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“While new census data reveals that unemployment numbers are more dire than was previously suspected, it is not clear that the forecast for American entrepreneurship is equally alarming. An article in a major national newspaper suggests that the contraction in hiring at existing companies might result in more new companies being founded. College graduates, unable to find traditional jobs, instead opt to start their own businesses. Where a recession may seem an unpropitious time for such a historically risky endeavor, with no better options, would-be entrepreneurs have little to lose. ”

I don't get the last sentence "Where a recession may seem an unpropitious time for such a historically risky endeavor, with no better options, would-be entrepreneurs have little to lose. ” Can someone break the sentence structure and explain the meaning? Thanks.

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  • 3
    The comma after "options" makes no sense.
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 19, 2020 at 0:09
  • Think of “where” as “although.”
    – Xanne
    Jun 19, 2020 at 0:33
  • @HotLicks this is exactly copied from a practice test on a GRE reading
    – Twilight
    Jun 19, 2020 at 0:39
  • 1
    GRE practice tests are often flaky.
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 19, 2020 at 0:54

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The sentence is grammatical and makes sense, it's just that it's slightly difficult to parse.

In the sentence, with no better options is nonessential, parenthetical information.

The following is the essential part of the sentence:

Where a recession may seem an unpropitious time for such a historically risky endeavor, would-be entrepreneurs have little to lose.

In other words, if you're out of work anyway because of the recession, there is no prospect of work in the short term, and doing nothing at all will guarantee you make no money, you might as well try something that could make you money.

If you had a job, you'd be risking losing the money you'd be making from it if you pursued something risky. But since you don't have a job (and can't get one in the current climate), you have only startup costs to lose.


The part of the sentence I omitted doesn't contribute anything other than an aside. The sentence could be rephrased as follows:

Where a recession may seem an unpropitious time for such a historically risky endeavor (with no better options), would-be entrepreneurs have little to lose.

The original version of the sentence encloses it in a pair of parenthetical commas rather than actual parentheses. But because you can't have two commas in a row, if you convert the parentheses into commas, only a single comma appears after options.

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