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Re: When we look at the star Alpha Centauri, we see it as it was a little [#permalink]
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When we look at the star Alpha Centauri, we see it as it was a little over four years ago, for it took the light that long to get here.

A) we see it as it was a little over four years ago // "as" is confusing. Does it mean because or when?

B) we see it as it had been a little over four years ago // "as" is confusing. Does it mean because or when? The past perfect tense is unwarranted.

C) we see it as if it was a little over four years ago // correct

D) it appears to us as it did in a little over four years ago // "as" is confusing. Does it mean because or when? "in" is wrong.

E) it appears to us as though a little over four years ago // ambiguous.

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Re: When we look at the star Alpha Centauri, we see it as it was a little [#permalink]
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Slightly confused but the last 3 (C,D,E) get eliminated basis the meaning itself. A & B are our top contenders.

A) we see it as it was a little over four years ago - It looks fine, let's keep for now.

B) we see it as it had been a little over four years ago - We see it as it "had been" and also implies that since then moon has changed position or characteristic, although wordy, I pick B.

C) we see it as if it was a little over four years ago - Meaning error

D) it appears to us as it did in a little over four years ago - Meaning error

E) it appears to us as though a little over four years ago - Meaning error
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Re: When we look at the star Alpha Centauri, we see it as it was a little [#permalink]
Comes down to A and B (others eliminated because of meaning issues and poor grammar).

A is correct because there does not appear to be a need to use the “past perfect progressive.”

Will post full answer explanation in morning.

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When we look at the star Alpha Centauri, we see it as it was a little [#permalink]
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This problem comes down to following the author’s meaning and watching out for any meaning changes made by the answer choices.

The intended meaning by the author is that when we look at the star now, we are actually looking at the image that appeared 4 years ago. This is because light takes a long time to travel to this far away star.

-C-

“..... we see it as IF it was a little over four years ago...”

This answer choice changes the meaning of the sentence. The meaning in C suggests that we are no longer looking at the star’s image that appeared 4 years ago. We are looking at this star AS IF IT WERE 4 years ago for us.

Perhaps the conditions for us now are the same as they were 4 years ago. Therefore, when we look at the star now, it is AS IF WE were looking at it 4 year ago.

Answer C changes the original meaning. Also, the hypothetical subjunctive following “if” is used incorrectly. For the verb “to be”, the hypothetical subjunctive in such a case takes the form “were.”

“If I WERE king, I would over-tax everyone!”

C is wrong.

-D-

“When we look at the star, it appears to us as it did a little over 4 years ago...”

This answer choice also changes the original meaning of the sentence.

Under one interpretation, the author could be seen as conveying that the star looks the same now as it did when WE LOOKED at it a little over 4 years ago.

We look at the star now. We looked at the star 4 years ago. The star looks the same to us now as it did when we gazed at it 4 years ago.

This is not the intent of the author. He or she is trying to convey the effect the travel of light has on the image we see now. When we look at the star NOW, we actually see the image that appeared 4 years ago.

For this reason D is wrong.



-E-

“When we look at the star, it appears to us AS THOUGH a little over 4 years ago for (because) it took the light that long to get there.”

When we use the phrase “as though” to talk about an event or occurrence, we are speaking in hypothetical terms. We use this phrase when something appears to be the case, but it actually is NOT true.

“Scott spends money AS THOUGH he were a billionaire.”


Again, the use of “as though” in this sentence changes the meaning. The author is not trying to say the star appears to us as though it were 4 years ago. The author is not describing a situation “as it seemed to be” 4 years ago. Instead, the image of the star we see now is the star’s ACTUAL image from 4 years ago.

The image we see today is the ACTUAL image the star portrayed 4 years ago because light takes that long to reach the far-away star.

E is wrong.


-A vs B-

Between A and B, generally if there is not a specific reason to use the past perfect, it is best avoided. This is not a situation where 1 event happened in the past and we need to use the past perfect progressive to accurately convey the order of past events.

We look at this star now and the image we see is the image that actually existed 4 years ago.

There is no reason to change the original sentence.

-A-
Correct Answer
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Re: When we look at the star Alpha Centauri, we see it as it was a little [#permalink]
Can someone help on the meaning conveyed by the sentence?? AndrewN Can you help here.. totally smacked me out of the park
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Re: When we look at the star Alpha Centauri, we see it as it was a little [#permalink]
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warrior1991 wrote:
Can someone help on the meaning conveyed by the sentence?? AndrewN Can you help here.. totally smacked me out of the park


'For it took the light that long' means The light traveling Alpha Centauri to Earth took about four years to get here. That’s 4 light-years, so we see Alpha Centauri as it was 4 years ago.

I hope it's clear. :)
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Re: When we look at the star Alpha Centauri, we see it as it was a little [#permalink]
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The official explanation is here.
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Re: When we look at the star Alpha Centauri, we see it as it was a little [#permalink]
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warrior1991 wrote:
Can someone help on the meaning conveyed by the sentence?? AndrewN Can you help here.. totally smacked me out of the park

It looks as though I am a little late to the party, warrior1991, but I will add my breakdown of the sentence anyway.

generis wrote:
When we look at the star Alpha Centauri, we see it as it was a little over four years ago, for it took the light that long to get here.


There are three main components to the sentence at hand:

1) An introductory (dependent) clause—When we look at the star Alpha Centauri. Since the word star is mentioned, we do not have to know anything about astronomy to qualify what we are looking at. Notice, too, the use of the present tense, look. This can help inform our decision about verb tense in part 2) below.

2) A main (independent) clause—we see it as it was a little over four years ago. It has a clear referent in the star Alpha Centauri, so each use of the pronoun is qualified. Since the earlier, dependent clause used the present tense, the simple past tense was works fine here.

3) A second independent clause, introduced by a conjunction—for it took the light that long to get here. The conjunction for serves in an explanatory because/since capacity. For example, you could say, He ought to do well on the exam, for he studied three hours a day. This is the opposite of the role that the conjunction so plays, which indicates that a conclusion is about to follow instead. Using our sentence from before, He studied three hours a day, so he ought to do well on the exam. The next part of the independent clause in the original sentence that warrants a closer look is it. Here, it is simply a placeholder—i.e. it does not refer to the star. We understand that the star did not travel, but that light from the star traversed space to reach our eyes on Earth (here). In astronomy/physics terms, we can appreciate that Alpha Centauri is four lightyears away.

As difficult as it may seem, this is a simple sentence (well, grammatically compound-complex) that indicates that light from a nearby star took four years to reach our stargazing eyes here on planet Earth.

I hope that helps. Please let me know if you have further questions, and thank you for thinking to ask me about this one.

- Andrew
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Re: When we look at the star Alpha Centauri, we see it as it was a little [#permalink]
Great question. I learned a lot from a minimal collection of words.

I would love to see more questions in which the meaning provided by the answer choice sentences differs from the meaning intended by the author (of course, only if you have time).

I always find these types of questions challenging.

Thank you for that thorough explanation. I copied quite a bit into my notebook.

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Re: When we look at the star Alpha Centauri, we see it as it was a little [#permalink]
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