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      Of all the topics you must study to prepare for the GMAT, there are two in particular that will have the greatest benefit after test day: the preparation for the AWA Essay section and Sentence Correction section. Effective writing is a vital part of business communication. The skills you learn here will carry far beyond test day.
       About 14 of the 41 Verbal section questions are Sentence Correction.

The directions for these questions look like this:

Directions: The following questions consist of sentences that are either partly or entirely underlined. Below each sentence are five versions of the underlined portion of the sentence. Choice (A) is a copy of the original version. The four other answer choices change the underlined portion of the sentence. Read the sentence and the five choices carefully and select the best version.

These questions test your knowledge of correct grammatical usage and your sense of clear and economical writing. 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.

There are two things you should note about these directions:

1. "Standard Written English" Standard Written English is not what we use for casual communication, and it is not as formal as the English used in scholarly writing.

2. "Clearly and precisely" You are also looking for answers that are concise and not redundant.

This chapter is divided into two parts:

I.
Eight Types of Errors in the Sentence Correction Section (this is an overview of grammar rules--many students can skim through this section because some parts are basic).

II. Three Step Method for the Sentence Correction Questions (this is an overview of strategy to approach the Sentence Correction section).


The scope of this grammar guide is to give you a basic introduction to grammar. If you still need help, consider buying a book on grammar.


I. Eight Types of Errors in the Sentence Correction Section

         The GMAT tests only a limited number of grammar error types.

A. Subject-Verb Agreement
B. Modifiers
C. Parallelism
D. Pronoun Agreement
E. Verb Time Sequences
F. Comparisons
G. Idioms

A. Subject-Verb Agreement

     The verb and subject must agree. If the subject is singular, then the verb must be singular. If the subject is plural, then the verb must be plural. Test writers will try to fool you by using unusual phrases that make it difficult to tell if the subject is singular or plural.

1. If a singular subject is separated by a comma from an accompanying phrase, it remains singular:

The child, together with his grandmother and his parents, is going to the beach.

wrong: Frank, accompanied by his student, were at the studio.
right: Frank, accompanied by his student, was at the studio.


2. 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 they act as individuals.


Collective nouns will usually be singular in Sentence Correction sentences.

A majority of the shareholders wants the merger.

Here the "majority" acts as a singular and therefore has a singular verb, "wants."

The jury were in disagreement.

Collective noun, plural verb (because they are acting as individuals). Note: this is very rare and highly unlikely to come up on test day.

 

3. Phrases separated by and are plural; phrases separated by or are singular.


Ted, John, and I are going.

Because they are joined by and, the plural form is used

4. 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.


Neither the supervisor nor the staff members were able to calm the distressed client.


5. Be careful to choose the right subject in sentences in which the verb precedes the subject.

wrong: There is many reasons why I can't help you.

right: There are many reasons why I can't help you.
Here reasons is the subject.



 Beware of confusing singular/plural words:
Singular Plural
Medium Media
Datum Data

 

B. Modifiers


 1. Errors in the Use of Adjectives and Adverbs.

Check if a word modifier is an ADJECTIVE or an ADVERB. Make sure the correct form has been used.

She is a good tennis player. (What kind of tennis player?)

Most adverbs are formed by adding -ly to the adjective, such as, "He worked quickly."

EXCEPTIONS:

Adjective Adverb
early
fast
good
hard
late
early
fast
well
hard (hardly means almost not)
late (lately means recently)
      

wrong: She is a real good swimmer.

right: She is a really good swimmer.


"really" is acting as an adverb to modify the adjective "good"

wrong: The new student speaks bad.

right: The new student speaks badly.


"Badly" modifies how the student speaks.

 

2. Errors of Adjectives with Verbs of Sense.
The following verbs of sense are described by ADJECTIVES:


 be

 look

 smell

 taste

feel 

 seem

wrong: After the three week vacation, she looked very well.

right: After the three week vacation, she looked very good.

NOTE: "She is well" means "She is healthy" or describes a person's well-being.


wrong
: The strawberry shortcake tastes deliciously.

right: The strawberry shortcake tastes delicious.


3. Location of Modification.

Examples
Faulty modifications often inadvertently change the meaning of sentences.

1. On arriving at the train station, his friends met him and took him immediately to his speaking engagement in Springfield.

This sounds as if the friends arrived at the train station. It should say, "When Jay arrived at the train station, his friends met him and took him to his speaking engagement in Springfield."

Where did "Jay" come from? Sometimes one of the answer choices might inject new names into a sentence. This is appropriate here since the pronouns had no specific antecedents.

 

C. Parallelism

     Similar elements in a list should be in similar form. Writers often use a parallel structure for dissimilar items. Parallel constructions must be expressed in parallel grammatical form: all nouns, all infinitives, all gerunds, all prepositional phrases, or all clauses must agree.

wrong: All business students should learn word processing, accounting, and how to program computers.

right: All business students should learn word processing, accounting, and computer programming.

     This principle applies to any words that might begin each item in a series: prepositions (in, on, by, with), articles (the, a, an), helping verbs (had, has, would) and possessives (his, her, our). Either repeat the word before every element in a series or include it only before the first item. Anything else violates the rules of parallelism.

     In effect, your treatment of the second element of the series determines the form of all subsequent elements:

wrong: He invested his money in stocks, in real estate, and a home for retired performers.

right: He invested his money in stocks, in real estate, and in a home for retired performers.

      When proofreading, check that each item in the series agrees with the word or phrase that begins the series. In the above example, "invested his money" is the common phrase that each item shares. You would read, "He invested his money in real estate, (invested his money) in stocks, and (invested his money) in a home for retired performers."



D. Pronoun Agreement

          It is often difficult to tell what noun a pronoun replaces and what case (subjective or objective) should be used. Which pronoun you use depends on if the pronoun is being used as the subject or the object of a sentence.

 Subject Objective
he him
she  her
who whom
 I me
they  them
we us



1. Pronoun Subject/Object.
Check if a pronoun is the SUBJECT or the OBJECT of a verb or preposition.

wrong: How could she blame you and he for the accident?

right: How could she blame you and him for the accident?


Example
(She/her) was better suited.


Here the pronoun is the subject of the verb suited, meaning "she" acts as the subject and is the correct answer.

WHO/ WHOM
If the pronoun is acting as a subject, it should be who. If it is acting as an object, it should be whom.

Example
I don't know (who/whom) Steven meant.

Whom is in the object form because it is the object of meant (with Steve as the subject).

2. Check if the pronoun and its verb agree in number.
Remember that the following are singular:

 anyone  anything  each
 either  everyone  everything
 neither  no one  nothing
 what  whatever  whoever

These are plural:
 both  many  several  others  few

wrong: Everyone on the project have to come to the meeting.

right: Everyone on the project has to come to the meeting.



The forms "either... or" and "neither...nor" are singular and take a singular verb. However, if the noun closest to the verb in the "neither..nor" or "either...or" is plural, then the verb is plural.


wrong: Neither his bodyguards nor he were there.

right: Neither his bodyguards nor he was there.


3. Check if possessive pronouns agree in person and number.

wrong: Some of you will have to bring their own beer.

right: Some of you will have to bring your own beer.

Some is singular.


wrong
: If anyone comes over, take their name.

right: If anyone comes over, take his name.

The subject is anyone, which is singular, which requires a singular pronoun, his.



4. "Objects" of to be verbs are in the subject form.

wrong: It must have been her who called.

right: It must have been she who called.



5. A relative pronoun (which, that or who) refers to the word preceding it. If the meaning is unclear, the pronoun is in the wrong position. The word "which" introduces non-essential clauses and "that" introduces essential clauses. "Who" refers to individuals; "that" refers to a group of persons, class, type, or species.

wrong: The line at the bank was very slow, which made me late.

right: I was late because of the line at the bank.
OR The line at the bank made me late.


6. In forms using impersonal pronouns, use either "one.. one's/his or her" or "you.. your."

wrong: One should have their teeth checked every six months.

right: One should have one's/his or her teeth checked six months.
OR You should have your teeth checked every six months.

wrong: One should take your responsibilities seriously.

right: One should take one's/his or her responsibilities seriously.
OR You should take your responsibilities seriously.



Exception: note that its is a possessive of it, and it's is the contraction of "it is."


E. Verb Time Sequences

    A common error in the GMAT is to misuse verb tense. Different verb tenses indicate the order in which separate actions or events occur. Many GMAT sentences are complicated and involve several different actions occurring at different times. The correct tenses make the sequence of actions clear. To determine whether the verbs in a sentence are in the proper tenses, pick one event as a "base" action and then determine when other events occurred relative to it. Determine whether the events occurred PRIOR TO the base action, AFTER the base action, or AT THE SAME TIME AS the base event took place. Actions that start before the base may continue after the base.


VERB TENSE TIPS

1. You should look out for -ing forms.
Typically -ing forms are commonly used as junk answers on the GMAT.

As far as the GMAT is concerned, there are only two basic reasons to use an -ing form:

2. Be alert for the appearance of several verbs, indicating events that seem to have happened in sequence or at different times. In which case, pick one verb as the "base" in time sequence.

 

Example

If the cyclist wins the race, it will be representing an extraordinary comeback from his earlier cancer.

Solution
The win will not be "representing an extraordinary comeback;" it will "represent a comeback."

 

F. Comparisons

     You should compare only things that can be logically compared. Faulty comparisons account for a significant number of errors in GMAT Sentence Correction questions. Most relate to the very simple idea that YOU CAN'T COMPARE APPLES TO ORANGES. You want to compare things that are grammatically similar; you also want to compare things that are logically similar. For instance, you can't logically compare a person to a quality or an item to a group. You have to compare one individual to another, one quality to another, or one group to another.

You should look out for key comparison words, such as:

 like  as  compared to
 less than  more than  other
 that of  those of  

 


A number of constructions call for you to always express ideas in parallel form. These constructions include

Either X or Y...

Neither X nor Y...

Not only X but also Y...

X or Y can stand for as little as one word or as much as a whole clause, but in any case, the grammatical structure of X or Y must be identical.

wrong: The view from this apartment is not nearly as spectacular as from that mountain lodge.

right: The view from this apartment is not nearly as spectacular as the one from that mountain lodge.


Check to see whether the comparison is both logical (according to the standards of GMAT English) and grammatical.

1. Jerry gives less to charity than any other church member.

You want to compare what Jerry gives to what any other church member contributes. The simplest way to fix this and make it suitable GMAT English is to add a "does" after "church member". Thus, the statement now directly compares what Jerry gives to what other church members give. (Note: if Jerry were to give something quantifiable, like dollars then it would be, "Jerry gives fewer dollars..." instead of less.)

2. The newer model weighed 20 pounds less than that of the older model.

It has to be either: "The newer model weighed 20 pounds less than the older model did." or "The newer model's weight was 20 pounds less than that of the older model."

3. The sports writer questioned the skill of basketball players compared to tennis players.

It has to be "the skill of basketball players" compared to that of "tennis players." It must be phrased the "skill of basketball players compared to the skill of tennis players."

 

G. Idioms


Look for these common idiom tricks on GMAT questions:

Examples

1. When choosing a car you often have to choose (between/among) practicality and performance.



Between is correct. Use "between" to distinguish two things, such "practicality" and "performance." Use "among" for more than two things. The bank robbers divided the stolen money "among" the five of them."


2. A small order of french fries has much (fewer/less) fries than the super-sized order.


Fewer is correct. Fewer answers the question "How many?" relating to something that could be counted individually." Less "refers to things such as pudding, cake, or flour, which cannot be reasonably quantified



3. I prefer Mozart (to/over) Beethoven.


"Prefer to" is the proper expression.


4. Timothy talks (like/as) his friends do.


This is one of the few instances "like" should be used in English. "Like" is used here as a direct comparison.


5. He was studying (in/at) a rate of two practice GMATs per day.


It's "at a rate of," instead of "in a rate of."


6. The joint-venture contract covers such questions (like/as) the division of profits and costs.

"Covers… as" is better here. "Like" should be used very rarely, only for direct comparisons (Joe plays like his brother).


7. Dan Marino is regarded (as/to be) one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play football.


The idiom is "regarded as."


II. Three-Step Method to the Sentence Correction Questions

A. Read the sentence.
B. Figure out what the question is testing.
C. Eliminate answer choices.

A. Read the sentence.

     Do not simply read the underlined part of the sentence. Read the complete sentence. Choice (A) will always be a copy of the original underlined part of the sentence. If you cannot find any errors in the original sentence, choose A. Don't worry about spelling, capitalization, or punctuation; they are not covered in Sentence Correction questions.


B. Figure out what the question is testing.

     This is a multiple choice exam, so you know that one of the answer choices must be right. Therefore, you may look at the different answer choices and see what the changes are to figure out the problem in the sentence.

Example

"On arriving at the train station, his friends met him and took him immediately to his speaking engagement."

Give these answers a quick glance:
a) On arriving at the train station, his friends met him and took him immediately to his speaking engagement.
b) Arriving at the train station, his friends who met him immediately took him to his speaking engagement.
c) When he arrived at the train station, his friends met him and took him immediately to his speaking engagement.
d) When he arrived at the train station, he was taken immediately to his speaking engagement.
e) After arriving at the train station, he was immediately taken to his speaking engagement.

Notice that certain parts of the sentences change from choice A to choice E. These are the "controversial" parts of the sentence that contain variable elements.

a) On arriving at the train station, his friends met him and took him immediately to his speaking engagement.
b) Arriving at the train station, his friends who met him immediately took him to his speaking engagement.
c) When he arrived at the train station, his friends met him and took him immediately to his speaking engagement.
d) When he arrived at the train station, he was taken immediately to his speaking engagement.
e) After arriving at the train station, he was immediately taken to his speaking engagement.

The bolded parts of the sentence represent areas that change; the non-bolded are the areas that are fixed throughout the answer choices and therefore must not have problems. Thus, we may narrow the problem areas of the sentence. Choice C is correct because it clarifies the subject of the modifying phrase.

 

C. Eliminate answer choices.

      The process of elimination is very important here. Eliminate a choice once you find one error in it. Gradually, you should be down to one or two choices, and you may make a reasonable guess. Use the process of elimination scrap paper charts to narrow your choices.

 

D. Sample Questions

1. The threat of discrimination lawsuits helps ensure <that pay be the same for jobs historically held by minorities as for jobs requiring comparable skill that are> usually held by whites.

(A) that pay be the same for jobs historically held by minorities as for jobs requiring comparable skill that are
(B) that pay for jobs historically held by minorities should be the same as for a job requiring comparable skills
(C) to pay the same in jobs historically held by minorities as in jobs of comparable skill that are
(D) to pay the same regardless of whether a job was historically held by minorities or is one demanding comparable skills
(E) to pay as much for jobs historically held by minorities as for a job demanding comparable skills





In choice B, 'should' is illogical after 'requires', or at least unnecessary, and so is better omitted; in choices B and E, 'job' does not agree in number with jobs; and in choices B, D, and E, the wording illogically describes the 'comparable skills' rather than the 'jobs' as being "usually held, by whites." Choices C, D, and E produce the ungrammatical construction 'requires of... employers to pay', in which of makes the phrase incorrect. In C, .the use of in rather than 'for' is unidiomatic, and 'jobs of comparable skill' confusedly suggests that the jobs rather than the workers possess the skills. In D, the phrase beginning 'regardless. . .' is awkward and wordy in addition to being illogical. Choice A is best


2. Hand ale pumps may slightly improve the flavor of ale over gas-powered kegs, but modern pub managers contend that <hand ale pumps cost twice as much as gas-powered kegs>.

(A) hand ale pumps cost twice as much as maintaining gas-powered kegs
(B) hand ale pumps cost twice as much to maintain as gas-powered kegs do
(C) maintaining hand ale pumps costs twice as much as gas-powered kegs do
(D) maintaining hand ale pumps costs twice as much as it does for gas-powered kegs
(E) to maintain hand ale pumps costs twice as much as for gas-powered kegs


This sentence compares the costs required to maintain two kinds of roads. B, the best choice, is able to maintain parallelism in the comparison as well. Choice A incorrectly shifts the meaning by comparing the cost of hand ale pumps with the cost of maintaining gas-powered kegs. Choice C does the opposite: it compares the cost of maintaining hand ale pumps with the cost of gas-powered kegs themselves. Choice D further confuses the sentence by adding a nonparallel clause, it does for, in which it has no clear referent. Choice E introduces the infinitive phrase to maintain.., and wrongly attempts to complete the comparison with the nonparallel prepositional phrase for....

 

3. This week's bingo session will have <an even greater amount of winners> than won last week.

(A) an even greater amount of winners
(B) an ever larger amount of winners
(C) an amount of people even winners
(D) a number of people even winners
(E) an even greater number of winners




Notice that three choices contain the word amount and two choices contain number. People, because they can be counted, come in numbers rather than amounts. (E) is best because of the remaining two because the phrase an even greater amount of people clearly refers to more people, while a number of people even larger could be referring to bigger people.


4. <With> only one percent of the world's population, the English people have dramatically altered the course of the world.

A) With
B) Although accounting for
C) Being
D) Despite having
E) As




The trick with this sentence correction question is the contrast between the size of the English population and the activities of its citizens. Choices D and B are the only ones that establish the contrast, and only B, the best choice, expresses meaning accurately with the phrase 'Although accounting for.' 'With' in choice A and 'Despite having' in choice D confusingly suggest that English people somehow possess, rather than constitute, one percent of the world's population. Choices E and C lose the contrast between the opening phrase and the main clause, and As is unidiomatic in E.

 

5. The public's widespread interest in the life of <ancient Egyptians and their general curiosity about extraterrestrial life has> generated considerable interest in science fiction.

A) ancient Egyptians and their general curiosity about extraterrestrial life has
B) ancient Egyptians and they are generally curious about extraterrestrial life which has
C) ancient Egyptians, as well as their general curiosity about extraterrestrial life, have
D) ancient Egyptians, as well as its general curiosity about extraterrestrial life, has
E) ancient Egyptians, as well as general curiosity about extraterrestrial life, have




The sample sentence has two errors. First, it is vague about what the word 'their' refers to (the public or the ancient Egyptians) and then there is a problem with subject/verb agreement (public is singular, meaning that it has to math 'has'. Logically, it would seem the reference is to the public, but public is singular; so we would have to use its, not their. Choice (B) is awkward. Choices (C), (D), and (E) change the sentence's structure so that the word belief becomes the only subject-now we need a singular verb. Only (D) contains the singular verb has.



The scope of this grammar guide is to give you a basic introduction to grammar. If you still need help, consider buying a book on grammar.


More questions are available in our practice tests. Email any questions or suggestions to 24hourtutor@800score.com.

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