Lesson: Modifiers - Part IV

Comment on Modifiers - Part IV

Could the sentence "Francine only drives trucks" also be interpreted as in that Francine is the only person who drives trucks? I thought of this because only can also modify a noun (e.g. Francine) therefore suggesting that this sentence refers to francine being the only person who is allowed to drive. Cheers
gmat-admin's picture

Yes, since "only" is adjacent to both "Francine" and "drives," it's also possible that "only" modifies "Francine" (i.e., Francine is the only person who drives trucks).

gmat-admin's picture

PS: If it were the case that we wanted to convey the fact that Francine is the only person who drives trucks, then we would avoid ambiguity by writing "Only Francine drives trucks."

Great! thanks for your comment!

https://gmatclub.com/forum/the-nephew-of-pliny-the-elder-wrote-the-only-eyewitness-account-of-the-85872.html
confused b/w a and e please explain.
gmat-admin's picture

Question link: https://gmatclub.com/forum/the-nephew-of-pliny-the-elder-wrote-the-only-...

(A) The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius in two letters to the historian Tacitus.
This suggests that the eruption occurred in TWO LETTERS. Since the eruption didn't occur in TWO LETTERS, we can eliminate A.

Notice that it would make sense to write: "...eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius in ITALY"
It also makes sense to write: "...eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius in CE 79"

(E) In two letters to the historian Tacitus, the nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius.
Here, by placing the prepositional phrase "In two letters to the historian Tacitus," at the beginning of the sentence, the phrase correctly modifies the verb WROTE. The phrase tells us WHERE the writing occurred (IN TWO LETTERS)

Cheers,
Brent

Hi Brent,

As you said in your videos about prepositional phrases, they can modify either nouns and verbs.

E)In two letters to the historian Tacitus, the nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius.

Here the closes noun or verb to the prepositional phrase "In two letters to the historian Tacitus" is the noun "nephew of Pliny the Elder". For me to make this sentence completely correct we should place it right after the "wrote"

1) The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote in two letters to the historian Tacitus the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius. (this is still not ideal I think)

2) The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote to the historian Tacitus in two letters the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius. (that is the best option for me)

Could you comment on my newly created two sentences (whether they are better or worse than the original answer E)

Thank you in advance,
gmat-admin's picture

In this sentence, "In two letters to the historian Tacitus," modifies the verb WROTE.
When it comes to verb modifiers, we want to place the modifier close enough to the verb to prevent ambiguity.

For more on this, see: https://www.gmatprepnow.com/module/gmat-sentence-correction/video/1163

In my opinion, having the prepositional phrase at the beginning minimizes any ambiguity.

Your suggested corrections:

1) The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote in two letters to the historian Tacitus the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius.

I'd say there's an ambiguity issue with "Tacitus the only eyewitness account"
Is Tacitus an eyewitness account?

2) The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote to the historian Tacitus in two letters the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius.
I'd say there's an ambiguity issue with "Tacitus in two letters"
Is Tacitus IN two letters?
Similar example: Joe wrote to Sue in Chicago the only eyewitness account.
Here, "in Chicago" tells us more about Sue.

I hope that helps.

Cheers,
Brent

Hi Brent,

Thanks for your time,

I still don't understand what causes those sentences to be wrong according to GMAT standards.

In this second example

2)The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote to the historian Tacitus in two letters the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius.

You are worried about the ambiguity with "Tacitus in two letters" but as you said verb modifier "in two letters" shouldn't be right close to the verb it modifies.

In your example:

"Joe wrote to Sue in Chicago the only eyewitness", "the only eyewitness" is a noun modifier and must be placed after Sue.

And what do you mean by "in Chicago" is Sue in Chicago, or he wrote while being in Chicago? How can you make your example correct?

Thank you for your help in advance
gmat-admin's picture

I never said the verb modifier shouldn't be right close to the verb it modifies.
I said "When it comes to verb modifiers, we want to place the modifier close enough to the verb to prevent ambiguity."

I created the sentence "Joe wrote to Sue in Chicago the only eyewitness account" to show how there could be ambiguity with your proposed sentence: 2) The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote to the historian Tacitus in two letters the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius.

In order to correct the "Chicago" sentence, we need to first agree what "in Chicago" is referring to. Does it refer Joe's location or Sue's location? That said, the sentence was just an attempt to show that "in two letters" could have an ambiguous reference.

As far as the original sentence goes, I think answer choice E best minimizes any ambiguity
(E) In two letters to the historian Tacitus, the nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius.

Cheers,
Brent


https://gmatclub.com/forum/once-numbering-in-the-millions-worldwide-it-is-estimated-that-the-wol-220700.html
please explain confused btw d and e.
gmat-admin's picture

Question link: https://gmatclub.com/forum/once-numbering-in-the-millions-worldwide-it-i...

D) Once numbering in the millions worldwide, wolves have declined to an ESTIMATE of 200,000 in 57 countries, with approximately 11,000 of them to be found in the lower 48 United States and Alaska.
This suggests that the number of wolves decreased to an ESTIMATE.
No good.

E) Once numbering in the millions worldwide, wolves have declined to an estimated 200,000 in 57 countries, some 11,000 of them to be found in the lower 48 United States and Alaska.
This suggests that the number of wolves decreased to 200,000
Makes sense.

Does that help?

Cheers,
Brent

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