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Firstly

___ at the turn of the century, the Minnesota State Capitol building is made of white granite and marble.

  1. Erected
  2. Was erected
  3. To erect it
  4. Erecting it

I think 3 and 4 are incorrect and the answer should be 2 because the building was erected, but the solution is 1. Why?

Secondly

For more eighty years, scientists have argued whether life exists on the planet Mars.

The solution states that "more eighty" is incorrect, but I think it's fine, why is it wrong?

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  • The first one is an example of this. The second answer "was erected" cannot be correct: where is the subject? The construction is almost always subject + verb + everything else. Jul 30, 2015 at 11:07
  • Ok the second answer is wrong. So the first one is correct. But, I still don't understand. Jul 30, 2015 at 11:15
  • Are these questions from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)?
    – Jasper
    Jul 30, 2015 at 15:24
  • Yes, I have TOFEL blanks. They are the exams in the past. Jul 30, 2015 at 17:07

1 Answer 1

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Sentence 1

The reason that Erected and not Was erected is the correct answer, is that we're dealing with a non-finite clause here. Non-finite clauses do not always contain a subject, so they do not necessarily follow the standard sentence structure of subject + verb + ...

If there is no explicit subject within the non-finite clause, it refers to the subject of the clause that it is dependent on (in this case the main clause). The difference with the second solution (was erected) is that this verb is currently in a finite form, which means that it cannot be used in a non-finite sentence. This verb needs an expressed subject within its sentence. A correct sentence with this form would be:

The Minnesota State Capitol building, which was erected at the turn of the century, is made of white granite and marble.

Or split the sentences:

The Minnesota State Capitol building was erected at the turn of the century. It is made of white granite and marble.

You can see that both finite forms have a subject in both of my examples above. In the first one, was erected has which as a subject and that word refers to the Minnesota State Capitol building in the main clause. In the second sentence, I transferred the subject to the clause with was erected and replaced it in the other clause by it. So you see that each finite form has an expressed subject.

Now, the non-finite forms do not need to have an expressed subject. If they don't, they refer to subject in the other clause:

Erected at the turn of the century, the Minnesota State Capitol building is made of white granite and marble.

Erected has no subject within the non-finite clause (Erected at the turn of the century) so it refers to the Minnesota State Capitol building. However, it is possible to add a subject to the non-finite clause:

The builders having completed the project in 1905, the Minnesota State Capitol building is made of white granite and marble.

Now each clause has its own subject AND verb, but note that having completed is still a non-finite form. This type of non-finite clauses is often used as an adverbial complement in the main clause. In this case it may not make much sense, but you could see the non-finite clause as an adverbial complement expressing cause or reason.

Sentence 2

This sentence seems to contain a contamination of two correct constructions:

  • For more than eighty years, scientists have argued whether life exists on the planet Mars.
  • For eighty more years, scientists argued whether life existed on the planet Mars.

Note that I changed the tenses in the second one in order to make it a correct and meaningful sentence. I doubt you would have to do this on your test, so the first one would be the answer you're looking for.

The construction more than eighty years is very much different from the other one I wrote above. It expresses that there were not 80 years, but 81, 82, 83 and so on... In the sentence, the speaker is talking about the scientists arguing for over eighty years, not less than and not equal to eighty years.

In the second sentence, the speaker had been talking about something that occurred at a certain point in time and after that time, the scientists have argued all the way up to eighty years later. Let's say the speaker was talking about 1920 and then said 'the scientists argued for eighty more years', then this means that the scientists continued to argue up to 2000 and then stopped. It also means that they had already been arguing before. The more in eighty more expresses addition. Those eighty years were 'extra' to the years in which they had already argued before 1920.

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  • Good thorough answer! +1 Also, I will add that you could say "for over 80 years..."
    – DJMcMayhem
    Jul 30, 2015 at 14:49
  • Yes, I gave that as one of the synonyms in my explanation above ;)
    – Vlammuh
    Jul 30, 2015 at 14:50

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