1

Please consider the question below from the GMAT verbal part. I do understand why the phrase "as ... as" is correct. Yet the use of "they are" at the very end seems odd to me.

  1. Book Question: 702

Traffic safety officials predict that drivers will be equally likely to exceed the proposed speed limit as the current one.

A. equally likely to exceed the proposed speed limit as

B. equally likely to exceed the proposed speed limit as they are

C. equally likely that they will exceed the proposed speed limit as

D. as likely that they will exceed the proposed speed limit as

E. as likely to exceed the proposed speed limit as they are

Explanation

B This also offers a nonidiomatic form of comparison.

C The comparison is expressed nonidiomatically. Also, the drivers will be equally likely should be followed by to exceed rather than by that they will exceed. The resulting sentence is wordy and structurally flawed.

D The resulting sentence is wordy and structurally flawed. The idiomatic phrase as x as y is somewhat in use, but as likely that they is awkward, and the comparison is unclear and not parallel.

E Correct. The idiomatic phrase as x as y is properly used, and the comparison is clear and parallel.

Is "Traffic safety officials predict that drivers will be as likely to exceed the proposed speed limit as they are the current one" really grammatical?

  • "Equally" is superfluous in this example. – Mark Hubbard Aug 16 '17 at 15:55
  • You're right ... the answer is wrong. The correct answer should be A, although even A isn't that great a sentence. The person who decided which answer was right and wrote the explanations probably just got the GMAT question from somewhere and used their own judgment. – Peter Shor Aug 16 '17 at 16:41
  • 1
    @Peter Shor I'd not mark it wrong. I'd probably mark (a) wrong though, wanting 'as likely to exceed the proposed speed limit as'. But perhaps 'equally likely to die as to live' is idiomatic in the States. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 16 '17 at 16:43
  • @EdwinAshworth: I guess the question boils down to whether a non-idiomatic comparison or a non-idiomatic ellipsis is more grammatical. The ellipsis sounds worse to me, but there are similar ellipses that sound okay, and similar ellipses that sound horrendous, so I can't really say one way or the other. (A horrendous example: John wants to live in Seattle and Anne wants in Redmond. But is this really that similar?) – Peter Shor Aug 16 '17 at 17:27
  • @Peter Shor 'Traffic safety officials predict that drivers will be as likely to exceed the proposed speed limit as they are the current one.' uses idiomatic (at least in the UK) though very formal language. As regards logic, I'd prefer 'Traffic safety officials predict that drivers will exceed the proposed speed limit as often as they do/exceed the current one.' This eliminates a nasty tautology-or-worse. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 16 '17 at 18:41
1

The answer in the example points out that the sentence involves an as/as comparison. When you use that construction, you want both halves to refer to similar things, or your audience may not understand. The goal is to finish the clause "drivers will be likely."

In A, the first half is "to exceed the proposed speed limit." So far so good. The second half is "the current one" (as it will be in all cases). We have a match between proposed and current speed limits, which is what we want to explain, but that's the only match. Our sentence is left unbalanced.

In B, the first half is the same as A, but we add "they are" to the beginning of the second. We have a complete sentence in the first half, but there's a gap in the second half because there's no verb. Does it make sense? Yes. Is it grammatically correct? Technically, no, you need "as" in the first half.

In C, they replace "to" with "that they." Our first half no longer makes sense.

In D, they replace "equally" with "as," which is a step in the right direction. They also make the same change as in C, so it's wrong.

In E, we now have "as" instead of "equally." The two parts are balanced. The second half starts with "they are," so there's a complete thought in the second part.

This is not a good problem. It throws in "equally" as a red herring. You need to use "as" for the first half or it's "nonidiomatic." The wrong answers are "wordy and structurally flawed" because the original sentence is poorly worded. If the focus is on making the as/as construction work, there shouldn't be this many distractions.

  • "Traffic safety officials predict that drivers will be as likely to exceed the proposed speed limit as they are [to exceed] the current one." So is it really correct to omit "to exceed"? – Ben L Aug 16 '17 at 20:10

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.