Yellow jackets number among the 900 or so species of the world's social wasps, wasps living in a highly cooperative and organized society where they consist almost entirely of females—the queen and her sterile female workers.
(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)
The interesting thing about this sentence is that it uses ‘number’ as a verb. It says that Yellow Jackets (some animals or insects probably) are among the approx. 900 species of world’s social wasps. The sentence then presents a Noun+Noun modifier. This modifier, in this sentence, modifies the preceding noun ‘world’s social wasps’. It says:
- world's social wasps, wasps living in a highly cooperative and organized society where they consist almost entirely of females—the queen and her sterile female workers.
Some people may find the repetition of ‘wasps’ problematic. However, it is not. Noun+Noun modifiers work in this way; they repeat a noun and then provide additional information about it with a modifier. For example:
- XYZ, a man known for generosity of spirit, served the humanity till his last breath.
In the above sentence, ‘a man known for generosity of spirit’ is a Noun+Noun modifier (Noun is ‘a man’; the modifier is ‘known for generosity of spirit’). As you can see, the modifier begins with ‘a man’. One can always argue that we already know My. XYZ is a man, but this is how this modifier works.
So, first of all the use of ‘wasps’ after the comma is absolutely fine. After ‘wasps’ begins the modifier for ‘wasps’. It is a verb-ing modifier, and it says that these wasps live in a highly cooperative and organized society which consists almost entirely of females. Then, it presents more information about females; the females consist of the queen and her sterile female workers.
There are two problems with the underlined part:
- ‘where’, in GMAT, is almost exclusively reserved for physical places and thus cannot be used for figurative places. Therefore, ‘where’ cannot be used to refer to society.
- We can understand that by using ‘where they’, the sentence essentially wants to say that the society consists almost entirely of females. We can say the same much more clearly by saying “society which consists of …”.
(A) Incorrect. For the errors described above.
(B) Correct. “where they” has been correctly replaced by verb-ing modifier “consisting”. The sentence now has no errors.
(C) Incorrect. For the following reasons:
- “which”, on GMAT, always (at least till now) refers to a preceding noun. So, it can refer to ‘wasps’ or ‘species’. In either case, the sentence won’t make sense since neither ‘wasps’ nor ‘species’ means they live…
Also, even if take ‘which’ to refer to the entire preceding clause (the way it is sometimes used in everyday language), the sentence will mean very differently. The sentence then means that
- the fact ‘Yellow Jackets are among the species of world’s social wasps’ means that they live in such and such society.
It doesn’t seem to be the intended meaning.
- The end part ‘almost all females” doesn’t mean anything.
(D) Incorrect. For the following reasons:
- Error no. 1 of Option C
- ‘cooperative’ and ‘organized’ constitute one list. They need to be joined by ‘and’.
- The part after ‘and’ says that the society is almost entirely females. The society is not females! The society consists of females. Right?
(E) Incorrect. This option changes the Noun+Noun modifier into a verb-ing modifier, which is preceded by a comma. So, this verb-ing modifier modifies the preceding clause and needs to make sense with the subject of the clause. The verb-ing modifier makes sense with the subject of the preceding clause (we can say that Yellow Jackets live in a society that is …). However, the verb-ing modifier doesn’t seem to provide information relevant to the preceding clause. Besides, the sentence now mean different from the original sentence. In the original sentence, all world’s social wasps live in this kind of society. Per this option, only Yellow Jackets live in this kind of society.
This option is incorrect for the following reasons:
- The use of ‘verb-ing’ modifier is incorrect, as explained above.
- Error no. 2 of option D
- The part after ‘and’ says “it consists of almost all females”, meaning that the society consists of all the females (on earth or in the universe). Clearly, illogical. This part should have said “consists entirely of females”.