Question

Since the 1930’s aircraft manufacturers have tried to build airplanes with frictionless wings, shaped so smoothly and perfectly that the air passing over them would not become turbulent.

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

  • Since the 1930’s (Prepositional phrase – modifies the verb ‘have tried’)
  • aircraft manufacturers have tried (Main Subject – ‘aircraft manufacturers’; Main Verb – ‘have tried’)
    • to build airplanes with frictionless wings, (infinitive – modifies the verb)
      • shaped (verb-ed modifier – modifies either ‘airplanes’ or ‘wings’)
        • so smoothly and perfectly (adverbs – modify ‘shaped’)
        • that the air passing over them would not become turbulent. (clause acting as an adverb – modifies ‘smoothly and perfectly’)

One ambiguity in the sentence is that it’s not clear what the modifier ‘shaped’ modifies; it can modify either ‘wings’ or ‘airplanes’. Even though I wouldn’t call this a major error in the sentence, it’s indeed a deficiency.

The second issue with the sentence is that both ‘smoothly’ and ‘perfectly’ modify ‘shaped’. It makes much more sense to say that the wings are smooth than to say that the wings are shaped smoothly.

Option Analysis

(A) Incorrect. For the reasons mentioned above.

(B) Correct. Many people reject this option since “wings, wings” seems unacceptably awkward. However, “wings” after comma begins a Noun+Noun modifier (or an absolute phrase). This Noun+Noun modifier modifies “wings” before the comma. The meaning communicated here is that the wings are smooth and shaped perfectly. Thus, the meaning corrects the second problem of the original sentence.

(C) Incorrect. Both issues present in the original sentence are present in this option as well. This option has an additional deterministic error that the adjectives “smooth” and “perfect” are used to modify the verb-ed modifier “shaped”. We need adverbs (“smoothly” and “perfectly”) to modify a verb-ed modifier.

(D) Incorrect. This option has both issues present in the original sentence.

(E) Incorrect. This option repeats the second issue of the original sentence. This option has an additional issue. “Having been shaped” is a perfect participle. Thus, it presents an action that happened earlier than another action. In this context, this means that the action of “shaping” happened before the action of “trying to build”. This is completely illogical.

This solution was created by Anish Passi and Chiranjeev Singh.

If you have any doubts regarding any part of this solution, please feel free to ask in the comments section.

  • Milan says:

    I dont think the sentence will be correct, because the second error still exists. Smoothly still modifies shaped, whle it should modify wings.

  • Badari Mahesh says:

    that the air passing over them would not become turbulent. (clause acting as an adverb – modifies ‘smoothly and perfectly’)

    Isnt this clause a dependent clause ? with structure
    IC Subordinate conjunction DC

    What is the rule/ check to find that the above clause is an adverbal clause modifying the ‘smoothly and Perfectly’ and not a dependent clause ?

  • jaskiran says:

    Thank you great explanation sir. Just one small doubt:
    If lets say there is no comma before shaped –
    “Since the 1930’s aircraft manufacturers have tried to build airplanes with frictionless wings shaped so smoothly and perfectly that the air passing over them would not become turbulent.”

    What does shaped modify in this case? Will the sentence be correct?

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