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SC Problem

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Joined: 29 Jan 2017
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New post 20 Feb 2017, 22:29
Kelp is a natural fertilizer that has become popular among growers of heirloom tomatoes.

We have to check whether the modifier underlined is right or wrong?.

As per the answer key, it is right as it modifies the word "fertilizer". My confusion is that the modifier should relate to Kelp as the sentence talks about it. Fertilizer is a common noun. So, in my view, the modifier should be near to the word "Kelp".

Please help.

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Magoosh GMAT Instructor
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New post 21 Feb 2017, 14:43
prashaant2089 wrote:
Kelp is a natural fertilizer that has become popular among growers of heirloom tomatoes.

We have to check whether the modifier underlined is right or wrong?.

As per the answer key, it is right as it modifies the word "fertilizer". My confusion is that the modifier should relate to Kelp as the sentence talks about it. Fertilizer is a common noun. So, in my view, the modifier should be near to the word "Kelp".

Please help.

Dear prashaant2089,

I'm happy to respond. :-)

First, a request. When you quote a sentence or practice problem, always give the source--the title, the page number, the problem number, etc. Here, it doesn't make much of a difference, but that's always good practice when quoting anything.

This sentence and its modifier are 100% correct.

Think about it this way. The verb "to be" and its various forms are like equal signs. You are right that, out of context, "fertilizer" is generic, and so is "a natural fertilizer." BUT, in context, we are NOT talking about any "natural fertilizer." As soon as we are five words into this sentence, the identity of the natural fertilizer" has been full determined.

Think about the mathematical analog. The variable x is a generic algebra variable that could equal anything, but as soon as I give an equation, such as \(x = 6\) or \(x^2 - x - 1 = 0\), then I have restricted the value of x to one number or a few numbers. That's exactly what the "is" verb on this sentence does: it restricts the value of something generic and variable by setting an equation that identifies it.

This structure, [specific noun] "is a" [generic noun][modifier], is very common, and the modifier always is understood to modify the specific noun.
George Washington was a man whom Americans universally recognize as "Father of the Country."
Paris is a city known as "the City of Lights."
Ulysses is a book that more have claimed to read than have read.
Lesotho is a country bordered entirely by another country.


Does all this make sense?
Mike :-)
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Mike McGarry
Magoosh Test Prep

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New post 28 Apr 2017, 12:48
Hi guys,

could you please tell me which sentences are correct and why?
1. Firefighters should always secure one's safety gear before rushing into a fire.
2. Firefighters should always secure their safety gear before rushing into a fire.
3. Firefighters should always secure ones' safety gear before rushing into a fire.
4. Firefighters should always secure its safety gear before rushing into a fire.
5. Firefighters should always secure his/her safety gear before rushing into a fire.

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New post 29 Apr 2017, 12:30
vahidkarimi wrote:
Hi guys,

could you please tell me which sentences are correct and why?
1. Firefighters should always secure one's safety gear before rushing into a fire.
2. Firefighters should always secure their safety gear before rushing into a fire.
3. Firefighters should always secure ones' safety gear before rushing into a fire.
4. Firefighters should always secure its safety gear before rushing into a fire.
5. Firefighters should always secure his/her safety gear before rushing into a fire.

mikemcgarry

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New post 02 May 2017, 14:27
vahidkarimi wrote:
Hi guys,

could you please tell me which sentences are correct and why?
1. Firefighters should always secure one's safety gear before rushing into a fire.
2. Firefighters should always secure their safety gear before rushing into a fire.
3. Firefighters should always secure ones' safety gear before rushing into a fire.
4. Firefighters should always secure its safety gear before rushing into a fire.
5. Firefighters should always secure his/her safety gear before rushing into a fire.

mikemcgarry

Dear vahidkarimi

I'm happy to respond. :-)

At one level, this is a basic issue of pronoun agreement. The subject "firefighters" is plural, so we need the plural pronoun "theirs." Only #2 is correct.

When the subject is singular, we step into a cultural bucket of worms.
A firefighter should always secure ______ safety gear before rushing into a fire.

The subject is singular, so we need a singular pronoun. Traditionally (say, 100 years ago), the pronoun "his" would have been used universally for all singular occasions. Over the past half century, feminists have objected, quite correctly, that this tends to diminish the important contributions of women in a wide variety of fields. For example, in this context, of course women can be and are firefighters--women considerably braver than I am!! Some feminists would object to the routine use of "his" as something that would reinforce the incorrect assumption that firefighting is an exclusively male occupation.
Some people, in an attempt to acknowledge the gender ambiguity, use the plural pronoun "their" for the singular
A firefighter should always secure their safety gear before rushing into a fire.
While their motives might be laudable, this is grammatically and logically abhorrent and would be wrong on the GMAT 100% of the time.

Some folks use "his/her," but that is a bit cumbersome, especially if it appear often in a paragraph.

Thus, the "their" is grammatically wrong, but some people will object to using "his" every time. What to do? The GMAT tends to avoid forcing student to make a choice about this: the GMAT is very cautious about steering clear of any issue that could be viewed as controversial. You will not have to deal with this on any official question.

In my own writing, if several instances of a single pronoun occur, say, in a paragraph, I would tend to alternate back and forth between "his" and "her." If were going to write simply one stand-alone sentence with a singular pronoun, my tendency would be to use the feminine:
A firefighter should always secure her safety gear before rushing into a fire.
I like this because (1) it's 100% grammatically/logically correct, and (2) it has the subtle effect of challenging some people's unconscious gender assumptions.

BTW, the use of "one's" is also gender neutral, but we would have to rewrite the entire sentence in terms of this pronoun; the possessive "one's" has to refer back to the non-possessive "one" somewhere in the sentence. Here, this would be awkward:
When one is a firefighter, one should always secure one's safety gear before rushing into a fire.
That's grammatically correct, but a bit too wordy for what we trying to convey.

Does all this make sense?
Mike :-)
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Mike McGarry
Magoosh Test Prep

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