Technically, “quicksand” is the term for sand that is so saturated

Question

Technically, “quicksand” is the term for sand that is so saturated with water as to acquire a liquid’s character.

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

  • Technically, “quicksand” is the term for sand (Main Subject: “quicksand”; Main Verb: “is”)
    • that is (Dependent clause modifier for “sand” – Subject: that; Verb: “is saturated”)
      • so saturated with water as to acquire a liquid’s character. (Modifier explaining how much saturated the sand is with water)

The sentence defines “quicksand”. It is a term for sand saturated to an extent. To what extent? To such an extent that the sand acquires the character of a liquid.

Right now, I don’t have a reason to reject this option. However, I see a prevalent incorrect explanation for rejecting this option. The explanation is that “to acquire” indicates the purpose/intention of “sand”. Since, “sand” cannot have an intention, this option is incorrect.

However, this explanation is incorrect. In this “so x as to verb y” construction, “to verb” doesn’t denote purpose or intention. “to verb y” part indicates the extent of “x”. For example:

  1. The numbers coming out of Exxon Mobil XOM 0.37% were so good as to be slightly embarrassing. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/no-more-ti … 1517589782)
  2. Potential penalties would be so low as to have no relevance for financial markets. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/investor-t … 1536256548)
  3. The company’s descriptions of the partnership dealings were so complicated as to be practically indecipherable. (https://jp.wsj.com/articles/SB1011560211577333280.djm)

In all the above sentences, the subjects of the sentences cannot have an intention. Still, the sentences are correct. There are hundreds of other similar sentences on WSJ.com and NYTimes.com. Unless we consider all these sentences incorrect, we cannot agree with the above explanation.

Option Analysis

(A) Incorrect. Right now, I don’t have a solid reason to reject this option.

(B) Correct. This option seems better than option A. “the character of a liquid” construction seems more formal than “liquid’s character”. 

(C) Incorrect. “enough” word is misplaced. It should come before “water”. The construction should be “that is saturated with enough water to…”.

(D) Incorrect. This construction is inferior to the construction used in options A and B.

(E) Incorrect. “so much” modifies ‘saturated’.  Thus, it is ideal to place “so much” right after “saturated” i.e. ‘saturated so much with water’. Besides, ‘liquid character’ doesn’t necessarily mean the character of a liquid. It could mean a character which is liquid or malleable. Thus, the meaning is distorted in this option. 

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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