------------ without their realizing his identity.

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sb70012

Senior Member
Azerbaijani/Persian
------------ without their realizing his identity.

A. The undercover agent secretly joined forces with local pushers in order to destroy the drug dealer's ring
B. Secretly determined to destroy the drug dealer's ring, the local pushers and the undercover agent joined forces
C. The undercover agent joined forces with the local pushers and secretly determined to destroy the drug dealer's ring
D. Secretly determined to break up the drug dealer's ring, the undercover agent joined forces with the local pushers (Answer)

Source: university exam


Hello,
Option A, B and C look good to me. I have never seen such a tricky question before. Would you please tell me what's wrong with A, B and C?

Thank you.


 
  • suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    WOW - really hard!

    I would say the differences were VERY small. Grammatically they all seem OK to me, with minor changes in where you place the words which show the agent's intentions.

    After lots of readings to tease this out I wondered if it was this: is the key issue the phrase "joined forces" which usually denotes a TEAM effort so you cannot really say you have joined forces with the very people that you are seeking to undermine. BUT NO - the agent IS in a team with the local pushers!

    I then think that the proximity of the "not realising" has to be near the "drug dealer's ring" since they are the ones who do not know the agents true identity. Which is answer C!

    To make answer D the "chosen one" you have the problem of him "joining forces" with the local dealers but them not knowing who he really is --> hmm, round in a circle to where I started thinking that could not be correct.

    To be honest, I would chalk this up to "poor testing mechanism" and move on! It has certainly foxed this native speaker and I am pretty experienced at this!:rolleyes:
     

    sb70012

    Senior Member
    Azerbaijani/Persian
    Thanks for answering but your explanation is also too difficult for me to understand.
    Have you pointed it out that why A and B do not work?
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    D. Secretly determined to break up the drug dealer's ring, the undercover agent joined forces with the local pushers without their realising his identity.

    •D - is the only sentence where "their" clearly refers to "local pushers". It's also the only sentence that would make sense in the real world. The agent joined up with the local pushers (but they didn't realise he was an agent) in order to destroy the drug-dealing gang.


    •A. The undercover agent secretly joined forces with local pushers in order to destroy the drug dealer's ring without their realising his identity.

    A It would be odd for a secret agent to join forces with the pushers to destroy the drug-dealing ring. It isn't really clear which group "their" realising refers - ity seems to refer to both the agent and the pushers. .


    •B. Secretly determined to destroy the drug dealer's ring, the local pushers and the undercover agent joined forces without their realising his identity.

    B is nonsense. Why would the pushers want to destroy the drug-dealers' ring and join forces with the agent? - it isn't clear which group "their" realising refers to.


    •C. The undercover agent joined forces with the local pushers and secretly determined to destroy the drug dealer's ring without their realising his identity.

    In C, "their" would refer to the drug dealer's ring, which is singular and cannot really be referred to as "they".
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    I am sorry that you didn't grasp my answer - maybe what Velisarious has said has helped. Otherwise I really think this:

    WOW - really hard!

    To be honest, I would chalk this up to "poor testing mechanism" and move on! It has certainly foxed this native speaker and I am pretty experienced at this!:rolleyes:
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I think the question is very dependent on previous "real world" knowledge of what the agent would be likely to do, so it isn't a good test question.

    As I see it, the agent joined up with the local pushers (he was undercover). They (the pushers) didn't realise he was an agent and that gave the agent an opportunity to bust the drug-ring.

    Secretly determined to break up the drug dealer's ring, the undercover agent joined forces with the local pushers without their realising his identity.:tick:


    I don't think the sentence makes such good sense if we make "without their realising his identity" apply to the dealers' ring.

    C says that:
    The undercover agent joined forces with the local pushers and secretly determined to destroy the drug dealer's ring without their realising his identity.


    When I first posted I didn't realise you were disagreeing with answer D, suzi. (Me not reading carefully again.) I just had fun playing with the four versions. It's certainly a hard one, but I do think D is more likely to be correct than the others.




     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    To be honest I had not really reached a conclusion about D!
    I still take issue with using the phrase "join forces" without the other party knowing that a team is being made or the identity of their "colleague".
     

    sb70012

    Senior Member
    Azerbaijani/Persian
    •A. The undercover agent secretly joined forces with local pushers in order to destroy the drug dealer's ring without their realising his identity.

    A It would be odd for a secret agent to join forces with the pushers to destroy the drug-dealing ring. It isn't really clear which group "their" realising refers - ity seems to refer to both the agent and the pushers. .
    Why can't we say that option A is correct because it's possible to say that "their" modifies "local pushers"?
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I'm not sure that I agree with what I said there a few days ago.:)

    Looking at it again, I read A as saying that the agent joined forces with local pushers in order to destroy the drug-dealers' ring - i.e. that the local pushers also wanted to destroy the drug-dealers' ring.:confused: That doesn't seem to make sense.

    "Their" ought to refer back to the last plural noun: the drug-dealers in the ring?... the pushers?...all of them? I think the vagueness of "their" is a problem.
     

    sb70012

    Senior Member
    Azerbaijani/Persian
    "Their" ought to refer back to the last plural noun: the drug-dealers in the ring?... the pushers?...all of them? I think the vagueness of "their" is a problem.
    •A. The undercover agent secretly joined forces with local pushers in order to destroy the drug dealer's ring without their realising his identity.

    I don't know why it's vague to you. You say that "their" should refer back to a plural noun. So, our last plural noun is not "drug dealer" because it's singular not plural. Our last plural noun is "local pushers".

    Then, why is it vague to you again?


     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I think "their" is ambiguous in that sentence, because "drug-dealers' ring" is a group of people, and we sometimes refer to a group of people as "they": He joined a neighbourhood gang, and they (not "it") forced him to sell drugs.

    "Pushers" is rather too far away from "their" to convince me that "their" refers to them.
     

    sb70012

    Senior Member
    Azerbaijani/Persian
    I think "their" is ambiguous in that sentence, because "drug-dealers' ring" is a group of people, and we sometimes refer to a group of people as "they": He joined a neighbourhood gang, and they (not "it") forced him to sell drugs.

    "Pushers" is rather too far away from "their" to convince me that "their" refers to them.
    I think the quote below applies to this thread too:
    "The drug dealer's ring": the noun is "ring" and it is singular, so you should use "its".
    "Drug dealer's" implies one drug dealer: the ring belongs to one person.

    "The drug dealers' ring" implies that several drug dealers are in the ring. This seems more likely to me. "Ring" remains singular, though, so you should use "its" here too.
    the drug dealer's ring (plural or singular?)
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    I think the quote below applies to this thread too:
    I often see 'their' thrown randomly about, far from what it logically must refer to. I too think it is vague here, but I think it is more a bad style than a grammar mistake.

    I think have a look again at the other reasons the sentence sounds wrong: those given by suzibr and velisarius are in red. I am adding my issue with the green word.:)
    •A. The undercover agent secretly joined forces with local pushers in order to destroy the drug dealer's ring without their realising his identity.
    The position of 'secretly'. How is the joining secret, who is unaware of it - his fellow agents? The other people in the ring?
     

    sb70012

    Senior Member
    Azerbaijani/Persian
    But I think without having more (enough) context, option B can also make sense because maybe the local pushers want to betray the drug dealer's ring.

    Why do you see this unlikely?

    Thank you.
     
    Last edited:

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    The other insurmountable problem with A is that it falsely states that one of the two purposes for which the agent joined the ring was so that the dealers would not realize his identity.

    B is nonsensical because of the last phrase, "without their realizing his identity." "Their" must refer to both the pushers and the agent, but obviously this is a contradiction because the agent is aware of his own identity.
     
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