Between 14,000 and 8,000 B.C. the ice cap that covered northern Asia

Question

Between 14,000 and 8,000 B.C. the ice cap that covered northern Asia, Europe, and America began to melt, uncovering vast new areas that were to be occupied by migrating peoples moving northward.

Option A
Option B
Option C
Option D
Option E

(This question is from Official Guide. Therefore, because of copyrights, the complete question cannot be copied here. The question can be accessed at GMAT Club)

Solution

Sentence Analysis

  • Between 14,000 and 8,000 B.C. (Prepositional phrase modifying the main verb)
  • the ice cap (Main Subject)
    • that covered northern Asia, Europe, and America (Dependent clause modifying ‘ice cap’. Subject: that; Verb: covered)
  • began to melt, (Main Verb: began)
    • uncovering vast new areas (Comma+Verb-ing modifier modifying the main clause)
      • that were to be occupied by migrating peoples moving northward. (Dependent clause modifying ‘areas’ – Subject: that; Verb: ‘were to be occupied’)

The sentence says that sometime in the past, some ice cap began to melt and that this melting uncovered vast new areas. These areas were eventually occupied by migrating people moving northward.

The sentence is correct as is.

Option Analysis

(A) Correct.

(B) Incorrect. The use of ‘to uncover’ nonsensically suggests that the ice cap began melting with an intention to uncover vast new areas.

(C) Incorrect. This construction suggests that the ice cap began to uncover new areas by melting. However, the ‘uncovering’ was not a direct action of the ice cap; it was just a result of melting of ice caps.

(D) Incorrect. This option nonsensically suggests that after melting, ice cap began uncovering new areas. Did the ice cap exist after melting?!!

Besides, the use of present tenses ‘are to be occupied’ seems nonsensical here since it indicates that those areas will be occupied in the future (from now). In these thousands of years, these areas have not been occupied, and we are making a prediction that these areas will be occupied by a particular type of people. This doesn’t make sense.

(E) Incorrect. Same error as in option C. The verb tense ‘would begin’ is fine; it indicates that we are narrating (from an observer perspective) what happened in that period.

An observation from this question is that the verb-ing ‘uncovering’ does not make sense with the subject ‘ice cap’: ice cap didn’t do the action of ‘uncovering’. ‘Uncovering of the areas’ happened on its own as a direct consequence of ‘melting’. Thus, we can learn from this question that in ‘comma+verb-ing structure’, verb-ing doesn’t need to always make sense with the subject as long as it provides a direct consequence of the action of the clause.

If you have any doubts regarding any part of this solution, please feel free to ask in the comments section.

About Chiranjeev Singh

An Alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad and with scores of 780 (2017) and 770 (2013) on GMAT and 99.98%ile on CAT, Chiranjeev is one of the most qualified GMAT tutors in India. Chiranjeev has earlier served as Director of Curriculum at e-GMAT. Chiranjeev has been helping students ace GMAT since 2012. He follows a concept-based methodology to teaching GMAT and is very committed to student success. You may contact him for any private GMAT tutoring needs at CJ@GMATwithCJ.com. He conducts online sessions for students across the world.

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