A few weeks back, we wrote a post busting some Sentence Correction myths. Let’s continue from where we left. We discussed how we can have pronouns referring to different antecedents in different clauses of the same sentence. Let’s take another example illustrating that principle. Also, we learn how to use ‘being’ correctly in GMAT.
Myth 3: Use of ‘being’ is always wrong on GMAT!
Often, the way we use ‘being’ in our day-to-day communication, is incorrect. For example,
Being a doctor, he is very well respected.
But there are correct ways of using ‘being’. Since most students believe that ‘being’ is wrong, don’t trust the GMAC to not use this nugget of information to misdirect the test takers. The correct answers of questions at higher ability are worded in such a way that they make the test takers uncomfortable!
So how is ‘being’ used correctly?
‘Being’ is used to express a temporary state.
The little boy started screaming when he saw his dog being impounded.
‘Being impounded’ is a temporary state and would be over – unlike being a doctor. So the use of being is correct here.
Let’s look at one of our own sentence correction questions now:
Question: The data being collected in the current geological survey are providing a strong warning for engineers as they consider the new dam project, but their greatest importance might lie in how they influence the upcoming decision by those same engineers on whether to retrofit 75 bridges in the survey zone.
A. The data being collected in the current geological survey are providing a strong warning for engineers as they consider the new dam project, but their greatest importance
B. The data being collected in the current geological survey provide a strong warning for engineers as they consider the new dam project, but its greatest importance
C. The data collected in the current geological survey is providing a strong warning for engineers as they consider the new dam project, but their greatest importance
D. The data collected in the current geological survey provides a strong warning for engineers in consideration of the new dam project, but its greatest importance
E. The data collected in the current geological survey provide a strong warning for engineers in consideration for the new dam project, but the greatest importance
Solution: Let’s find the decision points:
First decision point: being collected vs collected
‘The data being collected’ is a temporary state here. Data won’t always be collected, but are being collected for a short time right now, so ‘being’ is used properly here. And the sentence makes it very clear that this is temporary; look at the word ‘current’ before ‘geological survey.’ If you were skeptical of the word ‘being’ before, that is understandable, but the word ‘current’ should serve as a clear warning that this is a temporary, ongoing event. (And furthermore, the non-underlined portion talks about an upcoming decision, even further cementing the idea that this is a temporary survey with data ‘being’ collected for a short period of time). Alas, even with that temporary state, there isn’t really anything wrong with ‘The data collected in …’ either so we retain all answer options.
It’s worth noting that they put the ‘being collected’ vs. ‘collected’ decision early in the sentence/answer-choices as a great place to put a ‘false decision point.’ The authors of these questions know that they want to reward emphases on logical meaning and core grammar rules, and they also know that students like to study quick tips and tricks, so they leave that bait there for the tips/tricks folks while they hold off the bigger reward for those willing to prioritize decision points from most important to least and not just from left to right in order of appearance.
Second decision point: are/is
Technically, data is plural of datum. In academic writing it is almost always treated as plural. It is treated as singular in informal writing but GMAT favors treating it as plural.
Even if you do not know this, the use of “they influence the upcoming” – in the portion of the sentence that is not underlined – should tell you that ‘data’ is used in plural form here.
Hence the use of ‘are’ is appropriate. Hence, options (C) and (D) are eliminated.
Third decision point: Pronouns
There are many pronouns used here. Antecedent of each pronoun is present in the sentence. The usage clarifies which pronoun refers to data and which refers to engineers.
Original Sentence: The data being collected in the current geological survey are providing a strong warning for engineers as they consider the new dam project, but their greatest importance might lie in how they influence the upcoming decision by those same engineers on whether to retrofit 75 bridges in the survey zone.
they – only engineers can consider the new dam project so ‘they’ refers to engineers
their/its – greatest importance will be of data, which is plural, so ‘their’ would be the correct usage. Eliminate option (D)
There is no ambiguity in the use of pronouns. The nouns are present and the usage clarifies the antecedent.
Now we are left with options (A) and (E). In option (E), “in consideration for the new dam project” is bad diction. Also, it doesn’t tell us ‘whose greatest importance?’.
Answer is (A)
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