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# The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were o

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The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were o [#permalink]

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05 May 2010, 18:14
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The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were occupied by Upper Paleolithic people has been established by carbon-14 dating, but what is much more difficult to determine are the reason for their decoration, the use to which primitive people put the caves, and the meaning of the magnificently depicted animals.

(A) has been established by carbon-14 dating, but what is much more difficult to determine are
(B) has been established by carbon-14 dating, but what is much more difficult to determine is
(C) have been established by carbon-14 dating, but what is much more difficult to determine is
(D) have been established by carbon-14 dating, but what is much more difficult to determine are
(E) are established by carbon-14 dating, but that which is much more difficult to determine is

[Reveal] Spoiler:
Can anybody explain what verb we need here??
but what is much more difficult to determine are/is - the reason for their decoration(1), the use to which primitive people put the caves(2), and the meaning of the magnificently depicted animals(3).

Do we take the 3 clauses after the underlined verb as 1 plural predicate, or just as singular? For me, having it singular serves for the 1st following clause only, and I feel like we need a verb again for the other 2 clauses.
I'm not satisfied with the OA explanation which is very short and doesn't address this point, so if any of you could explain it I'd appreciate it. Thanks!!
[Reveal] Spoiler: OA
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Re: The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were o [#permalink]

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05 May 2010, 21:49
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Off the bat, we can eliminate choice E because "are established" is awkward in this context.

From the remaining 4 choices, we have a choice of subject-verb agreements in two different places.

has been/have been - The first portion of the sentence is stating that THE PERIOD is known. From the word "when" onwards is just a modifier, basically describing THE period. This is singular, thus HAS BEEN.

The second instance:

is/are - The sentence wants to say what is much more difficult to determine, and then follows that with a list.

the reason
the use
the meaning

In this instance, because it is a list, and it is parallel, we make the verb agree with the first noun, or "the reason" - singular

Thus, B
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Re: The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were o [#permalink]

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19 May 2010, 13:57
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should be B.

The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were occupied by Upper Paleolithic people has been established by carbon-14 dating，but what is much more difficult to determine are the reason for their decoration，the use to which primitive people put the caves，and the meaning of the magnificently depicted animals．

(A) has been established by carbon-14 dating，but what is much more difficult to determine are - 'period' is singular and so we need singular 'has'. Also, 'reason' is singular and so we need 'is'
(B) has been established by carbon-14 dating，but what is much more difficult to determine is - 'period' is singular and so we need singular 'has'. Also, 'reason' is singular and so we need 'is'
(C) have been established by carbon-14 dating，but what is much more difficult to determine is
(D) have been established by carbon-14 dating，but what is much more difficult to determine are
(E) are established by carbon-14 dating，but that which is much more difficult to determine is
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Re: The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were o [#permalink]

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19 May 2010, 21:35
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Ok, I asked my friend who works as an editor, and he confirms that we should use 'is' instead of 'are'. We take in consideration the first noun 'reason' only.

I was extremely confused because I read in MGMAT that when you have doubts about singular vs plural, just flip the order of the clauses. But reading again, I realize that it applies for subjects only. If it was subject it's ok because 2 or more nouns with the word 'and' become a plural subject. But this is not the case it seems.

Well, still a little confused. Accepted the fact by faith and will move forward. I hope that I won't make the same mistakes and that will make sense soon. Ohhhh, if I was just born in an English speaking country....
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Re: The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were o [#permalink]

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05 Nov 2010, 01:44
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Expert's post
Essentially this passage has two clauses and two subjects 1. [highlight]The period[/highlight]and 2 [highlight]the reason.[/highlight] Both are singluar. Hence the period entails the singular - [highlight]has[/highlight]– and the reason entails – [highlight]is[/highlight]- . B is the only choice that befits this norm.
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Re: The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were o [#permalink]

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05 Nov 2010, 02:01
daagh wrote:
Essentially this passage has two clauses and two subjects 1. [highlight]The period[/highlight]and 2 [highlight]the reason.[/highlight] Both are singluar. Hence the period entails the singular - [highlight]has[/highlight]– and the reason entails – [highlight]is[/highlight]- . B is the only choice that befits this norm.

Why do you think the reason alone is the subject for the second clause?

If you think that the part after is or are is the subject, wouldn't the subject be the reason, the use, and the meaning?

A, B, and C: collective nouns which are plural.
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Re: The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were o [#permalink]

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05 Nov 2010, 08:04
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Expert's post
In that case, it will not be - what is much more difficult to determine - but -what are much more difficult to determine - There is no choice that says what are much more difficult to determine-Hence the question of a compound plural subject for the second part is ruled out.
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Re: The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were o [#permalink]

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28 Oct 2012, 21:33
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The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were occupied by Upper Paleaolithic peoples has been established by carbon dating, but what is much more difficult to determine are the use to which primitive peoples put the caves, the reason for their decoration, and the meaning of the magnificently depicted animals.

ERROR ANALYSIS
DIVIDE THE WHOLE SENTENCE INTO TO CLAUSES N THEN TRY TO UNDERSTAND THE S-V PAIR , YOU WILL FIND THE CORRECT ANSWER .
1.The period
2.when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were occupied by Upper Paleaolithic peoples
1.has been established by carbon dating,
3.but
4.what is much more difficult to determine (Singular Subject)
3.are (IS) the use to
5.which primitive peoples put the caves, the reason for their decoration, and the meaning of the magnificently depicted animals.

A. has been established by carbon dating, but what is much more difficult to determine are (IS) :WRONG
B. have (HAS) been established by carbon dating, but what is much more difficult to determine are (IS) :WRONG
C. have (HAS) been established by carbon dating, but that which is much more difficult to determine is :WRONG
D. has been established by carbon dating, but what is much more difficult to determine is :CORRECT
E. are (IS) established by carbon dating, but that which is much more difficult to determine is :WRONG
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Re: The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were o [#permalink]

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06 Nov 2012, 10:53
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Expert's post
Hi,
I received a PM to respond to this one. So here goes my analysis.

The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were occupied by Upper Paleaolithic peoples has been established by carbon dating, but what is much more difficult to determine are the use to which primitive peoples put the caves, the reason for their decoration, and the meaning of the magnificently depicted animals.

Since the meaning of this sentence is very straight-forward, let me directly get to the error analysis of this question.

Error Analysis: The only error in this sentence is the SV number agreement error in the IC that begins after comma + FANBOYS. The subject of the IC after but is “what is much more difficult to determine”. This subject is a dependent clause. Whenever a clause or a phrase acts as a subject of a clause, it is always singular. So we have a singular subject here. But the verb for this subject is “are”, which is plural in number. Hence we have SV number agreement error here. This verb should be “is”.

PoE:
A. has been established by carbon dating, but what is much more difficult to determine are: Incorrect for the reason stated above.

B. have been established by carbon dating, but what is much more difficult to determine are: Incorrect.
1. Repeats the same SV number agreement error as in A.
2. Subject “The period” is singular and the verb used for it is plural “have been established”. We have another SV number agreement error here.

C. have been established by carbon dating, but that which is much more difficult to determine is: Incorrect.
1. Repeats the “have been established” SV error as in choice B.
2. Use of “that which” is incorrect as comma + FANBOYS should be followed by an IC.

D. has been established by carbon dating, but what is much more difficult to determine is: Correct. This choice rectifies the error of choice A.

E. are established by carbon dating, but that which is much more difficult to determine is: Incorrect. Incorrect
1. Plural verb “are” does not agree in number with singular subject “The period”.
2. Repeats the comma + FANBOYS error as in choice C.

Hope this helps.
Thanks.
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Re: The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were o [#permalink]

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30 Mar 2014, 12:30
Experts,

I am confused on this one.

I am okay with ..

The period............has been.

But I am not okay with 'to determine is' construction.

What is much more difficult to determine is X,Y, and Z.

Inverted order: X,Y, and Z are difficult to determine.

So why use 'IS' instead of 'ARE'.

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TGC!
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Re: The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were o [#permalink]

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31 Mar 2014, 12:31
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If the fragment were "the things that are much more difficult to determine" then you needed an "are" (whether what follows "are" is "reason" or "reasons").

Because the subject (of this fragment) is "what is X" = singular, you need "is."

For e.g.
His contributions ARE doing X, doing Y, and doing Z.
His contribution IS doing X, doing Y, and doing Z.
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Re: The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were o [#permalink]

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21 Apr 2016, 14:51
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Thursdays with ron covered this question in this episode/session (skip to 29 mins)
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Re: The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were o [#permalink]

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09 May 2016, 16:58
Alex75PAris wrote:
The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were occupied by Upper Paleolithic people has been established by carbon dating, but what is much more difficult to determine are the use to which primitive peoples put the caves, the reason for their decoration, and the meaning of the magnificently depicted animals

A/ has been established by carbon dating, but what is much more difficult to determine are
B/ have been established by carbon dating, but what is much more difficult to determine are
C/ have been established by carbon dating, but that which is much more difficult to determine is
D/ has been established by carbon dating, but what is much more difficult to determine is
E/ are been established by carbon dating, but that which is much more difficult to determine is

Dear Alex75PAris,
I'm happy to respond.

I'm not a big fan of this particular question. It's a simple test of SVA, and rhetorically, it not admirable in its structure. It doesn't feel GMAT-like.

Split #1:
subject "the period" = singular
We need a singular verb.
(A) has been = singular
(B) have been = plural and incorrect
(C) have been = plural and incorrect
(D) has been = singular
(E) are been = freakshow wrong
Choice (E) here is a completely embarrassing choice. It's hard to imagine who would pick that.

Split #2:
The final subject "the use . . . , the reason ...., and the meaning ..." is plural. We need a plural verb.
I actually would argue that both verbs should be plural in the second half of the sentence:
" . . . but what are much more difficult to determine are the X, Y, and Z."
This is not an option. I suspect that the question author had some picayune SVA technicality in mind when he wrote the question. This is NOT a GMAT-like question: the GMAT does not search out picayune distinctions such as this. The author of the question was trying to write a hard question without really understanding what make the GMAT hard.

I don't know whether the author would argue that (A) or (D) is a better answer, and I am not really interested in their argument.

Here's a much more GMAT-like SC practice question:
The FDA enacted

Does all this make sense?
Mike
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Re: The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were o [#permalink]

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30 Oct 2016, 01:04
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Hi mikemcgarry, egmat, maybe we should try to figure out this question again? I encountered it in Practice Exam 2 of GmatPrep (see attached picture).
Official Guide has similar (the-period-when-the-great-painted-caves-at-lascaux-and-93734.html) question which has an obvious answer, but this modified version... I can't understand the logic.
Attachments

Screen Shot 2016-10-30 at 3.59.50 PM.png [ 149.05 KiB | Viewed 1284 times ]

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Re: The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were o [#permalink]

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31 Oct 2016, 11:35
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pkudinov wrote:
Hi mikemcgarry, egmat, maybe we should try to figure out this question again? I encountered it in Practice Exam 2 of GmatPrep (see attached picture).
Official Guide has similar (the-period-when-the-great-painted-caves-at-lascaux-and-93734.html) question which has an obvious answer, but this modified version... I can't understand the logic.

Dear pkudinov
I'm happy to respond.

Here's the text of the question:
The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were occupied by Upper Paleolithic people has been established by carbon dating, but what is much more difficult to determine are the use to which primitive peoples put the caves, the reason for their decoration, and the meaning of the magnificently depicted animals

A) has been established by carbon dating, but what is much more difficult to determine are
B) have been established by carbon dating, but what is much more difficult to determine are
C) have been established by carbon dating, but that which is much more difficult to determine is
D) has been established by carbon dating, but what is much more difficult to determine is
E) are been established by carbon dating, but that which is much more difficult to determine is

You know, it's funny. Almost all official questions leave me speechless with admiration. This is one of the few that leave me a bit queasy about what it is doing.

The opening split is interesting. We need the singular "has been" to agree with the singular subject "the period." Choices (A) & (D) are the only ones that survive this split. (B) & (C) have the plural form, and (E) is completely bizarre, something that no native speaker would ever pick. It surprises me to have an answer that wrong in an official question. This is not typical.

Choices (A) & (D) are identical up to the last words. A relative pronoun, such as "what" can be either singular or plural; the relative clause begun by that pronoun takes the number of the pronoun. If the "what" is singular, then all verbs referring to it or the clause should be singular, and if plural, vice versa. In all five answer choices, we get a singular verb after the word "what" inside the relative clause: "what is much more difficult to determine." That identifies the relative pronoun as singular, which makes the entire relative clause singular, and so we have to pick (D), which has the singular verb at the end. This allows us to come to an unambiguous answer.

My complaint about the question is that the word "what" ultimately refers to the three separate items listed at the end of the sentence. I feel the word "what" should be plural. That would require both verbs to be plural. Thus, I would write: "...but what are much more difficult to determine are..." Technically, I believe that would be the most correct version, but it may be that on this point I am being even more grammatically conservative than the GMAT itself. It's funny. The vast majority of questions on the GMAT accord with my conservative grammatical predilections. This is one of the few that don't.

Nevertheless, it's straightforward to find the OA of this question. Does all this make sense?
Mike
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Re: The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were o [#permalink]

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02 Nov 2016, 08:54
I wonder whether this is really a sub-600 level question though...
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Re: The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were o [#permalink]

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02 Nov 2016, 13:33
pkudinov wrote:
I wonder whether this is really a sub-600 level question though...

Dear pkudinov,

My friend, that's a good question. I guess one could argue that since this question tests only relatively straightforward issues of SVA, it is easier than many questions that test multiple issues simultaneously. It's true that the harder questions tend to have those incorrect choices that are 100% grammatically correct but rhetorically off.

Then again, I'm deeply skeptical about the entire enterprise of assigning "score values" to individual questions. See:
Is this a 700+ level GMAT question?

I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any further questions.

Mike
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Re: The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were o [#permalink]

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02 Nov 2016, 16:04
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mikemcgarry,

"This is one of the few that leaves me a bit queasy"

In the quote above, I think the highlighted portion is a typo, but please correct me if I'm wrong. Shouldn't that be "leave" plural verb.?

I know this is 180 to the discussion, but very tempted to ask.
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Re: The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were o [#permalink]

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03 Nov 2016, 10:08
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Expert's post
manhasnoname wrote:
mikemcgarry,

"This is one of the few that leaves me a bit queasy"

In the quote above, I think the highlighted portion is a typo, but please correct me if I'm wrong. Shouldn't that be "leave" plural verb.?

I know this is 180 to the discussion, but very tempted to ask.

Dear manhasnoname,

Good catch! Yes, you are perfectly correct. When I was writing it quickly, I was thinking of a "vital noun modifier" construction, but that doesn't withstand logical analysis. Of course, it's the few that bother me, not simply this one in isolation. A very perceptive catch. I corrected this mistake in the post above. Thanks!

Mike
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Re: The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were o [#permalink]

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05 Mar 2017, 23:37
Hi Experts,

Could you please provide your comments for subject-verb issue. what is the subject for second clause is it reason or the clause (What is much more difficult to determine)

Thanks
Re: The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were o   [#permalink] 05 Mar 2017, 23:37

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