Not trusting themselves to choose wisely among the wide array

Question

Not trusting themselves to choose wisely among the wide array of investment opportunities on the market, stockbrokers are helping many people who turn to them to buy stocks that could be easily bought directly.

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

  • Not trusting themselves (Beginning verb-ing modifier modifying the subject)
    • to choose wisely (modifies “trusting”)
      • among the wide array of investment opportunities on the market, (modifies “choose”)
  • stockbrokers are helping many people (Main clause. Subject – Stockbrokers; Verb – are helping)
    • who turn to them to buy stocks (Relative clause modifying “people”)
      • that could be easily bought directly. (relative clause modifying “stocks”)

As is, the sentence says that stockbrokers don’t trust themselves to choose wisely among the investment opportunities in the market and that they are helping many people who come to them to invest!

Clearly, there seems to be a problem with the sentence. If we did intend to say that stock brokers don’t trust themselves even though they help others, then we should have presented this information using contrast words, not a verb-ing modifier providing additional information about the clause. It seems that the initial verb-ing modifier needs to modify “people”, who don’t trust themselves to choose wisely and thus turn to stockbrokers for help.

The use of conditional “could” (“could” can either serve as the past tense or conditional form of “can”. Here, clearly, we are not talking about the past) is correct here since the part using “could” is presenting a hypothetical situation (In reality, the people are not buying directly).

Also, note that “not” (acting as an adverb) before “trusting” is modifying “trusting” (an adjective). We can have adverbs modify verb-ing modifiers. For example: “completely trusting”, “more trusting than…”, “Rarely trusting” etc

The interesting thing about this sentence is that it has only a meaning error, no grammatical error.

Option Analysis

(A) Incorrect. For the meaning error explained above.

(B) Incorrect. For the following reasons:

  1. Same meaning error as in option A
  2. The use of tense “could have bought” is incorrect given the present tense “are helping” of the main clause. “could have bought” refers to a condition that has already happened. For example: when I say “I could have bought a pen”, it means that I didn’t buy the pen. Right?
    Now, in the sentence, we are not talking about a past event that did not happen. We want to say that these stocks could easily be bought currently in the market. People are coming for help in buying such stocks. Therefore, we need to use “could be bought”.

(C) Incorrect. For the following reasons:

  1. When ‘help’ is used as a noun, as in the given sentence, the correct structure is “help in verb-ing”; “help to verb” is incorrect. Therefore, “help to buy” is incorrect. Also, remember that the same rule holds for “aid”, which also means “help”. Refer this question for the same rule using “aid”.
  2. “from them” is redundant. These words do not add any value to the sentence.

(D) Incorrect. For the following reasons:

  1. Error no. 1 of option C
  2. Similar to error no. 2 of option B
  3. The placement of “easily” before “could” is inappropriate.

(E) Correct. In addition to correcting the error in the original sentence, this sentence is also better than the original sentence in that it clearly communicates “help in what”. The original sentence said that stockbrokers are helping people, but it didn’t specify directly “helping in what”. The point I’m trying to make here is that this option is better even in terms of overall clarity of the meaning. I think it may help to know such subtleties in difficult questions. Besides, it’s fun to do such hair-splitting -:P

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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