying "it quickly replaces it", the first "it" refers to starfish and the second "it" refers to the arm. This usage is leading to confusion and thus, incorrect. Also, always be skeptic of the structure "it.......it". As in that structure, the pronoun it at different positions might be referring to different antecedents. So, always double check that.

Also, if one arm is lost, it quickly replaces it, here, the IF PART is in PASSIVE VOICE and the THAN PART is in ACTIVE VOICE, even this is not acceptable. The usage of sometimes is also not making sense. Does the starfish only sometimes replace their arms and not the other times? The placement of sometimes is not correct. misplaced modifier.


B one arm is lost it is quickly replaced, with the animal sometimes overcompensating and
CORRECT.

Here, I also want to highlight on the usage of "with". The prepositional modifier here is modifying the previous clause "it is quickly replaced". The meaning implied is that the arm is quickly replaced alog with sometimes even going beyond that the starfish overcompensate by growing extra arms.


C they lose one arm they quickly replace it, sometimes by the animal overcompensating,
"they lose one arm" seems that the entire starfish family/species lose one arm which is leading to a NON-SENSICAL meaning. Sometimes is again misplaced as in choice A. Also we need "and" after overcompensating. INCORRECT.

D they lose one arm they are quickly replaced, with the animal sometimes overcompensating,
Here, "they are quickly replaced" means that the starfish are quickly replaced. This is again a NON-SENSICAL meaning. Also we need "and" after overcompensating. "They lose one arm" repeats the similar error as choice C.

"they lose one arm" seems that the entire starfish family lose one arm which is leading to a NON-SENSICAL meaning. INCORRECT.


E they lose one arm it is quickly replaced, sometimes with the animal overcompensating,
Also, if they lose one arm it is quickly replaced, here, the IF PART is in ACTIVE VOICE and the THAN PART is in PASSIVE VOICE, this is not acceptable or we can say not an elegant way of writing.
"they lose one arm" seems that the entire starfish family lose one arm which is leading to a NON-SENSICAL meaning.
Also we need "and" after overcompensating.

"with the animal sometimes overcompensating" is more clearer than "sometimes with the animal overcompensating".

Originally posted by aceGMAT21 on 07 Nov 2017, 03:01.
Last edited by aceGMAT21 on 07 Nov 2017, 05:48, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: QOTD: Starfish, with anywhere from five to eight arms [#permalink]

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Unless you want to break your head spending precious seconds in the hall, this question requires knowing the use of compound participles and pronoun reference. One need not even look at the question beyond knowing that there is another modifier waiting in the wings and that to be parallel, it should have been compounded with the first modifier by one of the fanboys. C, D, and E, fortunately, on that score, is a three-in-one fall, while A couldn't have muddled up the pronoun reference of 'it' any worse. B is the lonely rider. All in all, an easy meat for the grammar fundamentalist
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Originally posted by daagh on 07 Nov 2017, 07:35.
Last edited by daagh on 07 Nov 2017, 18:49, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: QOTD: Starfish, with anywhere from five to eight arms [#permalink]

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Starfish, with anywhere from five to eight arms, have a strong regenerative ability, and if one arm is lost it quickly replaces it, sometimes by the animal overcompensating and growing an extra one or two.

A one arm is lost it quickly replaces it, sometimes by the animal overcompensating and
B one arm is lost it is quickly replaced, with the animal sometimes overcompensating and
C they lose one arm they quickly replace it, sometimes by the animal overcompensating,
D they lose one arm they are quickly replaced, with the animal sometimes overcompensating,
E they lose one arm it is quickly replaced, sometimes with the animal overcompensating,

C, D, E - issue with 'and'
A -> Starfish -Plural but uses it -> SV aggrement problem
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Re: QOTD: Starfish, with anywhere from five to eight arms [#permalink]

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GMATNinja wrote:
Quote:


Quote:
(C) they lose one arm they quickly replace it, sometimes by the animal overcompensating,

And now we get into an interesting thing here! “Starfish” could, in theory, be either singular or plural. (Much like the word “media” or “data” or “deer”.) The GMAT has a very consistent habit in these cases: the sentence will always give you some other indication of whether the word is singular or plural.

And in this case? Well, the sentence later refers to “starfish” as “the animal” – singular! So “they” shouldn’t be used here.



Can we also take a hint from "Starfish, with anywhere from five to eight arms, have a strong regenerative ability" to decide if starfish is singular/plural
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Re: QOTD: Starfish, with anywhere from five to eight arms [#permalink]

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New post 13 Nov 2017, 11:45
KGump wrote:

Can we also take a hint from "Starfish, with anywhere from five to eight arms, have a strong regenerative ability" to decide if starfish is singular/plural

Arg, I just made an a$$ of myself. You’re totally right, KGump. File under: writing QOTD explanations after midnight isn’t my smartest idea.

I edited my explanation above – it should be much less airheaded now. Thank you for catching my mistake!
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Re: QOTD: Starfish, with anywhere from five to eight arms [#permalink]

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New post 13 Nov 2017, 11:56
Sorry GMATNinja for the late reply. I was ill and couldn't turn on my laptop for a week.
Well coming back to my question, I don't agree with your explanation above. (please correct me if I am wrong anywhere)

My understanding:
Question statement --> Starfish, with anywhere from five to eight arms, havea strong regenerative ability --> states that starfish are PLURAL. So don't understand as to why E is incorrect.

Please correct me if I am wrong. I really don't understand as to how option B is better than E. originally I chose E.
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Re: QOTD: Starfish, with anywhere from five to eight arms [#permalink]

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New post 13 Nov 2017, 12:01
gmatexam439 wrote:
Sorry GMATNinja for the late reply. I was ill and couldn't turn on my laptop for a week.
Well coming back to my question, I don't agree with your explanation above. (please correct me if I am wrong anywhere)

My understanding:
Question statement --> Starfish, with anywhere from five to eight arms, havea strong regenerative ability --> states that starfish are PLURAL. So don't understand as to why E is incorrect.

Please correct me if I am wrong. I really don't understand as to how option B is better than E. originally I chose E.

Ugh, sorry that you got that sick! You're feeling better, I hope?

And I think you were writing your response just as I wrote the one above. :-) I made a couple of totally boneheaded mistakes in my original explanation! They're fixed above, and I deliberately addressed your question in the new version of the full explanation. Let me know if that doesn't clear up the doubts?
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Re: QOTD: Starfish, with anywhere from five to eight arms [#permalink]

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GMATNinja wrote:
gmatexam439 wrote:
Sorry GMATNinja for the late reply. I was ill and couldn't turn on my laptop for a week.
Well coming back to my question, I don't agree with your explanation above. (please correct me if I am wrong anywhere)

My understanding:
Question statement --> Starfish, with anywhere from five to eight arms, havea strong regenerative ability --> states that starfish are PLURAL. So don't understand as to why E is incorrect.

Please correct me if I am wrong. I really don't understand as to how option B is better than E. originally I chose E.

Ugh, sorry that you got that sick! You're feeling better, I hope?

And I think you were writing your response just as I wrote the one above. :-) I made a couple of totally boneheaded mistakes in my original explanation! They're fixed above, and I deliberately addressed your question in the new version of the full explanation. Let me know if that doesn't clear up the doubts?


Thank you sensei, I am doing fine now.

Regarding the problem: I think you must have been devoid of a "Banana Choco-Caramel pudding" that I ate today morning, so you lost your focus ;)

Coming back to the explanation above:

"Let’s line this one up with (B) to make it easier to compare them:

(B) one arm is lost it is quickly replaced, with the animal sometimes overcompensating and
(E) they lose one arm it is quickly replaced, sometimes with the animal overcompensating,

So we have three meaningful differences here, and none of them are smoking guns, but all of them seem to point in the same direction.

In that first chunk of the sentence, the big difference is that (E) uses the pronoun “they”, which is potentially ambiguous, since it could refer back to “starfish” or “arms” – and since “arms” is the most recent plural, you could argue that “they” is a legit problem here. Honestly, I’m not completely convinced by this – there are plenty of official SC questions with similar ambiguities in the correct answers. But in this case, the pronoun issue gives me a very slight preference for (B).

Second, we have some funny business with the placement of the word “sometimes.” The thing that “sometimes” happens is “overcompensating”, so it makes sense to have “sometimes” right next to that word. Is it totally wrong to say “sometimes with the animal overcompensating”? Nope. But again, I’d have a very slight preference for (B) based on the placement of “sometimes.” "

I think the highlighted part isn't making any sense in context to the question.

But "something" really took the ice on the cake. I think this might be a strong reason to go in favour of B. This helped a lot sire.

Thank you for considering this question and for replying patiently to my doubts.
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Re: QOTD: Starfish, with anywhere from five to eight arms [#permalink]

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gmatexam439 wrote:

Regarding the problem: I think you must have been devoid of a "Banana Choco-Caramel pudding" that I ate today morning, so you lost your focus ;)

Yes! Clearly, I was underfed when I made those mistakes. Only seven meals that day... definitely not enough. :idontknow:
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Re: QOTD: Starfish, with anywhere from five to eight arms [#permalink]

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GMATNinja wrote:
gmatexam439 wrote:

Regarding the problem: I think you must have been devoid of a "Banana Choco-Caramel pudding" that I ate today morning, so you lost your focus ;)

Yes! Clearly, I was underfed when I made those mistakes. Only seven meals that day... definitely not enough. :idontknow:


hahaha ... u made my pudding look like nothing !!
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3. LSAT RC compilation
4. Actual LSAT CR collection by Broal
5. QOTD RC (Carcass)
6. Challange OG RC
7. GMAT Prep Challenge RC

Re: QOTD: Starfish, with anywhere from five to eight arms   [#permalink] 13 Nov 2017, 12:54
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QOTD: Starfish, with anywhere from five to eight arms

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