*Her company is outperforming those of her competitors.

*Her company is outperforming the companies of her competitors.

The question is from a Manhattan GMAT book. It says there is lack of number agreement but I cannot figure.


Yet another instance of the GMAT making up the rules of grammar as it goes along, without any reference to what actually happens in the language...

Never mind. The idea is that those somehow stands in for the antecedent word company. It is assumed, therefore, that in order to be grammatical, it must be the same in grammatical number as the antecedent. The antecedent noun company in this instance is singular, the pronoun both is plural, and so this sentence is deemed ungrammatical.

This of course is poppycock. We can always use the words that and those without a following noun so long as the listener can easily identify what (things, not words) they refer to. If you enter "is greater than those of" into a search engine such as Google, you will get about 530 million hits. Enter "is lesser than those of", and you will get another 495 million. In other words you can easily generate over a billion hits using a couple of basic examples, showing this anecdotal 'rule of grammar' to be an outright lie.

Don't let this put you off the GMAT. It is perfectly possible - and very good fun - to try and spot which ridiculous fake rule they are trying to exemplify this time. Good luck!

  • However, it's not guaranteed that those results will be grammatical sentences :-) Nonetheless, I agree with you: "company" isn't the antecedent of "those", and the two sentences are equally grammatical. – Matt Gutting Jun 6 '14 at 18:55
  • No, absolutely agreed :) But even if 50% are it's a staggering figure. Several instances on the first pages were from academic papers... – Araucaria Jun 6 '14 at 19:03
  • 1
    +1, Of course both versions are grammatical. "Her company is outperforming those (where "those" is referring to 'those companies') of her competitors." -- Though, at first, I had thought that both versions might not actually mean what had been intended (in the context that I had originally assumed, which is that she was a worker at a company, not the owner or CEO). – F.E. Jun 6 '14 at 19:15
  • Er, don't you owe someone a lengthy post in another (older) thread? . . . – F.E. Jun 6 '14 at 19:17
  • It's too long if your fingers cramp up and fall off. -- It's too short if you haven't made a convincing argument. :) – F.E. Jun 8 '14 at 19:26

The first sentence is wrong because those must agree in number with the antecedent.

And so, it'd be grammatically correct to say:

Her company is outperforming that of her competitor(s).

Her companies are outperforming those of her competitor(s).

Their companies are outperforming those of their competitor(s).

But ungrammatical to say:

Her company is outperforming those of her competitors.

The solution to make that sentence grammatical is to repeat company.

Her company is outperforming the companies of her competitors.

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