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Use in "The Economist vs GMAT"

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Use in "The Economist vs GMAT" [#permalink]

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"The Indian government and public had been outraged by her arrest last month, which she said involved handcuffs, strip-searching and time in the lock-up with common
criminals and drug addicts."

This is a sentence from the Economist. What I would like to know is whether the use of "which" in "arrest last month, which" is acceptable in GMAT. Although used to describe "arrest", "which" is not following it, but it is rather following a modifier - that I feel is not a "mission critical" one. After all, this is a very important news and the arrest automatically refers to "her". So, is this a justifiable use in GMAT?

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Re: Use in "The Economist vs GMAT" [#permalink]

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New post 27 Jan 2014, 11:49
Great question! I like the fact that you are reading The Economist and thinking about these issues. :)

sgangs wrote:
"The Indian government and public had been outraged by her arrest last month, which she said involved handcuffs, strip-searching and time in the lock-up with common criminals and drug addicts."

This is a sentence from the Economist. What I would like to know is whether the use of "which" in "arrest last month, which" is acceptable in GMAT. Although used to describe "arrest", "which" is not following it, but it is rather following a modifier - that I feel is not a "mission critical" one. After all, this is a very important news and the arrest automatically refers to "her". So, is this a justifiable use in GMAT?


First, let me clarify that we are speculating here. We can talk about what the GMAT tests and how they test it, but since we are talking about a sentence from a news source, we can't be 100% certain what the GMAT would do. But I think we can get close.

The GMAT is pretty strict when it comes to modification. They want the modifier as close as possible to the word that is modified. In this sentence, the modifier starting with "which" is pretty close to "arrest," which you rightly point out. It would really depend on the other options that you were given in a question. I could see this being the right answer if all the other answer choices are worse. But if you find a sentence like the following one in the answer choices, then that would be the answer you should choose:

"The Indian government and public had been outraged by her last-month arrest, which she said involved handcuffs, strip-searching and time in the lock-up with common criminals and drug addicts."

In this sentence, the modifier and the word being modified are as close as they could possibly be. This is what the GMAT likes to see. But we have another thing to consider now—is the style better? Do is read easily? The only reason that I bring this up is because "last-month arrest" is a little strange, but probably not strange enough to make it wrong.

I hope this helps! :)

Cheers,

Kevin
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Re: Use in "The Economist vs GMAT" [#permalink]

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New post 27 Jan 2014, 11:52
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sgangs wrote:
"The Indian government and public had been outraged by her arrest last month, which she said involved handcuffs, strip-searching and time in the lock-up with common criminals and drug addicts."

This is a sentence from the Economist. What I would like to know is whether the use of "which" in "arrest last month, which" is acceptable in GMAT. Although used to describe "arrest", "which" is not following it, but it is rather following a modifier - that I feel is not a "mission critical" one. After all, this is a very important news and the arrest automatically refers to "her". So, is this a justifiable use in GMAT?

Dear sgangs,
I'm happy to help. :-)

What MGMAT calls "mission-critical" modifiers are also called "vital noun modifiers." You can see more about them here:
http://magoosh.com/gmat/2012/gmat-gramm ... modifiers/

This structure here is perfectly correct and certainly could appear as a correct answer on the GMAT. Is "last month" a vital modifier, a mission-critical modifier? Admittedly, that's debatable. If we were discussing someone who had been arrested on multiple occasions, then the words would constitute a vital modifier. This sentence is about the poor Indian diplomat who clearly had never been arrested before, so that weighs against calling the modifier vital. Let's say that if a vital modifier is black, and a clearly non-vital modifier is white, this one is some shade of gray. Math is totally black & white, but grammar gets into all kinds of shades of gray. Now, here's the really tricky thing ---- if a modifier is a "shade of gray" vital modifier, and it's very short, then there's absolutely no problem sticking it between a noun and another modifier. A long "shade of gray" modifier between a noun and another modifier might create confusions, but short one does not create any confusion.

Does all this make sense?
Mike :-)
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Re: Use in "The Economist vs GMAT" [#permalink]

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New post 27 Jan 2014, 21:21
Thanks a lot Kevin. It was a good reply.
Quote:
Great question! I like the fact that you are reading The Economist and thinking about these issues

Yeah, practising GMAT English is making me skeptical of normal, day to day English. :) :)

Mike, I like the
Quote:
"shade of gray"
concept. However, in this "shade of gray" situation, isn't it possible to choose either the white or the black? What I'm asking is, isn't it unfair of GMAT to test these awkward "in the soup" situations.

Mike & Kevin, just I more question; in IEEE Spectrum I saw "-ed modifier" modifying the noun of the preceeding clause (Sorry because I dont remember the exact quote and hence cant post it here).
Is this also a "shade of grey" or is this a justifiable use in GMAT.
Thanks a lot to you guys for the previous explaination

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Re: Use in "The Economist vs GMAT" [#permalink]

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New post 27 Jan 2014, 23:35
sgangs wrote:
Thanks a lot Kevin. It was a good reply.
Quote:
Great question! I like the fact that you are reading The Economist and thinking about these issues

Yeah, practising GMAT English is making me skeptical of normal, day to day English. :) :)

Mike, I like the
Quote:
"shade of gray"
concept. However, in this "shade of gray" situation, isn't it possible to choose either the white or the black? What I'm asking is, isn't it unfair of GMAT to test these awkward "in the soup" situations.

Mike & Kevin, just I more question; in IEEE Spectrum I saw "-ed modifier" modifying the noun of the preceeding clause (Sorry because I dont remember the exact quote and hence cant post it here).
Is this also a "shade of grey" or is this a justifiable use in GMAT.
Thanks a lot to you guys for the previous explanation

Dear sgangs,
First of all, let me be more clear --- whether that short phrase "last month" was a vital modifier is in a shade of grey, but the fact that it is also short and leaves absolutely no ambiguity moves it from gray to perfectly acceptable. There was a question on the way that was a shade of gray, but not in the final product. That's why it would fly on the GMAT. There's absolutely nothing unfair about that.

A participle of any sort, either a present participle (-ing) or a past participle (-ed), can modify a noun, even if it separated from the noun by a vital noun modifier. For example,
The artist was painting the house on the hill, bathed in light of the setting sun.
The participial phrase "bathed ..." modifies "house." The participial phrase is separated from the noun it modifies by a vital noun modifier. This subject matter is not the sort of subject that the GMAT would use, but the grammatical construction is 100% correct and definitely could appear on the GMAT. There's absolutely nothing questionable here. No gray at all.

I will suggest
(a) read about participial phrases:
http://magoosh.com/gmat/2012/participle ... -the-gmat/
(b) read about modifiers on the GMAT & the Touch Rule
http://magoosh.com/gmat/2013/modifiers- ... orrection/
(c) read about vital noun modifiers
http://magoosh.com/gmat/2012/gmat-gramm ... modifiers/

Does all this make sense?
Mike :-)
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Re: Use in "The Economist vs GMAT" [#permalink]

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New post 28 Jan 2014, 10:22
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Thanks again Mike.
A great explanation.
However, my question with "ed modifier" was different. Suppose, we've a comma+"ed modifier". Now according to the "E-GMAT" explanation in the link http://gmatclub.com/forum/verb-ed-modifiers-cannot-jump-over-verbs-158426.html we cannot use this modifier for subject nouns. However IEEE Spectrum had done it and that use is not uncommon in normal English.
It would be great if you could share your take on how GMAC views this.
Thanks in advance.

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Re: Use in "The Economist vs GMAT" [#permalink]

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New post 28 Jan 2014, 14:15
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sgangs wrote:
Thanks again Mike.
A great explanation.
However, my question with "ed modifier" was different. Suppose, we've a comma+"ed modifier". Now according to the "E-GMAT" explanation in the link http://gmatclub.com/forum/verb-ed-modifiers-cannot-jump-over-verbs-158426.html we cannot use this modifier for subject nouns. However IEEE Spectrum had done it and that use is not uncommon in normal English.
It would be great if you could share your take on how GMAC views this.
Thanks in advance.

Dear sgangs
I don't believe there is a cut-and-dry mathematical rule, a one-size-fits-all rule, that we can enunciate here. Some students want this kind of clear certainty for everything in grammar, and some providers manufacture rules for scenarios such as this to satisfy what students want, but it's far from clear to me that such crystallized rules reflect the complexity of the test.

I would have to see some examples of the sentence from the IEEE or from "normal English" that have this structure. I think it is something that we would have to decide on a case by case basis. If the verb were intransitive and there were no other nouns after the verb, then I don't think it would be a problem.
Stocks for XYZ Corporation fell precipitously today, impacted by the announcement of the trade embargo.
I see nothing wrong with that sentence. As soon as there is another noun after the verb, a direct object or something else, then it's hard to understand trying to use the past participle to modify the subject wouldn't create ambiguity. If noun A is followed by a prepositional phrase or some other vital noun modifier, then it's easy to see how the modifier might "leap over" any closer noun to modify noun A. But, the direct object of a verb certainly will not be part of the vital noun modifier of the verb's subject. Is that all they are getting at here? I would really need to see some examples of sentences you have in mind that do this and, according to some standards, are still correct.

Mike :-)
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Re: Use in "The Economist vs GMAT" [#permalink]

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New post 28 Jan 2014, 17:36
Thanks Mike, it was a great explanation. I had completely missed the "intransitive verb" point. The example has the structure as " XYZ had agreed, decided by blah blah blah..".
Great explanation. Thanks a lot.

P.S.: Thanks Kevin for the kudos :-D :-D

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Re: Use in "The Economist vs GMAT" [#permalink]

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