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# The 'Although' Misconception

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Updated on: 11 Sep 2018, 00:09
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Time and again, students have come to me with a ‘rule’ they had heard or read somewhere. Well, it turns out there’s no such rule; it’s only a misconception that is shared by many test takers. The purpose of this article is to dispel that misconception by offering official GMAT SC questions as examples. The article goes on to show that the ‘rule’ is wrong even more generally.

So, what is that rule or, rather, misconception? Here it is:

WHAT IS ‘ALTHOUGH’?

‘Although’ is a subordinate conjunction.

(Well, I know some people don’t like grammatical terms such as “subordinate conjunction”. Even I don’t. And to ace GMAT, you do not need to remember a lot of grammatical terms. But then, why did I use this term? Because it is easy to understand and once you understand it, you know what it does.)

‘Subordinate’ means someone lower in rank, and ‘Conjunction’ means something that joins two things. So, a subordinate conjunction means something that makes a clause into a subordinate clause and helps join it to the main clause (the one with the higher rank!). Examples of subordinate conjunctions are although, though, once, if, when, since, before, and after. (Please note that this is not an exhaustive list)

Here’s one sentence from one of my favorite books:

Although people with scarcity mentality might verbally express happiness for others’ success, inwardly they are eating their hearts out.

In the above example, the word ‘although’ is followed by a clause, and the presence of ‘although’ makes it a dependent or a subordinate clause, which is then attached to the main clause (Independent clause) – “inwardly they are eating their hearts out”.

In a lot of cases, ‘Although’ is indeed followed by a clause. For example:

• Certification programs for veterinary technicians require algebra, although none of the graduates I’ve met have ever used it in diagnosing or treating their patients.
• Although the aspirational customers at entry price points are behaving more cautiously, the brand is resonating ever more strongly with our core luxury audience.
• Although the capuchins eat several species of insects, they do not eat the type of millipede they use to rub on their bodies.

In all of the above example sentences, ‘although’ is followed by a clause.

However, it is not true that ‘although’ needs to be always followed by a clause, and there are examples galore in official questions that make this point conclusively. Rather, official questions in which ‘although’ is not followed by a clause go back to OG13, released more than three years ago. So, it is high time now that we put an end to this misconception!

SENTENCE #1

Let’s consider Q48 from OG13. Try to solve it on your own before looking at the answer below.

It is called a sea, but the landlocked Caspian is actually the largest lake on Earth, which covers more than four times the surface area of its closest rival in size, North America’s Lake Superior.

A. It is called a sea, but the landlocked Caspian is actually the largest lake on Earth, which covers
B. Although it is called a sea, actually the landlocked Caspian is the largest lake on Earth, which covers
C. Though called a sea, the landlocked Caspian is actually the largest lake on Earth, covering
D. Though called a sea but it actually is the largest lake on Earth, the landlocked Caspian covers
E. Despite being called a sea, the largest lake on Earth is actually the landlocked Caspian, covering

The correct option is C.

The correct sentence, thus, is:

Though called a sea, the landlocked Caspian is actually the largest lake on Earth, covering more than four times the surface area of its closest rival in size, North America’s Lake Superior.

In the above sentence, “Though” is followed not by a clause but by a noun modifier (in this case, a verb-ed modifier or a past participle).

In the sentence, “called” is a noun modifier that modifies the subject of the clause “the landlocked Caspian”. Rather, whenever a subordinate conjunction is followed by a noun modifier, the modifier always modifies the subject of the clause in which the subordinate conjunction appears or of the closest clause. In this case, it modifies the subject of the closest clause.

Also, whenever a subordinate conjunction is followed by a noun modifier, the meaning of the sentence can be better understood by inserting the subject (the subject that is modified) and the appropriate verb before the modifier so that we get a subordinate clause. In the above case, we can do the same as:

Though it (the landlocked Caspian) is called a sea, the landlocked Caspian is actually the largest lake on Earth, covering more than four times the surface area of its closest rival in size, North America’s Lake Superior.

SENTENCE #2

Here’s the correct sentence from OG13 – Q36:

Along with the drop in producer prices announced yesterday, the strong retail sales figures released today seem to indicate that the economy, although growing slowly, is not nearing a recession.

The relevant part for us, after ‘that’, is:

The economy, although growing slowly, is not nearing a recession.

In this sentence, “although” is followed by a verb-ing modifier, not a clause. The verb-ing modifies the subject of the clause “The economy”. The sentence can be better understood by inserting the subject and the appropriate verb in the “although” part. The above sentence means the same as:

Although it is growing slowly, the economy is not nearing a recession.

SENTENCE #3

Here’s a question from Verbal Review 2016 – Q47:

Though being tiny, blind, and translucent, a recently discovered species of catfish lessens their vulnerability with thickened bones and armor plates on their sides.

A. Though being tiny, blind, and translucent, a recently discovered species of catfish lessens their vulnerability with thickened bones and armor plates on their sides.
B. Though tiny, blind, and translucent, a recently discovered species of catfish has thickened bones and armor plates on its sides that lessen its vulnerability.
C. A recently discovered species of catfish has thickened bones and armor plates on its sides that lessen their vulnerability, though tiny, blind, and translucent.
D. Thickened bones and armor plates on their sides lessen the vulnerability of a recently discovered species of catfish that is tiny, blind, and translucent.
E. Tiny, blind, and translucent, thickened bones and armor plates on its sides lessen the vulnerability of a recently discovered species of catfish.

The correct option is B.

Once again, we can see that “Though” is followed not by a clause but by a noun modifier. The modifier ‘tiny, blind, and translucent’ modifies the subject of the clause ‘a recently discovered species of catfish’. The meaning of the correct option is same as:

Though it is tiny, blind, and translucent, a recently discovered species of catfish has thickened bones and armor plates on its sides that lessen its vulnerability.

This structure, in which a subordinate conjunction is followed by a noun modifier, is not specific to just “Although” and “Though” but applies to other subordinate conjunctions as well.

SENTENCE #4 - If

Rising inventories, if not accompanied by corresponding increases in sales, can lead to production cutbacks that would hamper economic growth.

The above sentence is the correct choice in OG 2016 Q16. We can see that “if” is followed not by a clause but by a verb-ed modifier. The meaning of the sentence is same as:

If they are not accompanied by corresponding increases in sales, rising inventories can lead to production cutbacks that would hamper economic growth.

SENTENCE #5 - If

Here’s another sentence (from correct option in Verbal Review 2016 – Q74)

Certain pesticides can become ineffective if used repeatedly in the same place; one reason is suggested by the finding that there are much larger populations of pesticide-degrading microbes in soils with a relatively long history of pesticide use than in soils that are free of such chemicals.

In this sentence, even though the modifier “used” appears at a distance from the subject of the clause “certain pesticides”, it still modifies the subject. The meaning of the part before the semi-colon is:

Certain pesticides can become ineffective if they are used repeatedly in the same place;

SENTENCE #6 - After

Here’s the another sentence from OG16 (Correct option in Q100):

The results of the company's cost-cutting measures are evident in its profits, which have increased five percent during the first three months of this year after falling over the last two years.

In this sentence, “after” is followed a verb-ing modifier, and even though the modifier appears at a distance from the subject of the clause i.e. which, it modifies the subject. The sentence means the same as below:

The results of the company's cost-cutting measures are evident in its profits, which have increased five percent during the first three months of this year after they (profits) fell over the last two years.

Here it is important to understand that since modifiers (including verb-ed and verb-ing modifiers) do not have a verb tense of their own, their tense is dictated by the context of the argument. Therefore, in the above sentence, “falling” changed to “they fell”, since the action happened in the past (last two years).

SENTENCE #7 - When

Lastly, let’s look at this sentence from an official RC passage:

Many politicians, business leaders, and scholars discount the role of public policy and emphasize the role of the labor market when explaining employers' maternity-leave policies.

In this sentence, “when” is followed by a verb-ing modifier, which modifies the subject of the clause “many politicians, business leaders, and scholars”.

The above sentence has the same meaning as the below sentence:

Many politicians, business leaders, and scholars discount the role of public policy and emphasize the role of the labor market when they explain employers' maternity-leave policies.

Now, what do we learn from the above examples. I believe we have three takeaways from this article.

TAKE AWAYS

• Subordinate conjunctions, including but not limited to although, though, and if, do not always need to be followed by a clause; they can be followed by a clause or a noun-modifier.
• When a subordinate conjunction is followed by a noun modifier, the modifier always modifies the subject of the clause in which the subordinate conjunction appears or of the closest clause.
• When a subordinate conjunction is followed by a noun modifier, the meaning of the sentence can be better understood by inserting the subject and the appropriate verb in the subordinate part.

Attachments

The 'Although' misconception.pdf [579.75 KiB]

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Originally posted by ChiranjeevSingh on 24 Aug 2016, 04:18.
Last edited by ChiranjeevSingh on 11 Sep 2018, 00:09, edited 3 times in total.
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Updated on: 21 Dec 2016, 12:38
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Top Contributor
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Before anything else. kudos to Chiranjeevi for his nice presentation.

Yes. It is true that ‘although’ can be either an adjective modifying a noun or a sub-conjunctions starting a clause, but the important thing is to know the difference.
A thumb rule might be of help to treat the context appropriately.

1. If the although appears in the beginning of a sentence, then it can either be a modifier or a conjunction
E.g. Although feeling damn hungry, I had to stay to listen to the boss’s sermon
Although I was feeling damn hungry, I had to stay to listen to the boss’s sermon
Both the above sentences are correct.

2. If ‘although’ is in the middle of a sentence, then it can only be a modifier, never a clause.

I, although feeling damn hungry, had to stay to listen to the boss’s sermon. This is a correct sentence.
I, although was feeling damn hungry, had to stay to listen to the boss’s sermon – This is incorrect because we cannot insert a clause after ‘although’ in the middle of a sentence.( I am not sure whether it is a rule but it may more of a native custom)

3. When ‘although’ is found after the main clause, then it can only be a conjunction and should necessarily start subordinate clauses. It cannot be a modifier.

E.g., I had to stay to listen to the boss’s sermon, although I was feeling damn hungry. – This is correct.
I had to stay to listen to the boss’s sermon, although feeling damn hungry – Incorrect.

Take away:

Beginning: either as a modifier or as conjunction; both are okay
Middle: Only as a modifier
End part: then only as a conjunction.
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Originally posted by daagh on 03 Oct 2016, 05:10.
Last edited by daagh on 21 Dec 2016, 12:38, edited 1 time in total.
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24 Aug 2016, 08:04
1
I also wrote an article on this concept. Here is a link:

http://gmatclub.com/forum/although-is-a ... l#p1540391

Posted from my mobile device
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02 Oct 2016, 19:36
1
pramitmishra0607 wrote:
In this OG problem the official explanation says although needs a clause(subject + verb)
OG 13 Q 17:
Sunspots, vortices of gas associated with strong
electromagnetic activity, are visible as dark spots on
the surface of the Sun but have never been sighted on
the Sun's poles or equator.
(A) are visible as dark spots on the surface of the
Sun but have never been sighted on
(B) are visible as dark spots that never have been
sighted on the surface of the Sun
(C) appear on the surface of the Sun as dark spots
although never sighted at
(D) appear as dark spots on the surface of the Sun,
although never having been sighted at
(E) appear as dark spots on the Sun's surface,
which have never been sighted on

here the official guide explanation for although(option c &d option):

C. Although typically introduces a subordinate
clause, which has a subject and a verb,but
here there is no subject and sighted'is not a
complete verb.
D. Although usually introduces a subordinate
clause,but there is no subject of the clause
and having been sighted is not a complete verb
phrase.

Hi Pramitmishra0607,

As the OG explanation itself says, although is "typically" (not always) followed by a clause. Given this fact, we can see that the absence of a clause following "although" cannot be a reason (let alone the sole reason) for rejecting options C and D. Right?

In both C and D options, although is followed by modifiers - verb-ed modifier in option C and verb-ing modifier in option D. The usage is acceptable, as has been demonstrated in the article above using a number of official questions.

Now then, why are these options incorrect. They are incorrect for the meaning error:

Inappropriate contrast: Both options essentially mean "Sunspots appear as dark spots on the surface of the sun although they have never been sighted at the Sun's poles or equator". The contrast is between "appearing as dark spots on the surface" and "not sighted at other places". The contrast seems to be between "appearing as ABC on X" and "not appearing/sighted on Y". Clearly, this is not a logical or intended contrast. A logical contrast would be between "appearing on X" and "not appearing on Y", or between "appearing as ABC on X" and "not appearing as ABC on Y". Can you see the difference?

In addition, I'd also say that in option C and D, the way "although" has been placed after the clause "Sunspots appear..." seems a bit inappropriate to me (though I can't pinpoint any rule that it is violating by doing so). Option C would be much better if "although" appeared at the beginning of the clause. For example: I think the below sentence is absolutely fine:

Although never sighted at the Sun’s poles or equator, Sunspots are visible as dark spots on the surface of the Sun.

Does it help?

Regards,
Chiranjeev
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25 Aug 2016, 19:26
Here's an official question that directly tests the concept explained in the article:

Certain pesticides can become ineffective if used repeatedly in the same place；one reason is suggested by the finding that there are much larger populations of pesticide-degrading microbes in soils with a relatively long history of pesticide use than in soils that are free of such chemicals．

(A) Certain pesticides can become ineffective if used repeatedly in the same place；one reason is suggested by the finding that there are much larger populations of pesticide-degrading microbes in soils with a relatively long history of pesticide use than in soils that are free of such chemicals．
(B) If used repeatedly in the same place，one reason that certain pesticides can become ineffective is suggested by the finding that there are much larger populations of pesticide-degrading microbes in soils with a relatively long history of pesticide use than in soils that are free of such chemicals．
(C) If used repeatedly in the same place，one reason certain pesticides can become ineffective is suggested by the finding that much larger populations of pesticide-degrading microbes are found in soils with a relatively long history of pesticide use than those that are free of such chemicals．
(D) The finding that there are much larger populations of pesticide-degrading microbes in soils with a relatively long history of pesticide use than in soils that are free of such chemicals is suggestive of one reason, if used repeatedly in the same place, certain pesticides can become ineffective.
(E) The finding of much larger populations of pesticide-degrading microbes in soils with a relatively long history of pesticide use than in those that are free of such chemicals suggests one reason certain pesticides can become ineffective if used repeatedly in the same place.
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02 Oct 2016, 12:11
In this OG problem the official explanation says although needs a clause(subject + verb)
OG 13 Q 17:
Sunspots, vortices of gas associated with strong
electromagnetic activity, are visible as dark spots on
the surface of the Sun but have never been sighted on
the Sun's poles or equator.
(A) are visible as dark spots on the surface of the
Sun but have never been sighted on
(B) are visible as dark spots that never have been
sighted on the surface of the Sun
(C) appear on the surface of the Sun as dark spots
although never sighted at
(D) appear as dark spots on the surface of the Sun,
although never having been sighted at
(E) appear as dark spots on the Sun's surface,
which have never been sighted on

here the official guide explanation for although(option c &d option):

C. Although typically introduces a subordinate
clause, which has a subject and a verb,but
here there is no subject and sighted'is not a
complete verb.
D. Although usually introduces a subordinate
clause,but there is no subject of the clause
and having been sighted is not a complete verb
phrase.

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20 Dec 2016, 03:49
Daagh sir, do the similar rules apply to other conjunction such as when, if etc?

Thanks !
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10 Sep 2018, 20:03
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