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I've got a paragraph and a question following:

...Snow can cause damage too. It can cave in the roof of a building. A heavy snowstorm can delay airplane flights and cause automobile accidents. Farm animals sometimes die in snowstorms, and when country roads are closed by the snow, people can be trapped in their cars and freeze to death...

In the passage, "people can be trapped in their cars" means:

a. they are caught in a trap
b. they are stuck in their cars
c. they can't go out of their cars and drive away
d. all are correct

The dictionary tells that a 'trap' is 'an unpleasant or difficult situation'. Therefore, I choose d. since all answers seem to be correct. However, the solution is only c without further explanation.

Could you explain why the solution is c. in this question?

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    They are not caught in a trap but in their cars. If they get out of their cars, they can't drive away. So, the logical answer is b.
    – JayHook
    Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 14:03
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    What JayHook said: C makes no sense, since if you get out of your car, you're on foot, and - unless you're some strange species of Transformer - you can't drive anywhere if you're on foot. Basically, this sounds like a badly-written quiz question.
    – Martha
    Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 14:41
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    Well, it has to be (b), since the above comments rule out (a) and (c). But it's a rather pointless question, given that in this context, stuck is simply a synonym for trapped. doquan0 - you haven't really found the relevant definition for trapped here, where it means caught, snared, held fast, unable to move freely (i.e. - the people are unable to continue moving along on their journey). I think this is General Reference, but that's all history now. Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 15:34
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    It's also worth noting that there's a difference between a trap and a situation in which you are trapped. Trap as a noun implies an intentional snare, something that was set up specifically to trap(v.) something/body else. The usage of trap as a noun is what immediately eliminates option (a), despite them indeed being trapped.
    – Emmabee
    Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 3:45

1 Answer 1

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I would have picked (b) as well, but I think I can see what the quiz designers were trying to say.

First, what Macmillan says about the word trap:

trap (v.) to prevent someone from leaving a place, especially a dangerous place : Both men were trapped inside the burning car.

In the snow, however, people aren't usually trapped inside the car. The driver and passengers can freely get out and walk around, but the car is unable to move, usually because the tires can't get sufficient traction. The situation looks something like this:

car stuck in the snow

So, the car is stuck, not the people.

That said, the problem with this poorly-designed language question is this: it's very common for native English speakers to say, "Can you come pick me up? I'm stuck in the snow" even when they mean that their vehicle is stuck. In other words:

I'm stuck in my car.

is a perfectly normal way to convey:

I'm in my car, and my car is stuck.

As for people freezing to death in their cars, that's a very real danger, which is why many cold climes urge drivers to carry a winter survival kit in their car.

So, if the answers had been worded more like this:

a. they are caught in a trap
b. they cannot get out of their cars
c. they can't drive away in their cars
d. all are correct

then I would say that answer (c) is correct. I suspect that's what the quiz designers were trying to get across, but they did as bad a job writing this question as some counties do plowing their roads.

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