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In this article, we’ll look at the solution to this GMAT Official guide sentence correction question – The commission acknowledged that no amount of money or staff members can ensure the safety of people who live in the vicinity of a nuclear plant, but it approved the installation because it believed that all reasonable precautions have been taken.

We have analyzed the 5 answer choices and arrived at the correct choice through 3 steps:

1. Meaning analysis
2. Error analysis

General information on this GMAT OG SC question

• Difficulty level – Medium
• 57% of people got this question correct.
• The average time taken to correctly answer this question – 1:18
• Source – GMAT Official Guide [Prep-2000]

1.1 Question

The commission acknowledged that no amount of money or staff members can ensure the safety of people who live in the vicinity of a nuclear plant, but it approved the installation because it believed that all reasonable precautions have been taken.

[Refer to the GMAT Official Guide for options]

1.2 Meaning Analysis

1.2.2 Meaning

The sentence discusses that a commission acknowledged that no amount of money or the quantity of staff at a nuclear plant could guarantee the safety of the people that reside in the surrounding area.  However, the commission approved the building of the plant because it believed the necessary safety measures have been taken.

1.3 Error Analysis

1. Expression Error: The use of “amount of” should only be used to refer to and quantify uncountable nouns, but in the original sentence structure, it refers to the parallel uncountable noun “money” and the countable noun “staff members.”
2. Connection Error: The use of the coordinating conjunction “neither / nor” is preferred in parallel structures that join elements in the negative.

Note: If you believe money is countable because a person can count how much money is spent or that is in the bank, make a note- dollars, and cents are countable nouns, but money is uncountable.  As an uncountable noun, money works in the same way as water and air.

A. no amount of money or staff members

Incorrect: Errors as discussed in the error analysis

B. neither vast amounts of money nor staff members

Incorrect: Modifier Errors:

1. This option repeats the error in the original sentence.  The use of “amounts of” can only refer to and quantify uncountable nouns, and here it continues to quantify the countable noun “staff members.”
2. In addition, the adjective “vast” has been added to this option.  The use of “vast amounts of money” is grammatically and logically correct, but “vast amounts of staff members” is idiomatically incorrect.

C. neither vast amounts of money nor numbers of staff members

Incorrect: The use of “numbers of” is idiomatically incorrect, as used in this sentence.  This expression is the plural form of “number of” and should only be used to mention a plural quantity individually and not collectively. In this sentence, the plural quantity “staff members” is used collectively.

Correct Usage:  “Numbers of “ correct usage examples:

1. Prince charming got the numbers of six different princesses before he met Cinderella.
2. The first graders struggled to remember the numbers of the multiplication table.

D. neither vast amounts of money nor a large staff

Correct: Both the uncountable noun “money” and the countable noun “staff members” have quantifying modifiers and are joined with the proper connector to maintain logical and grammatical parallel structure.

E. no matter how large the staff or how vast the amount of money

Incorrect:

1. Connection Error: This option repeats the connection issue in the original sentence.  The coordinating conjunction neither /nor is preferred in parallel structures that join elements in the negative.
2. Structural Error: This option has added the adverb “how,” which creates an awkward structure that results in the sentence not having a subject that logically connects with the verb “can ensure.”

1.5 Takeaways

1. The use of “amount of” can only be used to quantify uncountable nouns.
2. When joining parallel entities in the negative use neither/nor,  please note whatever follow neither must follow nor and be of the same form.

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