She was less successful after she had emigrated

Question

She was less successful after she had emigrated to New York compared to her native Germany, photographer Lotte Jacobi nevertheless earned a small group of discerning admirers, and her photographs were eventually exhibited in prestigious galleries across the United States.

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

As we read the sentence, we figure out that the sentence presents a comparison of the success one person achieved in two different time periods. It says that:

  • ‘she’ (some ‘she’ – we don’t have an antecedent till now) was less successful after she had emigrated to New York than she had been in her native Germany.

As you can see, while presenting the comparison, I’ve changed a couple of things.

  1. ‘compared to” to “than” – When we have less, more, or other -er words (better, smaller etc), we need ‘than’, instead of ‘compared to’ or other comparison structures, to follow these words.
  2. ‘compared to her native Germany’ to ‘than she had been in her native Germany’ – As is, the original sentence seems to compare ‘she’ with ‘her native Germany’. Clearly, not only the meaning is illogical but it also doesn’t seem to be the intended meaning.

Therefore, while explaining this part of the sentence, I’ve made the above two changes. It also means that these two are the errors that need to be corrected.

As we read further, we see that there’s another independent clause:

  • photographer Lotte Jacobi nevertheless earned a small group of discerning admirers

We have two independent clauses joined by a comma. This is the third error in the sentence.

In addition, since the first part of the sentence is an independent clause, it doesn’t make sense to use the pronoun ‘she’ in it and then introduce the antecedent in the second independent clause. If these two parts are to be presented as two independent clauses, then ideally, the noun should be used in the first independent clause and the pronoun in the second independent clause.

Option Analysis

(A) Incorrect. For the errors explained above.

(B) Incorrect. For the following reasons:

  1. Here, “being less successful” modifies “Lotte Jacobi”. It seems that because (or when) Lotte Jacobi was ‘less successful’, she earned a small group of admirers. Whether we consider it with “when” or “because”, the meaning of the sentence is illogical. If you are wondering from where “when or because” cropped up, look at the below examples:
    1. Being the most qualified in the group, he was the obvious choice for leading the group.
      The above sentence means the same as “Because he was the most qualified, he was the obvious choice…”
    2. Standing on the stage, Tom announced his resignation.
      The above sentence means the same as “When standing on the stage, Tom announced his resignation.”
  1. ‘Less’ followed by ‘compared to’, instead of ‘than’ – Same error as in the original sentence
  2. ‘she’ compared with Germany – Same error as in the original sentence

(C) Correct. “Less successful…” works as an adjective, modifying “Lotte Jacobi”. The sentence now means that Lotte Jacobi was less successful after she emigrated to New York than she had been in Germany. The sentence uses ‘nevertheless’ to present a contrasting information: she earned a small group of admirers. Also, the comparison has been corrected in this option.

(D) Incorrect. For the following reasons:

  1. ‘Less’ followed by ‘compared to’ – Same error as in the original sentence
  2. ‘she’ compared to ‘Germany’ – Same error as in the original sentence

Some people also believe that the use of ‘although’ and ‘nevertheless’ together in this sentence is wrong.

Although we generally don’t use two contrasting words in a sentence, ‘nevertheless’ may at times be used with other contrasting words to emphasize the contrast. For example:

“Volkswagen considers incident an individual case but nevertheless reported it” – WSJ.com

Therefore, we cannot say, with surety, that the use of ‘although’ and ‘nevertheless’ together in a sentence is incorrect.

(E) Incorrect.  For the following reasons:

  1. Incorrect use of past perfect tense – The period “after emigrating to New York” is the latter period, and the period “(when she resided) in Germany” was the earlier period. We should use “simple past” for the latter period and “past perfect” for the earlier period. However, as is, the past perfect has been used for both the periods while there is no simple past in this structure. Therefore, it is an incorrect use of “past perfect”.
  2. “She had been… her native Germany” is an independent clause joined to another independent clause with just a comma. Therefore, this option has a punctuation error.

It is important to note here that this option doesn’t have a comparison error. For example: the below sentence is fine.

She looked more beautiful in the casual wear than in the formal wear.

In the above comparison, the part “she looked” is elided after “than”, and this ellipsis is perfectly fine.

Now, if you have some patience left, I’d like to point out that the below sentence will still not be ‘entirely’ correct:

She was less successful after emigrating to New York than in her native Germany.

Why do I doubt the correctness of the above sentence?

Because the sentence without ellipsis is:

She was less successful after emigrating to New York than she was in her native Germany.

In this sentence, we’re talking about two different time periods, and the sentence would be much clearer in terms of time sequence if we use simple past and past perfect for the different time periods. As is, the sentence uses simple past for both the time periods.

Therefore, I would strongly prefer an option that uses a combination of past perfect and simple past in this sentence.

About Chiranjeev Singh

An Alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad and with a score 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 +91 9971 0010 67 or CJ@GMATwithCJ.com. He conducts online sessions for students across the world.

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