Travelers from Earth to Mars would have to endure low levels of gravity

Question

Travelers from Earth to Mars would have to endure low levels of gravity for long periods of time, avoiding large doses of radiation, plus contending with the chemically reactive Martian soil, and perhaps even ward off contamination by Martian life-forms.

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

  • Travelers (Main Subject)
    • from Earth to Mars (Prepositional phrase modifying the Main Subject)
  • would have to (Main Verb: ‘would have to’)
    • endure low levels of gravity (‘to endure’ is an infinitive modifying the verb)
      • for long periods of time, (prepositional phrase modifying ‘endure’)
    • avoiding large doses of radiation, (Should be parallel to ‘endure’)
    • plus contending with the chemically reactive Martian soil, (Should be parallel to ‘endure’)
    • and perhaps even ward off contamination by Martian life-forms. (‘ward off’ is parallel to ‘endure’)

The sentence seems to say that travelers would have to do four things. However, these four things are not mentioned in a parallel form. Rather, the way the sentence is written, it seems that ‘avoiding’ is a comma+verb-ing modifier for the preceding clause. However, clearly, such a structure wouldn’t make sense since ‘avoiding..’ is not providing additional information about the preceding clause. On closer analysis, we can see that ‘avoiding..’ part should ideally be parallel to ‘endure’ part since both communicate something that travelers will have to do. Similarly, ‘contending’ needs to be parallel to ‘endure’. ‘ward off’ is already parallel to ‘endure’.

The problem in the sentence, as mentioned above, is the lack of parallelism. Besides, the use of ‘plus’ is redundant.

Option Analysis

(A) Incorrect. For the reasons mentioned above.

(B) Correct. This option corrects the problems in the original sentence without introducing any new error.

(C) Incorrect. For the following reasons:

  1. While ‘having to’ structure is not incorrect grammatically, from the meaning standpoint this structure distorts the sentence since ‘endure’ part must be parallel to ‘avoid’ part.
  2. “contending” is not parallel to anything. Taking it to be a comma+verb-ing modifier for the preceding clause would completely distort the meaning of the sentence. Besides, if we take it to be such a modifier, the use of ‘plus’ will be incorrect.

(D) Incorrect. For the following reasons:

  1. First error of option C
  2. The ‘plus’ is redundant.
  3. There is no other in this option if we read ‘having to endure… time’ as one entity and ‘avoid’, ‘contend’, and ‘ward off’ as three verbs. However, there is another way to read this sentence in which ‘endure’, ‘avoid’, ‘contend’, and ‘ward off’ are parallel. In this way, the sentence doesn’t have a verb.

(E) Incorrect. For the following reasons:

  1. If we read the sentence in a way that ‘endure’, ‘avoid’, ‘contend’, and ‘ward off’ are parallel, the sentence doesn’t have a main verb. If we read ‘who would have to…time’ as a separate modifier and ‘avoid’, ‘contend’, and ‘ward off’ as three verbs, the sentence is grammatically correct (except for the second error mentioned below) though meaning-wise inferior since from the meaning standpoint, ‘endure’ should be parallel to ‘avoid’, ‘contend’, and ‘ward off’.
  2. The ‘with’ in ‘contend with’ is incorrect since ‘with’ is also there in the non-underlined part. With this option, the sentence will have ‘contend with with the chemically reactive Martian soil’.

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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