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source: https://www.amazon.com/Barrons-GRE-Verbal-Workbook-2nd/dp/143800379X

Making illegal any activity that is popular and not overtly harmful_______ a trade-off between the advantages gained and the disadvantages posed ________ a black market develops in the activity.

  1. a. impugns
    b. entails
    c. abets
  2. a. if
    b. unless c. until

Dear experts, I'm having trouble with the meaning of the sentence and the answers (entails, if) that the book mentioned. However, the book didn't explain anything.

Can anyone help me understand why did the answers make sense?

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  • Hello Richard, as a learner I would say that means not all the popular and apparently harmful activities should be banned, so it depends on the pros and cons of the situation. If the cons overshadows the pros, we should say it is better to make the activity illegal.
    – Cardinal
    May 14, 2020 at 16:58
  • @Cardinal Cardinal, what if I take until for the second blank? What is wrong then?
    – Richard
    May 14, 2020 at 17:10
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    I think it is a sort of cause and effect relationship, I mean the advantages and disadvantages are the consequences of the black market. So, unless and until does not make sense. I mean you have to have something in the first place, and then you will be able to investigate the pros and cons of it.
    – Cardinal
    May 14, 2020 at 17:51
  • It's ambiguous in the context (with the blanks unfilled) what the "advantages gained and the disadvantages posed" refer to. It could refer to making the activity illegal, it could refer to the activity itself, or it could refer to the black market. If we decide that the advantages and disadvantages refer to making the activity illegal, then "until" is a valid answer, and it means the trade-off will end when a black market develops. The "if" answer has a clearer logical meaning, but both make legitimate sentences.
    – gotube
    Jun 14, 2021 at 22:34

1 Answer 1

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If an activity is made illegal and (without a black market) unavailable, there is no trade-off between what might be its dis/advantages because there is no activity. So the second blank can't be filled with unless or until – which leaves if.

We can't use unless or until because without the black market which enables the illegal activity, there is no relevance to a trade-off between its pros/cons. And if there was no trade-off, then unless and until are invalid concepts.

So if there is black market activity then its pros/cons become relevant. And if there is a trade-off between those pros/cons then impugns and abets can't be right, because the subject of those verbs is "making the activity illegal", whereas the cause & effect is the other way round. This leaves entails.

Looking at the whole sentence

Making illegal any activity / that is popular and not overtly harmful / entails a trade-off / between the advantages gained and the disadvantages posed / if a black market develops in the activity.

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