About 5 million acres in the United States have been invaded

Question

About 5 million acres in the United States have been invaded by leafy spurge, a herbaceous plant from Eurasia with milky sap that gives mouth sores to cattle, displacing grasses and other cattle food and rendering rangeland worthless.

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

Here’s the sentence structure:

  • About 5 million acres (Main subject: ‘acres’)
    • in the United States (Prepositional phrase modifying the main subject)
  • have been invaded by leafy spurge, (Main Verb: have been invaded)
    • a herbaceous plant (A noun – technically, an appositive – modifying ‘leafy spurge’)
      • from Eurasia (Prepositional phrase modifying ‘plant’)
      • with milky sap (Prepositional phrase modifying ‘plant’)
      • that gives mouth sores to cattle, (relative clause modifying ‘plant’. Subject: that; Verb: gives)
        • displacing grasses and other cattle food (First Verb-ing modifier modifying the previous clause)
        • and rendering rangeland worthless. (Second Verb-ing modifier modifying the previous clause)

The main part of the sentence is that some land (about 5 million acres) in the US have been invaded by a plant (leafy spurge). The plant is from Eurasia and has milky sap. The plant gives mouth sores to cattle, displaces grasses and other cattle foods and (common sensibly) by doing so, renders rangeland worthless.

There are a couple of problems in the original sentence:

  1. ‘displacing grasses and other cattle food’ is presented as a verb-ing modifier modifying the preceding clause ‘that gives mouth sores to cattle’. However, the verb-ing modifier does not provide additional information about the clause. ‘Giving mouth sores to cattle’ is unrelated to (and independent of) ‘displacing grasses and other cattle food’.
  2. The reference of ‘that’ is not very clear. While the clause ‘that gives mouth sores to cattle’ may make sense even if ‘that’ refers to milky sap, the verb-ing ‘displacing grasses…’ will not make sense in such a case since milky sap cannot displace grasses. Ideally, ‘that’ should clearly refer to ‘herbaceous plant’.

Option Analysis

(A) Incorrect. For the issues explained above.

(B) Correct. The option corrects both the problems in the original sentence without introducing any new problem. Since ‘with milky sap’ is enclosed within double commas here, ‘that’ can only refer to ‘herbaceous plant’.

(C) Incorrect. For the following reasons:

  1. Parallelism (Deterministic error): ‘displacing’ is not parallel to anything before ‘and’.
  2. Same as 2nd problem in the original sentence

(D) Incorrect. For the following reasons:

  1. (Deterministic error) There’s no main verb in the sentence. ‘having been invaded’ is a perfect participle (modifier).
  2. Same as 2nd problem in the original sentence

(E) Incorrect. For the following reasons:

  1. (Deterministic error) There’s no main verb in the sentence. ‘having been invaded’ is a perfect participle (modifier).
  2. Since we are presenting a general fact about the ‘herbaceous plant’ and not something true about it currently, we need to use a relative clause with simple present tense (that gives and displaces) rather than the verb-ing form (giving and displacing).

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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