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STEPWELLS

A millennium ago, stepwells were fundamental to life in the driest parts of India. Richard Cox travelled to north-western India to document these spectacular monuments from a bygone era

During the sixth and seventh centuries, the inhabitants of the modern-day states of Gujarat and Rajasthan in north-western India developed a method of gaining access to clean, fresh groundwater during the dry season for drinking, bathing, watering animals and irrigation. However, the significance of this invention - the stepwell - goes beyond its utilitarian application.

Unique to this region, stepwells are often architecturally complex and vary widely in size and shape. During their heyday, they were places of gathering, of leisure and relaxation and of worship for villagers of all but the lowest classes. Most stepwells are found dotted round the desert areas of Gujarat (where they are called vav) and Rajasthan (where they are called baori), while a few also survive in Delhi. Some were located in or near villages as public spaces for the community; others were positioned beside roads as resting places for travellers. (cont.)

Cited from: Cambridge IELTS 10

Q: Examples of ancient stepwells can be found all over the world.

A: False

Explanation: Unique to the region, stepwells are often architecturally complex and vary widely in size and shape. -> all over the world >< unique to the region

From my understanding, this sentence implies that this region is known for having complex and diverse stepwells in terms of size and shape. However, this does not mean that other regions do not have stepwells with different characteristics. In my opinion, the correct answer to the above question is NG (Not Given).

I'm not sure where I went wrong in figuring out the answer to this question. Can anybody help? TIA

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    Oh, sorry, I should have provided context. "[thing] is unique to [somewhere/something/someone]" is an idiomatic expression - it means that the thing is "unique," not the region! So, if stepwells are "unique to" "this region," it means they don't exist anywhere else but in that region. Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 4:23
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    The phrase "unique to this region" in the first sentence of the last paragraph of your excerpt is a modifier that describes the subject of the sentence, which is "stepwells." You could rewrite the sentence as "Stepwells, [which are] unique to this region, are often architecturally complex and vary widely in size and shape." Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 4:25
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    It is stepwells that are unique to the region, and they are often architecturally complex and are widely various in shape.
    – R Mac
    Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 5:32
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    @QuackE.Duck You should post an answer.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 6:06
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    @Mari-LouA Thanks, did it! Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 6:21

1 Answer 1

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The reason that the answer to the proposition

Examples of ancient stepwells can be found all over the world.

is "False." can be inferred from the following sentence from your quoted IELTS excerpt:

Unique to this region, stepwells are often architecturally complex and vary widely in size and shape.

The phrase "[X] is unique to [somewhere/someone/something]" is defined as meaning "existing only in a particular place or in relation to a particular person or people." It is an idiomatic expression: it means that whatever thing [X] represents is unique, not that the [somewhere/someone/something] is unique.

In the case of the quote from your excerpt, [X] stands for the noun "stepwells," which is the subject of the sentence. The sentence can be rearranged (without changing the meaning) to the following:

Stepwells, [which are] unique to this region, are often architecturally complex and vary widely in size and shape.

Here, it is more clear that the sentence fits the form [X] is unique to [somewhere]. So, "Stepwells" are unique to "this region" means that stepwells are found only in that particular region, and nowhere else. This constitutes textual evidence for the proposition

Examples of ancient stepwells can be found all over the world.

being false.

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