Correct the bold section of the sentence:

Federal Legislation establishing a fund for the cleanup of the sites damaged by toxic chemicals permits compensating state governments for the damage to their natural resources, but does not allow claims for injury to people.

A. compensating state government for damage to
B. compensating state government for the damage of
C. giving state governments compensation for damaging
D. giving compensation to the state government for the damage of
E. the giving of compensation to state governments for damaging

  • Is this a schoolwork question? For what it's worth, none of the alternatives are necessarily better than the original, which is perfectly grammatical. – Andrew Leach Apr 18 '13 at 7:27
  • Yeah, it's for my brother. I thought so, too, which is why I was confused. – Kaiser Octavius Apr 18 '13 at 7:38

Because the question uses their in "their natural resources", governments needs to be plural. Thus A, B and D can be rejected.

C and E both use for damaging, which indicates that the person giving the compensation is the person who did the damage. This is unlikely to be the case in a Federal scheme.

None of the alternatives are suitable.

The original sentence, "compensating state governments for the damage to" is perfectly acceptable: it's normal to use the -ing form of the verb; governments needs to be plural; for indicates what the compensation is for; and damage to is preferable to damage of.

If, however, having rejected A, B and D, we accept that either C or E must be chosen, then "the giving of compensation to state governments" is not as good as the shorter "giving state governments compensation". They mean exactly the same thing. Thus I would prefer C over E.

I suspect the required answer is E, though. But it does not say what the original sentence says, because of the use of damaging rather than the general damage.

  • A good point, Andrew, that if "their" is to be retained, then on that basis alone "governments" is the required form. – John M. Landsberg Apr 18 '13 at 21:26

The two phrases that use "state government" are not accurate, because if you don't use the plural version of "government," you are referring to "government" as a concept, as in, "State government is an essential part of the way this country works." So you want to use the plural, because you are talking about compensation to any specific government of any specific state in need of this compensation; individual, possibly multiple, governments.

"For damaging" would imply that the entity giving the compensation was also the entity causing the damage, which may or may not be the case, in fact, but which is definitely not intended as part of the legislation. The legislation will give compensation for toxic chemical damage no matter where it originated or who caused it, and the legislation certainly does not intend to imply that the federal government caused it (whether they did or not).

"The giving of compensation" is unnecessarily elongated and pompous, and so is literally not incorrect, but would generally be discouraged because it is less clear, less direct, and less efficient.

"Damage of" is a nonstandard usage. "Damage to" is strongly preferred.

Therefore, none of your examples is really ideal, in my opinion. I would suggest that the first one comes closest, if you only pluralize "government" to "governments," resulting in "compensating state governments for damage to." (Other versions can work, but if we're sticking close to your examples, this is the best choice.)

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