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While depressed property values can hurt some large investors, they

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Re: QOTD: While depressed property values can hurt  [#permalink]

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New post 16 May 2018, 08:34
While depressed property values can hurt some large investors, they are potentially devastating for homeowners, whose equity—in many cases representing a life's savings—can plunge or even disappear.
(B) they can potentially devastate homeowners in that their - Repeated pronouns are presumed to have the same antecedent. In this case, the antecedent for "their" is homeowners, while for "they" it is "property values". For that reason, there is an ambiguity.

Q-In a sentence, should all plural nouns refer to the same antecedent? Similarly, all singular nouns refer to the same antecedent?


AjiteshArun , GMATNinja , mikemcgarry , egmat , sayantanc2k, RonPurewal , DmitryFarber , MagooshExpert, ccooley , GMATNinjaTwo ,other experts -- please enlighten.
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Re: QOTD: While depressed property values can hurt  [#permalink]

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New post 18 May 2018, 09:53
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Skywalker18 wrote:
While depressed property values can hurt some large investors, they are potentially devastating for homeowners, whose equity—in many cases representing a life's savings—can plunge or even disappear.
(B) they can potentially devastate homeowners in that their - Repeated pronouns are presumed to have the same antecedent. In this case, the antecedent for "their" is homeowners, while for "they" it is "property values". For that reason, there is an ambiguity.

Q-In a sentence, should all plural nouns refer to the same antecedent? Similarly, all singular nouns refer to the same antecedent?

Good question! Though I'm not sure that you'll like my answer much. :)

In most cases, you're right: it seems like a bad idea to use a repeated pronoun to refer to two different antecedents, especially if the repeated pronouns are very close to each other. And in this particular sentence, I think you're right that the pronouns are ambiguous -- and there's obviously a better version in another answer choice.

The trouble is, I think it's dangerous to consider this an absolute rule. Imagine, for example, a long, wordy sentence like this one:

    Wilbur ate four dozen burritos on Saturday, mostly because they were relatively small and filled with his favorite ingredient, roasted caterpillars; because they are high and protein and low in fat, caterpillars are considered a delicacy in many parts of the world.

(That might be the most ridiculous sentence I've written this week, though there are a couple of species of caterpillar that truly are tasty...)

Anyway, I'd argue that "they" is perfectly clear in both cases, even though "they" refers to two different antecedents. Technically, there might arguably be some ambiguity here, but it doesn't get in the way of the meaning or clarity of the sentence, and I don't think the GMAT would have a problem with the sentence (other than the content, maybe).

More broadly: pronoun ambiguity isn't an absolute rule, anyway. So you're right to be SUSPICIOUS of repeated pronouns, because they easily could cause ambiguity. But be a little bit careful not to turn it into a rigid rule, because it seems entirely possible that repeated pronouns could correctly refer to different antecedents, depending on the context. And I suspect that if we look hard enough, we'll find a few correct answers on official GMAT questions with "they" (or "it") referring to two different antecedents.

I hope this helps!
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Re: While depressed property values can hurt some large investors, they  [#permalink]

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New post 03 Nov 2018, 09:51
GMATNinja wrote:
It's pronoun week here in the verbal forum! For those of you who missed it, we went through this question -- and three other pronoun-related SC questions -- in our live YouTube session this past Monday. The video is available here.

Quote:
(A) they are potentially devastating for homeowners, whose

This looks pretty good. On the surface, you could argue that "they" is ambiguous: it could refer back to "investors" or "depressed property values." But as we've discussed in another recent QOTD, "they" is the subject of the second clause in the sentence, and it can refer unambiguously to the subject of the first clause ("depressed property values"). So let's keep (A).

Quote:
(B) they can potentially devastate homeowners in that their

"They" is quietly perfectly OK here (see above), but "their" is a problem: does it refer back to "homeowners"? Or does "their" refer back to "they", which refers back to "depressed property values"? Murky stuff.

There's also no reason to use "in that their", when we could use the much clearer modifier "whose." And "can potentially" is redundant. So (A) is definitely better than (B).

Quote:
(C) for homeowners they are potentially devastating, because their

The first "they" is in a funny position now, so it's less obvious that refers back to "depressed property values." But let's assume that it does refer to "depressed property values." Then "their" starts to become a problem, because it could easily refer back to "they", which refers back to "depressed property values". Again, this isn't necessarily the end of the world, but (A) is much, much clearer.

Quote:
(D) for homeowners, it is potentially devastating in that their

Oh good: a straight elimination. "It" has no referent. I'm happy. (D) is gone.

Quote:
(E) it can potentially devastate homeowners, whose

Same pronoun issue as (D), plus "can potentially" is redundant. So (E) is gone, too. (A) is the winner.



Hello GMATNinja -

Could you kindly explain the reason for below remark on choice "c" -
{The first "they" is in a funny position now, so it's less obvious that refers back to "depressed property values." But let's assume that it does refer to "depressed property values." }

In choice C as well , "They" is the subject of the 2nd clause. So is't "They" still refer to the subject of 1st clause unambiguously. Is the Placement of the phrase "for homeowner" in front of the subject of such effect that we can't apply the pronoun rule (sub of 2nd clause unambiguously refers to sub of 1st clause) here.

Kindly help.

Thank You -
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Re: While depressed property values can hurt some large investors, they  [#permalink]

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New post 03 Nov 2018, 13:53
This question has repeatedly troubled me. Now that I am seeing it after a break, let me attempt again.

"it" is not the correct pronoun for "properties" so D and E can go.
In C, the position of "they" is quite awkward; "their" has pronoun abiguity.
Between A and B now.
In B as well, "their" has pronoun ambiguity.
A seems good because "they" clearly refers to "depressed property values" and "whose" clearly refers to "homeowners". Conveys the meaning properly.
I will go with A.
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Re: While depressed property values can hurt some large investors, they  [#permalink]

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New post 20 Nov 2018, 22:36
madhukaramar wrote:
In choice C as well , "They" is the subject of the 2nd clause. So is't "They" still refer to the subject of 1st clause unambiguously. Is the Placement of the phrase "for homeowner" in front of the subject of such effect that we can't apply the pronoun rule (sub of 2nd clause unambiguously refers to sub of 1st clause) here.

Kindly help.

Thank You -
Madhukar

Great question! And the answer is that the tendency for a subject pronoun to refer back to the subject of the previous clause isn't really a hard rule. It's just the most logical way for that pronoun to function. For example, "After the neighbor's dogs pee all over my carpet, they seem to taunt me with a victory dance." "They" refers to "neighbor's dogs" because it makes sense for the same subject to have performed both actions, not because I'm blindly applying a grammar rule.

However, watch what happens when I introduce the second clause with an additional plural noun: "After the neighbor's dogs pee all over my carpet, with encouragement from my sociopathic cats, they seem to taunt me with a victory dance." This construction isn't wrong, but it's easy to imagine a reader having to work a little harder to rule out the possibility that "they" now refers to "cats." It just isn't quite as clear as the previous example.

But ultimately, you're right. Even if the antecedent of "they" is little bit less clear in (C) than in (A), we'd prefer to eliminate an answer by using a more concrete error. The more definitive problem with (C) is that "their" seems to refer to "property values" rather than "homeowners." This is illogical.

I hope that helps clarify things!
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Re: While depressed property values can hurt some large investors, they  [#permalink]

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New post 19 Nov 2019, 17:29
(B) they can potentially devastate homeowners in that their

Did not understand why B is wrong? I don't think awkward is a good way to eliminate B.
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Re: While depressed property values can hurt some large investors, they  [#permalink]

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New post 22 Nov 2019, 08:29
akash7gupta11 wrote:
(B) they can potentially devastate homeowners in that their

Did not understand why B is wrong? I don't think awkward is a good way to eliminate B.

akash7gupta11, have you tried reviewing this post?
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Re: While depressed property values can hurt some large investors, they   [#permalink] 22 Nov 2019, 08:29

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