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# Usage of Which

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Intern
Joined: 09 Aug 2011
Posts: 35

Kudos [?]: 19 [0], given: 20

Location: United States (KY)
Concentration: General Management, Strategy
GMAT Date: 11-15-2012
WE: Information Technology (Other)

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13 Jul 2012, 19:33
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Hi Ron,
I went through your videos and have a question about usage of "which"

Below text is from your videos: This is what you said:

"Which" modifier can modify:
*the NOUN that IMMEDIATELY PRECEDES THE COMMA;
--OR--
* the NOUN + PREP PHRASE that immediately precedes the comma

"You are going to use context to figure out which of these is the case"

1) The old capitol building in benecia, which was the capital city of california for a few years in 19th century, is a historic landmark.
here which modifies NOUN only- benecia

2) the old capital building in benecia, which was built in under a year when the city was designated capital of california , is now a landmark.

here which modifies NOUN+PREP PHRASE - capital building in benecial

But in following passage
3) The passage of the anti -Cybersquatting consumer protection act in 1999, which allows companies....
here usage of "which" is incorrect " this PREP PHRASE is a separate description, so you can't jump it.

Now my question is what is the difference between 2) and 3). In both sentences which is referring to NOUN+ PREP PHRASE then why is 2) correct
but 3) is incorrect?
Perhaps there is subtle difference that I am missing. can you clarify please?

Kudos [?]: 19 [0], given: 20

Magoosh GMAT Instructor
Joined: 28 Dec 2011
Posts: 4426

Kudos [?]: 8457 [4], given: 102

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17 Jul 2012, 07:58
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Simba2012 wrote:
Hi Ron,
I went through your videos and have a question about usage of "which"

Below text is from your videos: This is what you said:
"Which" modifier can modify:
*the NOUN that IMMEDIATELY PRECEDES THE COMMA;
--OR--
* the NOUN + PREP PHRASE that immediately precedes the comma

"You are going to use context to figure out which of these is the case"

1) The old capitol building in benecia, which was the capital city of california for a few years in 19th century, is a historic landmark.
here which modifies NOUN only- benecia

2) the old capital building in benecia, which was built in under a year when the city was designated capital of california , is now a landmark.

here which modifies NOUN+PREP PHRASE - capital building in benecial

But in following passage
3) The passage of the anti -Cybersquatting consumer protection act in 1999, which allows companies....
here usage of "which" is incorrect " this PREP PHRASE is a separate description, so you can't jump it.

Now my question is what is the difference between 2) and 3). In both sentences which is referring to NOUN+ PREP PHRASE then why is 2) correct
but 3) is incorrect?
Perhaps there is subtle difference that I am missing. can you clarify please?

Dear Simba2012

I don't know who Ron is or what videos he made, but I am happy to help with this question. I believe the distinction you are missing is that of a vital noun modifier vs. a non-vital modifier. First of all, you may find these two links helpful:
http://magoosh.com/gmat/2012/that-vs-which-on-the-gmat/
http://magoosh.com/gmat/2012/gmat-gramm ... modifiers/

This distinction is precisely what makes the difference between #2 and #3.

2) The old capital building in Benecia, which was built in under a year when the city was designated capital of California , is now a landmark.

Let's just pull out the core sentence "The old capital building in Benecia is now a landmark." That sentence is perfectly clear. Now remove the prepositional phrase: "The old capital building is now a landmark." If we just saw this sentence, without the preceding context, we would have absolutely no idea which old capital building was under discussion --- it could be anywhere in the world. In this sentence, the preposition phrase "in Benecia" is a vital noun modifier, because it makes clear which "old capital building" we are discussion --- it clarifies what otherwise would be a hopelessly ambiguous sentence. Here's the big idea: vital noun-modifiers rank above the "modifier touch rule" --- that is, a vital noun-modifier can come between a noun and the clause that modifies it. That's why #2 is perfectly correct.

3)The passage of the anti-Cybersquatting consumer protection act in 1999, which allows companies....
Trainwreck! Here, we want the clause "which allows companies" to modify "the anti-Cybersquatting consumer protection act." Imagine the sentence without the preposition phrase "in 1999". It would still be 100% clear. We don't need that prepositional phrase to tell us "which" anti-Cybersquatting consumer protection act is under discussion. Presumably, there is only one law with that name, so no clarification about its identity is needed. The prepositional phrase "in 1999" is a non-vital modifier, here in gross violation of the modifier touch rule. That's why #3 is a disastrously incorrect.

Does this distinction make sense? This is an important one for the more difficult questions on the GMAT SC.

Let me know if you have any further questions.

Mike
_________________

Mike McGarry
Magoosh Test Prep

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. — William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939)

Kudos [?]: 8457 [4], given: 102

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Joined: 02 Nov 2011
Posts: 2311

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17 Jul 2012, 08:21
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Hi Simba2012,

Just yesterday we came out with anarticle where we talk about when it makes sense for the raltive pronouns to modify a slightly far away noun and when it does not. There is a small exercise there as well to help you understand the application of this guideline. Take a look by clicking on the following link:

noun-modifiers-can-modify-slightly-far-away-noun-135868.html

Hope this helps.
Thanks.
_________________

| '4 out of Top 5' Instructors on gmatclub | 70 point improvement guarantee | www.e-gmat.com

Kudos [?]: 9053 [2], given: 335

Intern
Joined: 09 Aug 2011
Posts: 35

Kudos [?]: 19 [1], given: 20

Location: United States (KY)
Concentration: General Management, Strategy
GMAT Date: 11-15-2012
WE: Information Technology (Other)

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17 Jul 2012, 18:35
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Joined: 01 Oct 2013
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30 Jun 2015, 03:38
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05 Jul 2016, 08:55
Hello from the GMAT Club VerbalBot!

Thanks to another GMAT Club member, I have just discovered this valuable topic, yet it had no discussion for over a year. I am now bumping it up - doing my job. I think you may find it valuable (esp those replies with Kudos).

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Re: Usage of Which   [#permalink] 05 Jul 2016, 08:55
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