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Source: Official Guide for GMAT Review 2016 Sentence Correction; #28


With corn, soybean, and wheat reserves being low

With corn, soybean, and wheat reserves being low enough so a poor harvest would send prices skyrocketing, grain futures brokers and their clients are especially interested in weather that could affect crops.

1 Explanation


Felix Manan

Hi, I know that it's not tested, but what tense is the portion 'that could affect crops'? I know that could is interchangeable to would (correct me if I am wrong) and hence there are two times when would/could be used:
1. conditionals
2. the past's future

Since in this problem they 'are interested' then I am presuming that eliminates usage #2. Where is the conditional for the 'that clause' then? I notice one in the beginning 'with corn, soybean...' but the conditional comes after 'poor harvest would'. I have never seen this type of construction before and would appreciate any assistance. Thanks!

Dec 5, 2017 • Comment

David Recine

Hi Felix,

Great question. First off, there are actually far more than two different uses for would/could. At the bottom of this reply, I'll give you some links to full descriptions of the uses of would and could, via the Magoosh TOEFL Blog. :)

Secondly, in this sentence, we're not dealing with "could" as a marker of tense per se. Instead we're dealing with could as a "modal"-- a word that adds some additional sense of meaning to a verb, beyond just its past, present, or future time frame.

In this sentence, "could" is being used to express an event/action that is distinctly possible, but is unknown. In other words, here, "weather that could affect crops" means that it is realistic to think that certain types of weather could affect crops. But in the context of this sentence, it's unknown if these types of weather ultimately will affect a given crop, or what the exact nature of the impact on crops will be.

Another example of this is "If the dog runs out the door, it could go far away from its home." It's realistic to think a dog may go far away when it leaves a house it's in. But it's hard to say for sure if this reality WILL actually come to pass. As another example, you can talk about identifying "businesses that could become more profitable." It's a realistic think to identify--many businesses become profitable every day. But by saying "businesses that could become profitable," the topic of discussion is businesses whose profitability is currently unknown.

Now, as promised, here is suggested further reading from the Magoosh TOEFL Blog:

General Uses of the Word "Could":

General Uses of the Word "Would":

General Uses of the Word "Should":

"Would," "Could," and "Should" in Conditionals:

Jan 15, 2018 • Reply

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