In 1713, Alexander Pope began his translation of the Illiad

Question

In 1713, Alexander Pope began his translation of the Illiad, a work that, taking him seven years until completion, and that literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced the greatest translation in any language.

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

Let’s look at the sentence structure:

  • In 1713,
  • Alexander Pope began his translation of the Illiad,
    • a work
      • that, taking him seven years until completion,
      • and that literary critic Samuel Johnson, Pope’s contemporary, pronounced the greatest translation in any language.

In 1713, Alexander Pope began his translation of the Illiad. The sentence then presents a Noun + Noun modifier modifying “translation”. The modifier first refers to “translation” using the Noun “work”. Then, the noun modifier consists of two parallel relative clauses. Essentially, the sentence wants to say that this translation took seven years to complete and that Samuel Johnson pronounced this translation the greatest translation in any language.

The sentence has the following errors:

  1. First “that” clause doesn’t have a verb. “Taking” is acting as a verb-ing modifier, in the absence of a helping verb.
  2. When we want to express the time an activity took to complete, we should use “time to complete” rather than “time until completion”.

Please note that in the second “that” clause, “that” is acting as the object in the clause. The subject is “Samuel Johnson”; the verb is “pronounced”; the object is “that”, which refers to “work”, which in turn refers to “translation”. In the below sentences as well, “that” is used as an object:

  1. All the toys that Amy bought were made of plastic.
  2. The book that you are reading is a bestseller.

A lot of times when “that” acts as an object in the clause, “that” is skipped. The below sentences are also correct.

  1. All the toys Amy bought were made of plastic.
  2. The book you are reading is a bestseller.

Option Analysis

(A) Incorrect. For the reasons mentioned above.

(B) Correct. Both the errors of the original sentence have been corrected without introducing any new errors.

(C) Incorrect. For the following reasons:

  1. The use of past perfect “had taken” is incorrect. Since this action took place after the action of “beginning”, which is expressed in simple past (began), it cannot be expressed using past perfect.
  2. The use of “it” is incorrect. “that” acts as the object in the second “that” clause. “it” creates redundancy.
  3. The structure “pronounced X Y” is preferred over “pronounced X as Y”.

(D) Incorrect. For the following reasons:

  1. “until completion” is not recommended in the given context, as explained in the sentence analysis.
  2. Error no. 2 of option C
  3. In this option, “a work” refers to the activity of translation (translating) and not the final product (translation). While we can say that the activity took seven years to complete, we cannot say that the activity was pronounced the greatest translation. Therefore, the given structure leads to illogical meaning.
  4. The structure “pronounced X Y” is preferred over “pronounced X as Y”.

(E) Incorrect. For the following reasons:

  1. Error no. 1 of option C
  2. “literary critic…” begins another independent clause, which is not joined properly with the previous independent clause. There needs to be a comma before “and” for correct punctuation.
  3. Since “translation” doesn’t exist as a noun in the sentence, there is no logical antecedent for “it”.

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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