NOTE: There is a set of sentence correction sample questions. These are timed and intended to be taken online to best simulate the actual GMAT. Sample Questions.
Of all the topics you must study to prepare for the GMAT, there are two in particular that will have the greatest benefit in real life after test day: the AWA Essay section and Sentence Correction section. Effective writing is a vital part of business communication, and what you learn here will help you express your ideas more clearly and effectively.
The directions for these questions look like this:
Choose answers according to the norms of standard written English for grammar, word choice, and sentence construction. Your selected answer should express the intended meaning of the original sentence as clearly and precisely as possible, while avoiding ambiguous, awkward, or unnecessarily wordy constructions.
To help you learn this the 800score approach is to focus on the most common error types. We rely heavily on graphic diagrams to help teach grammar concepts. Every sentence has its own structure and understanding the engineering of the parts of a sentence is key to learning grammar.
1. GMAT grammar adheres to the rules of "Standard Written English"
"Standard Written English" refers to the grammar rules that you find in grammar books and in formal writing. Since proper written English often differs from spoken English, the best answer will not always be the one that sounds the best. You cannot rely on your ear alone; you must become familiar with the grammar rules of written English.
2. The GMAT tests a limited number of grammar rules.
English grammar contains hundreds of very specific rules. The GMAT only tests a few of these, so devote your energies to mastering the rules that most frequently come up.
3. Grammar is key - but style is important, too
The best answer must be clear, without unnecessary redundancy, and with proper punctuation. Idioms must be used correctly. Style is a secondary concern. Look for grammar errors first, and then check for errors in style.
4. Don't change the meaning of the sentence
In the sentence correction section, you'll sometimes find two answer choices that are equally correct in terms of grammar and style conventions. When this happens, choose the answer that best maintains the meaning of the original sentence. The correct answer will never significantly alter the original meaning.
5. Incorrect answer choices are incorrect
Sentence Correction answer choices are variations on the correct answer. Incorrect answers will almost always be identifiable as such. Even if an answer choice sounds funny, if you can't find a definite error, then don't rush to eliminate it.
A Sentence Correction question looks like this:
1. When Charlene goes to the park, she likes to run, swim, and to play basketball.
You are given a sentence with one section underlined, and five answer choices. The underlined portion is reproduced five different ways in the answer choices - choice A will always be identical to the underlined portion of the sentence. Your task is to find the answer choice which is most grammatically correct according to the rules of Standard Written English. Sometimes more than one answer choice will appear to be free of grammatical errors. This is not a mistake. Style conventions must be taken into consideration as well. When this occurs, you must look for the answer that is clearly expressed and concise.
800score Three-Step Method to Sentence Correction questions:
Now that you have a method for approaching the questions, it's time to move on to specifics: how to recognize and correct the seven common grammar errors found in the GMAT.
The GMAT tests only a limited number of grammar error types. Therefore, you only need to learn a few of grammar rules you don't need to master every grammatical and stylistic rule of Standard Written English to do well on the GMAT.
Subjects and verbs must agree. The 'subject' of a sentence is the noun to which the verb in the sentence's main clause refers, and the two must always agree in number: singular subjects must be paired with singular verbs; and plural subjects, with plural verbs. Though it may sound simple, the GMAT uses tricky constructions and phrasings that make these questions seem far more complicated than they actually are.
NOTE: This is a partial display of the content in the 800score GMAT course
A subject and verb may be separated by an accompanying phrase without changing the agreement.
This sentence is grammatically correct. When a phrase sandwiched by commas comes between a subject and a verb, the subject and verb must still agree, even if the sandwiched phrase contains other nouns. The accompanying phrase "his grandmother and his parents" only provides extra information and does not alter in any way the grammatical relationship between the subject (the child) and the verb (is going).
Pay special attention to who or what is doing the action indicated by the verb, and make sure it agrees with the verb. Ignore everything else.
Here's any easy way to handle this kind of "sandwich" agreement question. Take a look at the following sentence and decide whether it is correct or incorrect:
There are three nouns in this sentence, and two verbs. To clarify which of the three nouns is the subject of the sentence, and with which of the two verbs the subject should agree, cross out everything inside the commas, like so:
Two nouns remain: the subject is the noun in front of the crossed-out sandwich ("Frank"). The verb we're looking for, the "main-clause" verb, is the only remaining verb in the sentence ("were").
To simplify the task of comparing the newly-identified subject and its governing verb, we'll next erase the crossed-out sandwich. We're left with the following:
The subject of the sentence is now right next to its governing verb. But does this subject-verb combination "Frank were" make sense? No. Frank is only one person signifying singularity, not plurality - and so our governing verb should also be singular.
The plural verb "were" has been changed to the singular verb "was." This final version pairs a singular noun with a singular verb, which corrects the original agreement error (a singular noun with a plural verb).
It would be a good idea to practice this technique on your own before test day, because you often won't have the time or space to work out each step at length. Once you have it down, this "cross-out" method is by far the quickest and easiest way to identify agreement errors. Just by crossing out the section inside the commas in this example, we were able to isolate, and then correct, the subject-verb relationship: since Frank, a singular proper noun, is the subject of the sentence, not his students, a singular, not plural, noun is required: Frank was at the studio.
Check for agreement in every question you see, and be aware of the different ways the error can pop up. So how should you handle or even identify a subject-verb agreement error without obvious isolating commas?
Here's are two types of filler phrases you will often see:
A. "Of" Phrases
A sentence will often begin with a noun, immediately followed by a group of words beginning with "of" that includes another noun. When two or more nouns precede a verb, it can sometimes be hard to tell which noun the verb should agree with. But that's where the concept of additive phrases can help us. In most cases, "of" phrases are added just to complicate the sentence, and can be crossed out, leaving us with a simple noun-verb agreement question.
Look at this sentence:
Does the verb agree with the subject? It's difficult to say at first glance, because we don't know yet what the subject is. TWO nouns precede the verb: which is the subject?
If the plural noun "architects" is the subject, then the plural verb "are" is in fact correct. But if the singular noun "goal" is the subject, then the plural noun "are" is incorrect.
To find the subject, cross out all the words between the first noun and the verb: this is the "of" phrase. As with the sandwich questions, the best way to clarify agreement issues is to actually cross out the "filler" (the additive phrase):
Once the filler phrase is crossed out, we can see that the plural verb "are" is not correct, because "goal," a singular noun, is the subject of the sentence. The correct verb is the singular "is":
Thus, even though the plural noun "architects" is closer to the verb than the singular noun "goal", it holds no weight in the sentence (in terms of agreement) simply because of its placement within the filler phrase. The singular noun "goal" is the subject of the sentence, and a singular noun requires a singular verb: "is".
B. "For" Phrases
"For phrases" are similar to "of
phrases" add extra information to a sentence, while their contents
does not affect noun-verb agreement in the main part of the sentence.
The portion of the sentence we're concerned with contains two verbs in addition to there being three possible subjects: two nouns, and one pronoun.
How do you know which noun is the subject, and which verb is the important verb? First, cross out the "for" phrase:
That eliminates one noun, and leaves us with a noun and a pronoun vying for subject, and two verbs. Next, eliminate any cohered noun(or pronoun)-verb groups:
You can also cross this out with the "for" phrase, if it's easier for you. Remember, that in additive phrase questions the subject and its verb will never be right next to one another: the function of the additive phrase is to separate them in order to confuse you. So if you've already eliminated the "for" or "to" phrase and still have other nouns and verbs remaining, eliminate any noun-verb or pronoun-verb groups that are right next to one another. The remaining noun and verb are your targets.
The subject, the singular noun "book," requires a singular verb.
By using the same method as we used for the "sandwich" questions, we were able to isolate, analyze, and eventually correct the subject-verb relationship. Once you identify a phrase as a "filler" phrase, you've made the question as simple as a "sandwich". All that's left to do is cross out, analyze, and correct if necessary.
Collective nouns, such as family, majority, audience, and committee are singular when they act in a collective fashion or represent one group. They are plural when the members of the collective body act as individuals. Collective nouns will usually be singular in Sentence Correction sentences. The difficulty of these questions lies in identifying a noun as a collective noun.
These nouns usually look plural, but are in fact singular. Confused? If you're having trouble determining singularity or plurality, it might be helpful to visualize what's actually going on in the sentence. Ask yourself these questions:
In the sentence above we are presented with the noun "majority". The "majority of shareholders" likely contains several shareholders; however, they are only spoken of as a group, not as individuals. There is no indication that the sentence is referring to the individuals within the majority even though it comprises several people, the "majority" acts as one as a singular entity - and therefore requires a singular verb, "wants."
Here is another example:
This sentence presents another ambiguous noun "flock" followed by a plural noun, "birds". Again, the confusing noun is referred to as a singular group: even though a flock comprises many birds, we're not talking about each bird's direction of flight, but the direction of the flock as a whole. And because the flock as a whole is singular, it therefore requires a singular verb to accompany it: the singular verb "is," not the plural verb "are."
Here is an example of a collective noun that requires a plural verb. Even though you will not see this very often on the GMAT, it's helpful to illustrate the importance of reading the entire sentence and visualizing what it describes every time you come across a confusing noun.
The sentence above describes the fighting that occurs between the individual members of the team. Because "team" refers to several individual members, it is a plural noun, and therefore requires a plural verb - "are" - as a result.
The key to these questions is simplicity:
These questions are included in the GMAT not because they are especially difficult, but because test writers expect most students to be unfamiliar with the rules governing collective nouns. But if you know to look out for those tricky collective nouns, then you have no reason to worry, because you're already ahead of the game.
This construction is, as you can probably tell, the more complicated of the two. It looks very much like the 'and' construction, but means the opposite, and therefore requires the opposite verb. Think of it like this: what does this sentence tell us exactly? It tells us that Ted is not going, and John is not going either. Since the two people are referred to individually, as separate people, it wouldn't make sense to use a verb that refers to them as one unit.
Here are some more words whose grammatical numbers (singular or plural) are commonly confused.
Many of the words in this category can be broken down in a way that illustrates their essentially singular nature:
''Check context" means that for the pronouns in this list, you can't depend on memorization. Look at these examples:
Both sentences are correct. Why does the first require a plural verb, and the second a singular? Because in the first sentence, 'some' refers to several distinct objects:
If we have, say, ten bananas, then "some of the bananas" means either two bananas, or three bananas, or four or five or six in any case, many individual bananas. But in the second sentence, 'some' refers to part of one object:
This trick works for the words "some," "all," "any," and "most." For "any," the verb will usually appear before the noun, but the same principle applies: if "any" is followed by a singular noun, use a singular verb; if it's followed by a plural noun, use a plural verb.
It's exactly the same concept: the arrow is just reversed. The trick applies equally well for "some," "all," "any," and "most."
The pronoun "none" follows slightly different rules. Look at these sentences:
See something strange? The first and second sentences look fine, with a singular noun followed by a singular verb and a plural noun followed by a plural verb. But the third sentence contains a plural noun and a singular verb. How could this be?
Unlike agreement for the pronouns "all" or "some", agreement for "none" isn't always determined by the noun following it. The word "none" can be used to mean either "not any" or "not one," and sometimes, only context, or the writer's intended emphasis, can determine which use is better. Fortunately, however, in most cases probably all cases on the GMAT - its meaning in the sentence, and the verb it requires, can be derived the same way it is for the other pronouns: by referring to the noun immediately following it. If the noun is plural, the verb is plural as well; if the noun is singular, the verb is singular. Let's look again at the first two sentences:
The noun following "none," ice cream, is singular, and so the verb should be singular as well. It is also helpful to note that "none" is most often singular when it means "none of it" as in, "none of the ice cream," or "none of the chicken," or "none of the baseball field."
Here's a case in which "none" is plural:
Again, fairly straightforward: the noun following "none" is plural, so the verb is plural as well. When plural, "none" means "not any":
The alternative is for "none" to mean "not one," which carries essentially the same emphasis as "not a single one." So unless the friends attend a play every night, there's no reason to say that "not a single one of my friends is going."
The second sentence, however, does require such emphasis:
When you come across a confusing sentence like this, in which the noun is plural, but you're not sure whether the verb should be too, ask yourself this question: would "none" be better replaced with "not any," or "not one"? If "not any," use a plural verb; if "not one," use a singular. Here, there is reason to emphasize that "not even one" of the inmates was treated fairly, so the verb should be singular.
Don't worry too much about this last kind of sentence because the use of "none" in such cases can generally only be determined by context, the GMAT is very unlikely to include it in the Sentence Correction section.
Neither and either always take singular verbs when acting as the subject of a sentence.
Here we have an example of a sentence in which the word "neither," not the plural noun "rosebushes," is the subject of the sentence. As per the stated rules above, "Neither" takes a singular verb when it acts as the subject of the sentence. Therefore, the singular verb "is" is correct. The sentence requires no alterations.
Here we have a similar construction: in this sentence, the word "either" acts as the subject, and therefore requires a singular noun. If you're at all confused, a helpful tip is to think of the word "either" as an abbreviation of the phrase "either one". Once you do so, it's easier to see that the phrase "of us" is just filler (after which you can, if you like, cross it out). The subject of the sentence is "either (one)", and so this sentence therefore requires a singular verb: "is".
Neither/nor and either/or are a special case. If two subjects are joined by or or nor, the verb should agree with the subject that is closer to it.
If the conjunction nor appears in a sentence with neither; or the conjunction or with either, then the "neither/either" rule as stated above no longer applies. That is, if you see "neither" followed by "nor," or "either" followed by "or," you can't automatically assume that the verb should be singular, as we did in the last section. "Neither nor" and "either or" means, at least in the world of GMAT grammar, "be careful."
In these constructions, "neither" and "either" are no longer the subjects of their sentences. Instead, they function as conjunctions, working in pairs with "nor" and "or" to join two other subjects in the sentence. When this occurs, the verb agrees with whichever subject is closer to it.
This "neither nor" sentence contains two subjects: "supervisor," and "staff members." (Why is "client" not a subject too? Because in these situations, the subjects are the two nouns immediately following the words "neither" and "nor.") Since the latter subject, "staff members," is plural, we therefore need a plural verb, too. The plural verb "were" is correct.
This example is identical, grammatically, to the one above, except that the correlative conjunction joining the subjects is "either/or." The verb must therefore agree with the subject closest to it, which is "child," a singular noun. The proper verb form is the singular "is."
Remember to apply this rule only when both items of the pairs "neither/nor" and "either/or" are present in the sentence.
Be careful to choose the right subject in sentences in which the verb precedes the subject.
Sometimes, a sentence is so chock-full of nouns and pronouns that identifying the subject can feel like a task of monumental proportions. To approach this, let's talk about word order. Because nouns can function as subjects or objects, we usually rely on their placement in the sentence to determine which noun is serving which purpose. Such sentences follow the pattern Subject Verb Object.
Here is an example:
This sentence is one of the most straightforward you'll encounter. The first noun in the sentence, dog, is followed by an active verb, ate, and since we know that the dog is performing the action indicated by the verb, dog is therefore the subject of the sentence. The only remaining noun, homework, is therefore the object.
Some sentences, however, will unfortunately stray from this simple pattern. When all nouns in the sentence follow the verb, it can sometimes be very difficult to figure out which of those nouns is the subject. What should you do in those situations?
This sentence contains two verbs (there is and help) and three nouns (reasons, I, and you). Sandwiched between the first and second verbs (is, can't) are two nouns (reasons, I); another noun (you) follows the second verb. If we look carefully at the sentence, we might notice that the clause "I can't help you" follows the traditional pattern, such that "I" would be the subject. We may therefore be tempted to decide that "I" is the subject of the sentence as a whole.
However, why I can't help you is in fact a subordinate, or dependent, clause. We know this because it begins with "why", and it means that the entire phrase functions as a direct object of the other part of the sentence. We can therefore remove any nouns inside of the subordinate clause from our search for the subject. And if we do this, lo and behold, we see that there's only one noun left. The subject is the only noun that exists outside of the subordinate clause: the plural noun reasons. A plural subject requires a plural verb, and so the plural verb are is correct.
The phrase "the number" requires a singular verb. The phrase "a number" requires a plural verb.
When you see either phrase "the number," or "a number" - disregard the singularity or plurality of the noun following it. If you're having a hard time remembering to do so, try crossing out all information between the "number" phrase and the first verb.
The noun does not impact the verb in any way whatsoever, because "the number" and "a number" are the subjects of the sentence, not the nouns following them.
1. The President of Costa Rica, along with two vice-presidents, are elected for a four-year term by the people.
b) are elected, by the people, for a four-year term.
c) is elected for a four-year term by the people.
d) are elected for four-year terms by the people.
e) is elected for four-year terms by the people.
(C) shows the correct subject-verb
agreement; no additional errors are created.
NOTE: This is a partial display of the content in the 800score GMAT course (more questions are in the course).
Modifiers are words, phrases, or clauses that provide descriptive detail about other words, phrases, or clauses. Adjectives (the red car, the happy child) are modifiers, as are adverbs (he runs quickly).
Our list of common modifier errors, begins with adjectives and adverbs, and then considers phrases and clauses.
Errors in the Use of Adjectives and Adverbs.
The first step in identifying modifiers is to read the sentence and look for descriptive single words. Once you have done this, you should then look at each and try to determine whether it is an adjective or an adverb.
An easy way to identify adverbs, or to distinguish them from adjectives, is to look at the ending. Most adverbs are formed by adding -ly to the adjective, such as: He worked quickly.
After you've identified the word as an adjective or adverb, the next step is to determine whether it is used correctly. Look at the sentence below:
This sentence contains a descriptive word modifying a noun, and another descriptive word modifying an adjective. Are these modifying words used correctly? It's hard to tell, because they're all grouped together. Break the sentence into parts:
In this version, the adjective real, which modifies the adjective good, is replaced with an adverb really. Note the difference: really is real with an ly tacked on.
This sentence contains one descriptive word modifying a noun, and one descriptive word modifying a verb. In both versions, the adjective "new" is used to modify the noun "student," which is correct. In the first version, however, the word "poor" is used to modify the verb "speaks". But "poor" is an adjective - and adjectives cannot modify verbs. Therefore, the second version correctly replaces the adjective "poor" with the adverb "poorly". Once again, the difference between the two is a mere, but necessary, "-ly".
Errors of Adjectives and Adverbs with Sense Verbs.
The following verbs require adjective modifiers:
These verbs are all "sense verbs," or verbs that describe someone's sensation or feeling or perception. Unlike other verbs, they require adjective, not adverb, modifiers.
Sense verbs convey personal opinions, thoughts, and perceptions in an inherently subjective manner that is, they describe someone's personal experience. The sentence The strawberry shortcake tastes delicious has essentially the same meaning as "The strawberry shortcake tastes delicious to me" or "I think the strawberry shortcake tastes delicious." Because each sentence describes the attributes of the shortcake as seen through the eyes (and mouth) of an observer, each sentence should use the same version of the modifier: the delicious shortcake. Another way to approach this sentence is to think about it as a sandwich. When a sense verb is sandwiched between a noun and a modifier, the modifier should always agree with the noun.
Some sense verb modifiers are commonly misused in speech. Be especially careful with these: just because they sound right doesn't mean they are right. Sometimes these errors arise from the misinterpretation of a popular grammar rule. Here's a common example:
How many times have you heard someone say, "He looks well"? It probably sounds fine, but in fact, this sentence is a comment on the visual abilities of the man in question; it means something like, "He's skilled at looking." Pretty funny, right? But why is it wrong?
Looking at the version above: if you place an adverb (well) directly after a verb (looked), then the adverb modifies the verb. But we don't want to describe a verb — we want to describe a noun (or pronoun), in this case a woman who just came back from vacation.
"She" is a pronoun, and pronouns (which stand in for nouns) are modified with adjectives. Thus the correct sentence fixes our modification problem by replacing the adverb "well" with the adjective "good".
Location of Modification – Misplaced Modifiers
What's wrong with this sentence?
The meaning of the sentence seems clear enough: that Rebecca finally understood the book after she started thinking clearly.
But what does the sentence actually say? If you look closely, you'll see that, because of the placement of certain words, the sentence makes the book, not Rebecca, the subject of the sentence: which makes it seem as if the book were thinking clearly, not Rebecca. That's funny — how can a book think clearly? — but not what we meant at all. What went wrong?
If you'll recall, modifiers are often adjectives or adverbs. But modifiers can also be groups of words – known as adjectival or adverbial phrases or clauses – that describe another part of the sentence. Like single-word adjectives and adverbs, these multiple-word modifiers must be placed as close as possible to the word or group of words they're modifying. Those modifiers that fail to observe this rule are called "misplaced modifiers".
Misplaced modifiers can be highly deceptive - and are extremely common on the GMAT. Because we know what the sentence means to say, it's easy to miss this type of placement error, unless we have our eyes open for them.
Let's look again at the example:
Even though the modifier is followed immediately by the book, we might very easily assume that because a book can't think, we can overlook its placement in the sentence, as the phrase Finally thinking clearly must refer to Rebecca. But the GMAT isn't testing our ability to understand mangled sentences; it's testing our understanding of English grammar. And according to the rules of English grammar, a modifier must always be placed as close as possible to the word it's modifying. Thus, the modifier in this sentence must be describing the book. So this sentence is misleading - and incorrect - because the modifier Finally thinking clearly is not immediately followed by what it is modifying: that is, Rebecca.
Try this next example:
Once again, it's likely that this sentence sounds fine at first glance: Jay gets to the train station, after which his friends meet him and take him to his important engagement. Take a closer look: let's break it down, and check to make sure that the modifiers (and the objects being modified) are placed where they belong.
First find the modifying phrase: look for a descriptive group of words set off by a comma or commas. Here, we have one phrase that looks like that: On arriving at the train station. After identifying the modifier, the next step is to figure out which word/s it should be modifying, and which word/s it is modifying. Who is arriving at the train station - Jay or his friends? Because the modifier is followed directly by the phrase his friends, it sounds like Jay's friends are arriving, rather than Jay himself. We want Jay to be arriving at the station.
In this version of the sentence, it's suddenly quite clear that Jay arrived at the train station, and his friends greeted him and took him away. This was accomplished by placing the modifier On arriving at the train station right next to Jay - the person whom the modifier was meant to describe.
Misplaced modifiers won't always occur at the beginning of sentences: any descriptive phrase or clause is a potential misplaced modifier. Just make sure the modifying phrase or clause is as close as possible to the word/s being modified.
Descriptive phrases are not always set off by commas. These pronouns often indicate modifying phrases:
In addition to helping you identify modifying phrases, these pronouns can be helpful when you're trying to fix a seemingly incorrect sentence. Look at the examples below:
Note the different uses of "who" and "which": "who" is used in the first example because it introduces a phrase that describes a person ("Joan's father"). "Which" is used to introduce a phrase that describes a thing (the "tea kettle"). "That" is also used to describe things, as opposed to people.
1. Previously thought to have been extinct, a team of biologists rediscovered the New Caledonia crested gecko in 1994.
Explanation: This question tests modifiers. The modifier Previously thought to have been extinct refers to the New Caledonia crested gecko. Thus the modifier must immediately precede that which it is modifying. Only (E) does this. (A) and (B) change the meaning of the sentence to make the biologists appear to have been extinct, while in (C) and (D) the modifier is not modifying anything at all.
2. Erasmus's tomb lies inside the Basel Munster, located in Switzerland, an architectural monument which having survived medieval earthquakes, and remains one of Switzerland's most well-known buildings to this day.
Explanation: This question tests misplaced modifiers, as well as changes in meaning and wordiness. (A) places the modifier (an architectural monument
) directly after Switzerland, which, though not as confusing as some misplaced modifiers, is still incorrect, as other choices are offered which place the modifier closer to the intended subject, Basel Munster. (C), while free of grammatical errors, changes the meaning of the sentence by making the Basel Munster the subject of the sentence instead of Erasmus's tomb. (D) does the same, and is also excessively wordy and omits the necessary and at the end of the underlined portion. (E) is excessively wordy, and includes the word being, which is awkward in this context. (B), the best choice, is free of grammatical and stylistic errors, and maintains the meaning of the original sentence.
"Parallelism" refers to sentences in which all items are described in the same format. Unlike some of the other grammatical topics covered in this chapter, parallelism is a pretty intuitive concept to master; there are no exceptions to memorize, no strange rules to remember. Once you understand the concept, you're pretty much good to go. But why, if it's so simple, is parallelism included so often on the GMAT? For the same reason that misplaced modifiers, subject-verb agreement, and other "simple" topics are included: because parallelism can be tricky to recognize.
Parallelism means something very similar to what it means in mathematics. Think of parallel lines:
They're straight, they're equally spaced, and they're very clearly "parallel".
To translate this mathematical concept to grammar, first think of a sentence. A sentence can be split up in many different ways: by word, by phrase, by part of speech, by items in a list. What parallelism says is that these similar parts of a sentence must "track" one another, in the same way that parallel lines track one another. For example, every item in a list must use the same form as the others.
Think of it like this: pretend that the parts of a sentence are lined up, one on top of the next, along their own parallel lines. Consider the sentence "Joe was trying to decide between eating, running, and to walk to the store". There are three items in the list of activities that Joe is considering, so separate these and imagine them on their own parallel lines:eating
To be parallel, all verbs must look identical. In this case, one sticks out like a sore thumb: "to walk". Here's the correct version:eating
The concept of parallelism is easy to master - but recognizing a parallelism question is more difficult. This section will show you how to do both.
All elements in a list whether it's a list of nouns, of infinitives, of gerunds, of prepositional phrases, or of clauses - should be in similar form. "Similar form" means that all of the items in the list must agree.
On the test, you'll often see a list of three verbs, in which two agree, but one does not. In order for the sentence to be correct, all three verbs must agree:
This is a list of activities – more specifically, those activities undertaken by Patty. Parallelism dictates that all the things Patty did must be listed in the same form, and since "all the things Patty did" are verbs, all verbs in the sentence must agree in tense and number. Do they?
This chart identifies each verb form in the sentence. The list of verbs in this version of the sentence contains two singular simple past tense verbs (ate and drank) and one singular past progressive verb (was dancing). Because the verbs are placed together in a list, this cannot be correct. The verbs should all match:
This version correctly changes the mismatched past progressive verb, was dancing, to the simple past tense, danced, so that it looks and sounds exactly like the other verbs in the list, ate and drank. This sentence now exhibits proper parallelism.
Here's another example using a list of gerunds:
The verb "to program" must be changed to "programming," because the rest of the verbs are already in the -ing form.
You'll often see lists of infinitives on the GMAT: the "to ___" verbs (to walk, to talk, to eat, to chat, to drink…). With infinitives, a very simple rule applies: the word "to" must either go only before the first verb in the list, or before every verb in the list. For example:
The first two sentences are equally acceptable variations. The third sentence is incorrect because it lacks consistency; the verb changes from to swim to sail, and then back to to dance. This violates the rules we've laid out.
Here is a full list of possible parallel constructions, and examples of each:
Just like how verbs, adverbs or adjectives in a list must agree. Descriptive words are easy to replace with wordy phrases, and test writers will try to trip you up by including a verb or phrase among a list of adjectives or adverbs:
If you read through the sentence quickly, it might sound acceptable. However, the list includes one item that doesn't belong:
This looks to be a list of adjectives until you reach the third item in the list: it's not an adjective, it's a verb! The "list of adjectives" won't be complete until the last item falls into step with the others:
This example replaces the verb phrase couldn't wait with the descriptive phrase very eager which indeed includes an adjective.
Watch for consistency in item type as well as consistency of form.
Sometimes, you'll come across sentences with multiple pronouns. In many cases, parallelism requires that the pronouns be identical.
Look at the sentence below:
This sentence contains two pronouns. Do they match?
When using the word one as a pronoun referring to an unspecified person, the only acceptable match is one. The first sentence inserts they instead, which is incorrect. The same rule applies for the pronoun you when it's used to refer to an unspecified person. The GMAT does not prefer one to the other, but one and you cannot be used interchangeably in the same sentence:
Both of latter versions are correct.
Be consistent: use whichever pronoun you choose all the way through.
1. Some of the many renovations set for Memorial Field in the coming years include building additional seating, improving safety, and the construction of a new varsity athletics center.
This question tests parallelism. All items in a list must be parallel, meaning they must be in the same format grammatically. The original list in (A) is not parallel. the construction does not match building additional seating and improving safety. The last item must be changed to constructing in order to fit the progressive verbs building and improving. Only (B) does this.
2. Richard is not only a terrific pianist, but also great at playing hockey.
This question tests parallelism. Not only but also is a case for parallelism, meaning that both things which are compared must be in the same grammatical format. A terrific pianist does not match great at playing hockey because pianist is a noun and playing hockey is a verb/noun. What does match a terrific pianist is a great hockey player. Only (D) does this and is therefore parallel.
3. The philosophical doctrine of Incompatibility posits an inherent irreconcilability among the doctrine of Determinism, in philosophy, which holds that each state of affairs is necessitated by the states of affairs that preceded it and the existence of free will.
This question tests redundancy, parallelism, and idiom usage. Because the non-underlined portion of the sentence establishes the context within philosophy, choices A and C, which repeat in philosophy, are redundant and wordy. By introducing what is supposed to be the description of Determinism with the word holding 'instead of which holds, choice B implies that Incompatibility holds the idea, not Determinism. Choice E fails to maintain parallelism (which holds and existing). Choices A and E, and C, also use incorrect word choice: because the irreconcilability involves only two things, the word 'among' (used in A and E), which refers to more than two, is incorrect; irreconcilability in' (choice C) is incorrect as well; it should be irreconcilability between. Choice D contains no errors in grammar or usage, and is the best choice. The answer is D.
Pronouns stand in for nouns in a sentence. When replacing any noun (Matt, the cheerleader, the chair) with a pronoun (he, she, it), the pronoun must match the form of the missing noun. A noun has three elements: number, gender, and case.
Because pronouns follow the same agreement rules as nouns, it is important to be clear about what noun it is replacing. The first step in tackling a pronoun question is to locate and identify the pronouns in the sentence.
Once you've found a pronoun in a Sentence Correction question, check whether it's acting as the SUBJECT or the OBJECT of the sentence or phrase. Is the following sentence correct or incorrect?
The first step is to identify the pronoun(s). There are three in this sentence: "she," "you," and "he":
Next, try to define whether each pronoun is acting as a subject or object. Here, she is the subject, and the pronouns you and he are acting as the objects of the sentence:
How do we know this? Because she is doing the action (blaming) and you and he are receiving it (getting blamed). However, he does not seem to be in the correct form. Refer to the chart in the previous section, or to the proper answer to the question "Who did she blame?", which is him not he. ("Who did she blame? She blamed him.")
Both pronouns acting as objects must be in the objective case; as indicated in the graphic above, him is objective while he, used in the first sentence, is subjective, and therefore incorrect
Here, the pronoun is the subject of the sentence, as the job is clearly not the subject, and there are no other nouns in the sentence. Because the pronoun stands in for "the woman" (some woman), the pronoun should be the subject form of the her/she pronoun as indicated by the chart: meaning, "she".
Now let's look at a case that often causes confusion:
John and me drank a bottle of wine.
Because it's confused so often in spoken language, it can be difficult to tell when the pronoun in the phrase "someone else and me/I" is used incorrectly. But it's actually quite easy to remember when to use "me", and when to use "I": cross out everything in the "someone else and me/I" phrase except the pronoun.
"Me drank a bottle of wine" sounds like caveman-speak and the proper pronoun is clearly "I".
Let's try it again on the following sentence:
Perform the test:
The second sentence is grammatically correct ("I/me" is acting as the object), so the proper pronoun is "me." This test works for many instances of misused pronouns, but to be safe, you should memorize the subject/object pronoun chart.
'If the pronoun is acting as a subject, use who. If it is acting as an object, use whom.
Why is "whom" correct? Because Kate is the subject of this sentence – not the person she married. To simplify who/whom questions, try rearranging the sentence into a question, and then answer it. Let's try it:
You wouldn't say "Kate married he," right? Since the pronoun used in the answer is "him," an object pronoun, the pronoun in the original sentence should also be an object pronoun: whom.
Because the sentence is already a question, you can't run the test as we did above. But not to worry: all you need to do is answer the question:
You wouldn't say "him took out the trash," so the pronoun in the original sentence must match the form of the pronoun "he," which is a subject pronoun: who is correct.
Pronouns also act like nouns in the realm of verb agreement. For some pronoun questions, you also need to check if the pronoun and its verb agree in number.
Consider these two sentences:
Referring to the chart above, you'll see that the pronoun everyone is singular. Its verb must therefore be singular as well: has is correct, not have.
As covered in an earlier section of this chapter, the constructions "either... or" and "neither.. .nor" always take the verb form that matches the noun that is closer to the verb. (In these constructions, either and neither are actually not pronouns at all, but conjunctions.)Thus, were is incorrect in the first sentence because he a singular pronoun, is closer to the verb than bodyguards a plural noun; but were is correct in the second sentence because the order of the subjects is reversed, so that the plural noun bodyguards is closer to the verb.
When you come across possessive pronouns such as yours, theirs, his, and hers, check to see whether they agree with other pronouns in the sentence. Most possessive pronouns are used messily in spoken language, so be careful to take special note when you see two pronouns in a sentence.
In this sentence, the possessive pronoun towards the end of the sentence should match the pronoun following "Some of". Because the earlier pronoun is "you", the possessive pronoun must be yours, not theirs. Theirs would only be correct if the clause began ...and I'm glad to see that some of them brought...
The subject is anyone, which is singular, and which therefore requires a singular pronoun such as his or hers. This error has become common because of the demand for political correctness; instead of saying his or hers, people will often just say theirs. Either his or hers alone is technically correct, but writing his or hers, is also acceptable.
Very simple: objects of to be verbs are in the subject form. Watch for pronouns following "to be" verbs such "it should have been," "it is," "it could have been," "it was", and make sure they are in subject form. This is another error common in speech; but it's easy to identify.
"It must have been" is a "to be" verb, so the pronoun must be in subject form: she, not her.
Which, that and who are relative pronouns. A relative pronoun must refer to the word immediately preceding it. If the meaning of the sentence is unclear, the pronoun is in the wrong position.
Did John open the man? Probably not. This sentence is definitely confusing, but its meaning can be clarified by adjusting the placement of the nouns in the sentence.
It's now clear what John is opening, and why.
On the GMAT, the pronouns "one" and "you," which are part of a class of pronouns called "impersonal pronouns," are often improperly matched with their respective possessive pronouns. You may have heard that using "you" is less proper than using "one," but on the GMAT, all that matters is that the pronouns agree – there's no word-choice preference one way or the other. Look at these examples:
As long as one isn't paired with your, or you with one's, the sentence is probably correct.
1. The choir sang passionately, as they moved through elaborate and challenging four-part harmonies.
2. Marston was an early seventeenth century dramatist and it is likely that him and Shakespeare borrowed ideas from one another.
Explanation: This question tests pronoun agreement. The pronoun him in the original sentence replaces Marston. It is in the wrong case. Instead of the objective case, the pronoun should be in the subjective case, since Marston is the subject of the sentence. Therefore (E), which uses the subjective pronoun he, is correct. (B) is wrong because, though they is subjective, it eliminates any meaning of Shakespeare from the sentence, making the pronoun ambiguous.
Mastering verb usage is extremely important in conquering the verbal portion of the GMAT. Here is a detailed primer on tense:
"Tense" tells about time. That is, a verb's tense indicates when the action specified by the verb took place. An action or event can take place in the past, the present, or the future.
Verbs in the present tense indicate an action that is taking place right now, in the present moment only. Present tense verbs can also indicate unchanging states of being or action, or repeated actions:
Here, the present tense verb am indicates something happening right now: the speaker is happy at this present moment in time.
In this sentence, the present tense verb am indicates an unchanging state: the speaker is generally a happy person, or that his state of being is one of unchanging happiness.
Here, the present tense verb study indicates a repeated action: the speaker studies once a day, every day.
Present tense verbs are formed by taking the uninflected (unaltered) form of the verb, which is found by removing "to" from the infinitive form: for example, the present tense walk from the infinitive to walk, the present tense talk from the infinitive to talk, or the present tense eat from the infinitive to eat.
Verbs in the past tense indicate an action that took place in the past: that is, at some point prior to the present moment.
Here, the past tense verb walked indicates an action that took place yesterday, and is no longer happening.
Past tense verbs are usually formed by adding an ed to the uninflected (or present tense) form of the verb: for example, talk becomes talked, walk becomes walked and balk becomes balked. (Irregular verbs, such as to eat and to have, are not formed in the same way; if you are unfamiliar with these forms, consult a basic English grammar guide.)
Verbs in the future tense indicate an action that takes place in the future: that is, at some point after the present moment.
Here, the future tense verb will eat indicates an action that will occur, in its completion, tomorrow.
Future tense verbs are usually formed by adding will or shall to the uninflected (or present tense) form of the verb: for example, talk becomes will talk or shall talk, walk becomes will walk or shall walk, eat becomes will eat or shall eat.
In addition to an event's place in time, verb forms can also indicate how long the event continued, or for what duration it occurred. "Aspect" describes the event's completion, duration, or repetition: did the event happen only once, in the past? or did it begin to happen in the past, and still happening? or will it happen, and continue to happen for some time, at some later time? or does it happen every so often, but not continuously?
Each basic tense (past, present, future) has a perfect, progressive, and perfect progressive forms:
1. The perfect form indicates an action that is completed.
2. The progressive form indicates an action that is ongoing.
3. The perfect progressive form indicates an action that is ongoing, but will be completed at some definite time.
Here's an example of a relatively simple verb tense error, and its correction:
Why is the second sentence correct? Because the order of events is well clarified. Both events — the performance and the party — happened in the past, but the performance happened first, and the party second. Thus, both verbs should be in the past tense: had finished in past perfect, to indicate that the performance happened first, and then went in simple past. The incorrect sentence implies that the performance happened once in the past, but that his after-performance party attendance was ongoing — which doesn't make any sense.
Here's another example.
To determine whether this sentence is correct, let's break it down into its constituent parts:
The "if clause" at the beginning of the sentence indicates a hypothetical: a sentence written in if...then... form. This kind of sentence requires that the dependent event be in the simple future tense: meaning that the event, if it happens, will happen once, at some time in the future, following the first event's occurrence. It will not keep happening. Here, however, the dependent event is in the future continuous, not the simple future.
Why is the second sentence correct? Because a positive outcome of the race, which is as yet undetermined, is only going to represent his comeback once – as soon as it happens. The first sentence implies that the cyclist's victory is going to keep representing a comeback for the duration of his victory – which is confusing, and doesn't make much sense.
Ask yourself: "What happened first, second? What makes sense logically?"
This is only half of the process: after you determine when the events took place, you still need to know what verb form corresponds to the time sequence you've identified. This requires a working knowledge of verb tense, as well as of mood and voice - it's very important to study them.
1. Valerie recalls her college years with such nostalgia that she often lost herself in reminiscence.
(C) is the only choice which uses the correct tense, remaining consistent with the situation that is described in the non-underlined portion of the sentence.
2. Before it will be made available to the public, the painting was sold to a private collector and is currently on hold at the auction house awaiting pick-up.
(C) is the only choice which uses the correct tense. It sets up a hypothetical situation in the past, from which the other events in the sentence end up taking the place of (also in the past).
3. In 79 CE, when Vesuvius erupted, the Villa of the Papyri was being covered in 90 feet of volcanic ash, and was preserved as the sole library of Antiquity.
(B) correctly contains the past tense throughout.
(A) uses the past tense throughout the description of the K-T extinction. It is the most clear, and therefore, the best choice.
You should only compare things that can be logically compared. Faulty or nonsensical comparisons account for a significant number of the errors in GMAT Sentence Correction questions. Most of these errors derive from a very simple concept: you can't compare apples to oranges. You are entirely welcome, however, to compare apples to apples, or a long sweater to a long coat, or even the baking of apple turnovers to the baking of pineapple turnovers. That is, on the GMAT, you want to compare only those things that are grammatically or logically similar. For instance, you can't logically compare a person ("Joe") to a quality ("purple"), or an item ("a banana") to a group ("the NYPD"). You have to compare one individual to another individual, one quality to another quality, or one group to another group.
Often, a comparison will sound as though it's acceptable, but will be missing a few necessary words:
If you read it quickly, this sentence makes perfect sense: the view from the apartment is being compared to the view from the mountain lodge. But if you look more closely, you'll see that the sentence actually compares the view from the apartment to something about the lodge but what about it?
The comparison needs to be clarified.
Just like misplaced modifier questions, comparison questions can't be judged by the ear alone: even though you might understand what the writer is trying to say, trying doesn't cut it on the GMAT. You have to make sure the sentence actually says what it means to say. Here's the correct version:
The insertion of two little words - "the one" - makes this sentence grammatically correct, because "the view from" now has a partner in comparison: "the one from." An alternative would be to repeat "the view (from)," instead of "the one (from)," in the latter portion.
Let's look at another example.
Once again, the sentence sounds ok, but it actually compares Shakespeare's plays to other playwrights. The comparison should be between his plays and the plays of other writers.
How can we fix it? We can make the sentence reasonable by inserting a few choice words that clarify the nature of the comparison:
Like the phrase "the one from" in the last example, the phrase "those of" in this example makes it very clear that Shakespeare's plays are being compared to other playwrights' plays – not other playwrights.
Comparison, as a concept, is closely related to parallelism. The basic idea theme is that you should always make perfectly clear to the reader the entities being compared.
Some common phrases used in comparisons are as much as, more than, less than, just like, as, and that of.
Comparisons are a special case of parallelism. A number of comparison-specific constructions call for you to always express ideas in parallel form. These constructions include:
X or Y can stand for as little as one word, or as much as an entire clause, but in every case, the grammatical structure of X or Y must be identical. For example, the sentence Either drinking or to eat will do violates the rule by mismatching verb forms:
This is a comparison, and requires parallelism. Both verbs must be in the same form: because they aren't currently in the same form, one must be adjusted.
Both verbs are now in the ing form. Though in many cases of parallelism either verb form is fine, for Either/Or comparisons such as this one, both verbs must be in the –ing form.
Here's another example, using Neither/Nor:
This sentence lists two talents one could possess, in a neither/or format. They are not, however, in the same form.
In this sentence, a noun is compared to a verb. Though it's a different kind of mistake than the missing-information and verb-form errors we've looked at, it should be dealt with in the same way: by changing one of the forms to match the other.
Both phrases are now in the same form: "an interest in" and "an adeptness in". In this instance, the verb had to be changed to match the noun, instead of the other way around, because "to be" verbs don't belong in comparison (either/or, neither/nor) sentences.
Some comparison words are just special forms of adjectives; instead of describing one thing, they describe the relationship between two or more things. For most adjectives, use the following guidelines when forming or using comparatives or superlatives:
Special rules apply for irregular forms. Below is a list of those adjectives which have irregular comparative forms; beneath each is listed its comparative and superlative form.
This question tests comparison. (A) is improperly compared because it compares how much John likes New York City to how much he likes Sybil, NOT to how much Sybil likes New York City. (B) and (E) moves around the words, but still maintain improper comparisons. (C) uses is liking which is grammatically incorrect. (D) is the only choice which compares Johns affinity for New York City to Sybils affinity for New York City, without adding new errors.
2. In his work, George Santayana is more reminiscent of Plato's poetic narratives and Henry David Thoreau's obsessive detailing than Bertrand Russells scientific precisions.
This question tests comparison. Because the sentence compares the styles of several writers, it must be made clear that Santayana's work is the subject of the sentence, not Santayana himself. Choice C, omitting any mention of 'work', is therefore incorrect. Though choices A and B do mention work, they fail to do so in a manner that maintains parallelism with the non-underlined part of the sentence, which refers to Plato's narratives and Thoreau's detailing. Choice D makes incorrect use of the word 'reminiscent', which is not generally used in literary comparisons. Choice E maintains parallelism and uses the word 'resembles', which is preferable to 'reminiscent', and is therefore the best choice.
NOTE: This is a partial display of the content in the 800score GMAT course
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