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Verb modifiers

by nonameee Thu Jun 23, 2011 5:06 am

The SC guide (p. 90):

The weight was lifted to free my leg.

What's wrong with this sentence? To me, it makes perfect sense and doesn't need to have a subject.

Can someone please clarify?

Thank you.
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Re: Verb modifiers

by jnelson0612 Sun Jul 03, 2011 3:46 pm

Yes, you need to include who lifted the weight to free the leg. As the sentence stands right now, it could be me, you, Santa Claus, Cartman, you get the picture. I can't just say that some action was done without saying WHO did the action.
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Re: Verb modifiers

by nonameee Tue Jul 05, 2011 5:11 am

Thanks for your reply. However, I still do not understand why it is important to know who lifted the weight. The original sentence is not a fragment.

For example, the following sentence makes perfect sense (at least to me):

The new policy was approved in March.

So what is the difference between these two sentences?

Thank you.
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Re: Verb modifiers

by jnelson0612 Thu Jul 14, 2011 11:38 am

nonameee wrote:Thanks for your reply. However, I still do not understand why it is important to know who lifted the weight. The original sentence is not a fragment.

For example, the following sentence makes perfect sense (at least to me):

The new policy was approved in March.

So what is the difference between these two sentences?

Thank you.


That's a good question, but I think that there is a difference. We can safely assume that the policy was approved by some sort of committee or governing board, and who approved the policy is not the main idea of the sentence; rather, it is the fact that the policy was approved.

In this case, a weight is lifted from someone's leg and it is unclear who actually did that. It could have been a person lifting the weight or a crane pulling it off the person. There is much more ambiguity about the agent of the action.
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Re: Verb modifiers

by nonameee Sun Jul 17, 2011 5:48 am

OK, but why does it matter to know who or what lifted the weight? If you were the person who had the weight on his leg, would you really care who removed the weight or would you rather be glad that it was removed?

I mean if there is some grammar rule on this subject, could you please point me to it?

Thanks.
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Re: Verb modifiers

by jnelson0612 Sat Aug 06, 2011 7:28 pm

nonameee wrote:OK, but why does it matter to know who or what lifted the weight? If you were the person who had the weight on his leg, would you really care who removed the weight or would you rather be glad that it was removed?

I mean if there is some grammar rule on this subject, could you please point me to it?

Thanks.


True, but if you were a journalist writing about this for a newspaper you would certainly tell your readers who or what lifted the weight, as that is quite relevant to the story.

The general rule would be that if some action occurs in a sentence the sentence should also include the agent of the action.
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Re: Verb modifiers

by nonameee Sun Aug 07, 2011 4:22 am

Jamie, thanks for your reply. I think it's clear know.
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Re: Verb modifiers

by baby4live Fri Aug 26, 2011 3:12 am

so, it is ok to say that "the new policy was approved in march" is correct because "approved" is not a action verb? but in the case of "the weight was lifted to free my leg" is wrong because of the verb "lifted" which is an action verb and therefore needs an agent of the action.
so everytime we see an action verb, there should be an agent of the action. if the verb is not an action verb, it means that the sentence doesnt need an agent.

i just want it to be clear.
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Re: Verb modifiers

by jnelson0612 Fri Oct 07, 2011 10:50 pm

baby4live wrote:so, it is ok to say that "the new policy was approved in march" is correct because "approved" is not a action verb? but in the case of "the weight was lifted to free my leg" is wrong because of the verb "lifted" which is an action verb and therefore needs an agent of the action.
so everytime we see an action verb, there should be an agent of the action. if the verb is not an action verb, it means that the sentence doesnt need an agent.

i just want it to be clear.


Please re-read my second post; it answers your question.
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Re: Verb modifiers

by nonameee Sun Oct 09, 2011 4:09 am

A sentence cast in the passive voice will not always include an agent of the action. For instance if a gorilla crushes a tin can, we could say "The tin can was crushed by the gorilla." But a perfectly good sentence would leave out the gorilla: "The tin can was crushed." Also, when an active sentence with an indirect object is recast in the passive, the indirect object can take on the role of subject in the passive sentence:


For more info go to:
http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/passive.htm

I will try to find some more proof from reputable sources that an agent is not necessary in passive sentences.
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Re: Verb modifiers

by nonameee Sun Oct 09, 2011 4:18 am

Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_passive_voice

In the following excerpt from the 18th-century United States Declaration of Independence (1776), the bold text identifies passive verbs; italicized text identifies the one active verb (hold ) and the copulative verb are:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
In this case, the agent ("the Creator") of the passive construction can be identified with a by phrase. When such a phrase is missing, the construction is an agentless passive. For example, "Caesar was stabbed" is a perfectly grammatical full sentence, in a way that "stabbed Caesar" and "Brutus stabbed" are not. Agentless passives are common in scientific writing, where the agent may be irrelevant (e.g. "The mixture was heated to 300°C").



http://www.sfu.ca/~whitmore/style/order_05.htm

Passive constructions serve a number of useful purposes. First, you can change the emphasis of a sentence by moving the goal to the subject of the sentence. For example, if the topic of a paragraph is a bridge rather than the engineers who built it, you can make the bridge the subject of the sentence by intentionally using a passive construction: The Golden Gate bridge was designed to combine form and function to dramatic effect. Because agents can be omitted, passive constructions are particularly useful when the agent is unknown (The program was written in C++) or when the agent is obvious or unnecessary (The project was finally completed last night).

Because the agent can be omitted, the passive voice also allows you to avoid appearing to blame someone. That is, you can say that a device was damaged without mentioning who damaged it. But you can also use passive constructions to avoid responsibility. That is, you can say that a decision was made without admitting that you made the decision. Unfortunately, if you omit agents without thinking, your readers may assume that you are avoiding responsibility when that is not your intention.

One of the reasons passive sentences are so common in technical and scientific writing is that they allow you to communicate an impression of objectivity. After the experiment was completed, the data was analyzed sounds more objective than After I completed the experiment, I analyzed the data. The notion that scientific objectivity should be reflected in scientific writing may well explain why some writers avoid using active voice and first-person pronouns.

You might also want to question the value of this objectivity in some situations. For example, compare the procedure was changed (a passive construction) with we changed the procedure (its active counterpart). The procedure did not change spontaneously; someone changed the procedure. Who did it may be useful information. Omitting the agent may leave readers wondering who made the change, distracting their attention by raising a question and thus disrupting the flow of information.

Another reason to pay attention to passive constructions is that they can be less clear than active ones. In fact, many writers unconsciously shift to passive sentences when they are unsure of what they are saying or are struggling to express their thoughts. In some cases, if you take a passive sentence and rewrite it as an active one, you will realize that the passive sentence did not express your ideas correctly. If the active sentence is more clear for you as the writer, it will certainly be more clear for readers.
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Re: Verb modifiers

by jnelson0612 Thu Oct 13, 2011 10:50 am

First of all, you have excellent research skills and thank you for providing this. I read the info you posted with interest.

Here's the thing, though: it doesn't matter what might be correct in the English language; for our purposes, we need to know what is likely to be correct on the GMAT. What is likely to be correct on the GMAT is what the GMAT test writers think is correct.

The GMAT likes to test modifiers, and in this case we have a modifier "to free my leg" that does not describe a noun in the sentence. Somebody is doing something "to free my leg". The GMAT people are not going to like this construction, and we know this because our staff have analyzed all the past official GMAT sentence correction problems and determined this to be the case. So sometimes even though you can find other resources that think otherwise, it's best to just accept the way the GMAT test writers think about things for the purposes of taking the GMAT.

You bring up another great issue with active/passive. The GMAT prefers active to passive, and notice that this sentence is in passive wording. If there was an answer choice with active language and no grammatical errors you would need to pick it over the passive wording.

Hoping this helped! :-)
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Re: Verb modifiers

by nonameee Sun Oct 16, 2011 9:57 am

Jamie, thanks for your reply. You are right that active voice is preferable on the GMAT.
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Re: Verb modifiers

by tim Tue Nov 15, 2011 11:55 pm

Exactly. The lesson here is that you think the sentence you presented is grammatically correct, as do I and probably Jamie as well. The problem is that the GMAT doesn’t like it, and no amount of research you can do will change their mind. So if you want a good GMAT score you have to play by their rules even if some other authority disagrees.. :)
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Re: Verb modifiers

by ikuta.yamahashi Wed Dec 19, 2012 11:09 am

Dear instructor:

I notice there is a revision on this point in the new sc stragegy guide.
But I am confused that why this sentence is acceptable?

Below quote is from 5eh Mgmat sc guide book:
Infinitives of purpose can be used with unnamed agents in passive-voice sentences: The weight was lifted to free my leg. Just make sure that whoever does the lifting intends to free my leg. An Infinitive of Purpose needs to indicate the purpose of someone. The boulder rolled to free my leg implies nonsensically that the boulder wanted to free my leg.

As I remember this sentence is a Wrong example in the old version.

Many thanks