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Ambiguous Pronoun Reference

chochochochochocho Posts: 763Registered User Member
Here is a sample question:

An incident that further (A) embittered thet colonists occured in a Boston street when British troops fired on (B) a mob of citizens, killing (C) five and wounding six of them (D).

(E)


I picked (D), because them could refer to either the colonists, British troops, or the citizens. Can anyone explain what I'm missing?
Post edited by chochocho on
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Replies to: Ambiguous Pronoun Reference

  • mathwizmathwiz Posts: 2,355Registered User Senior Member
    What was the answer?

    I guess if it isn't D, than E would be right. "them" refers to the nearest noun, which is the mob of citizens.
  • chochochochochocho Posts: 763Registered User Member
    Oh, E was the answer. So the pronoun always refers to the nearest noun?
  • coin-operated boycoin-operated boy Posts: 25Registered User New Member
    That's generally the case.
    Remember, if you see a pronoun always look for the noun that it is taking the place of (referring to).
    If you can find the noun, you're good to go :)
  • chochochochochocho Posts: 763Registered User Member
    Oh, thanks alot, mathwiz and coin-operated boy xD
  • il banditoil bandito Posts: 859Registered User Member
    What?? A pronoun is ambiguous if it refers to the nearest noun and there are other possible references. How is E the right answer?

    Was this a real SAT question?

    The answer should definately be D. It can refer to any of the 3 nouns mentioned!
  • xiggixiggi Posts: 22,735Registered User Senior Member
    If the answer is E, I would doubt that this is an Official SAT question. It is a perfect example of an ambiguous pronoun.

    Please check the answer again or let us the source of this question.
  • coin-operated boycoin-operated boy Posts: 25Registered User New Member
    yeah, it doesn't really point to any noun....maybe they're expecting you to infer that it points to the nearest noun?
  • fewfdsagdsagfewfdsagdsag Posts: 252Registered User Junior Member
    I would hate to disagree with xiggi, but I think this sentence implies that it was the mob of citizens that was harmed. The last clause modifies the actions of the British. . .Although the pronoun might be ambiguous, it is pretty much common sense that the mob of citizens were the ones hurt. I guess that some of you may argue that we can't mix the burdens of common sense and grammatical rules, but I think ETS pretty much did pretty much intend for the answer to be E, and it's ETS' word that counts.
    I think a more ambiguous sentence would be;

    The colonists' reprisal against the hostile British soldiers caused six of them to die. . .
  • xiggixiggi Posts: 22,735Registered User Senior Member
    Fewfdsagdsag, we would need to be sure that ETS wrote this question ... :)
  • chochochochochocho Posts: 763Registered User Member
    Xiggi, your right--this question is not a TCB question. According to the answer key, it is E.
  • chochochochochocho Posts: 763Registered User Member
    It's my birthday today!--I'll be at Raging Waters!!
  • ShadowOfAnEnigmaShadowOfAnEnigma Posts: 922Registered User Member
    Happy Birthday! Did you just turn 18?
  • Harvard_GeniusHarvard_Genius Posts: 167Registered User Junior Member
    No no no... although SOMETIMES it refers to nearest noun, it is not always the case. The reason this isnt ambiguous is because you need to understand the sentence. If the soldiers fired upon the citizens, then it is pretty obvious that the citizens were the ones injured/killed. Ambiguous pronoun reference generally works only when it is something like "John and Mark went out to eat and he ordered spaghetti". You don't know how did the action here. In the above sentence, you do. Although I can see why you are finding this hard, its hard to tell when ETS is trying to trick you or when they want you to use your common sense. Thats the only thing that makes the writing section so difficult.
  • il banditoil bandito Posts: 859Registered User Member
    Is this pronoun reference not ambiguous because the reference occurs in a modifier of the British troop's action?

    Can someone provide more examples of implied pronoun reference?
  • xiggixiggi Posts: 22,735Registered User Senior Member
    The only thing that is ambiguous and unclear is the question itself. It's a bad question and not worth trying to decipher what the correct answer is.

    PS Even if one assumes that soldiers shot on a mob of citizens, "six of them" could still refer to "colonists."
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