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4b. Sentence Correction: GMAT Verbal Overview
Sentence Correction type of questions are essentially a test of grammar and hence of communication skills, which is a necessary strength of an MBA. The test-taker is required to know not only a wrong sentence construction from a correct one, but also the change needed to correct any error. Moreover, brevity in sentence construction is to be practiced. Error can range from Noun-verb mismatches, to wrong idiomatic constructions, from excessive wordiness to simple illogicality.


Points to remember/Definitions


Conjunction

A conjunction is a part of speech that connects words or groups of words. Conjunctions are of three types: coordinating, subordinating and correlative.


Preposition

A preposition is a word or group of words used to show a connection between a noun or pronoun and another word in the sentence.


Interjection

An interjection is a word or phrase that expresses emotion and has no grammatical relationship with the rest of the sentence. E.g., Alas! The war is lost.


Participle

A verb form that functions (1) as part of a verb phrase or (2) as an adjective. The three forms are present participle, past participle, and perfect participle.

The student sketching the model is Anuradha.
I have finished my essay.
Having finished my essay, I turned it in.


Gerund

A verbal noun ending in -ing, that is, a noun formed from a verb. A gerund has the same form as the present or perfect participle.

Your speaking is appreciated.
Your having spoken to us is greatly appreciated.

Infinitive

A verb form that is the first of the three principal parts of a verb. The infinitive has the function of a verb (as part of the predicate), but it is also commonly used as a verbal or in a verbal phrase. When used as a verbal, it functions like a noun, adjective, or adverb and is usually preceded by the sign of the infinitive, the word to. to run, to jump, to dream, to think, to explain


Simple Tenses

In this tense the action is mentioned simply in the past, present or future tense.


Perfect Tenses

The perfect tense indicates that an action has been or will be completed in the past, present or future. The perfect tense contains the part of the verb ‘to have’ i.e., have, had, has and the past participle of the verb. The past participle of the verb ends with words like -ed, -en. (There may be exceptions like gave etc.,)


Continuous Tenses

The continuous tense indicates the continuation of a tense in the past, present or future. In this tense you have the form of the verb 'to be' - is, are, am, was, were, shall be, had been, have been and the present participle of the verb i.e. verbs ending with 'ing'.


Perfect Continuous Tense

The perfect continuous tense indicates that the action continued and then was completed in the past, present or the future. This tense uses a form of the verb 'to have' with the past participle of the verb 'to be' and the present participle of the main verb.


On the GMAT, tense problems are often just a matter of parallel construction. The general rule is that if a sentence starts out in a particular tense it should continue in the same.


Example

When I come to Chrysler, I bring along my notebooks from Ford, where I track the careers of several hundred Ford executives. After I fire I prepare a detailed list of everything I want removed from my office. During this same period, we to have to close a number of plants. A lot of people throw out of work. It's a very emotional thing for people who work in the same plant for twenty or thirty years. In some cases their parents work there too.


Answers:

came
brought
had tracked
was fired
had prepared
wanted
to remove
had
were thrown
have been working
had worked


Example

Mention the function of the word light in each line.


You’ve no need to light a night-light

On a light night like tonight,
For a night-light’s light’s a slight light,
And tonight’s a night that’s light.
When a night’s light, like tonight’s light,
It is really not quite right
To light night-lights with their slight lights
On a light night like tonight


Answers:

1st - You’ve no need to light (v) a night-light (n)

2nd - On a light night like tonight (adj)

3rd - For a night-light’s (adj) light’s (n) a slight light (n)

4th - And tonight’s a night that’s light (adj)

5th - When a night’s light * (n/adj), like tonight’s light (n)

7th - To light (v) night-lights (n) with their slight lights (n)

8th - On a light (adj) night like tonight


* Night’s light in the 5th sentence can be an adjective or a noun. When a night is light - here light is an adjective. Nights light i.e. a light of the night is a noun.


Errors of Nouns and Pronouns

A pronoun is used in place of a noun and must reflect its number and gender when possible.


Example

This the dog. This dog bit me yesterday.
This the dog that bit me yesterday.
I liked the people whom I spoke to yesterday
The men who attacked the shop were arrested.


You will notice that in each sentence the underlined word is a pronoun because it replaces and relates back to a noun.


Errors of Subject-Verb Agreement

For this, you need to recognize the subject and its corresponding verb in the sentence.

I am a dog-trainer who always consult with my clients before meeting his dogs. (Wrong)


Here, the subject “trainer” and its verb must agree in number i.e.,: “consults”. Again, “dogs”’ belong to “clients”, therefore “his” should take the plural form “their” (their dogs). Finally a dog trainer consults “his” clients not “my” clients.

Therefore: I am a dog trainer who always consults with his clients before meeting their dogs.

But: I am one of those trainers who consult with their clients before meeting their dogs (correct)


Dangling Modifiers

A dangling modifier is a word or phrase that modifies a word not clearly stated in the sentence.


Misplaced Modifiers

Related to dangling modifiers, Misplaced Modifiers occur when the word modified is not clear or could be more than one word. These problems can usually be solved by rearranging the elements already present in the sentence.


Unnecessary Modifiers

In general, the more simply an idea is stated, the better it is. An adverb or adjective can often eliminate extraneous words.


Example

Correct the sentences, if necessary and mention the type of error. (Dangling modifier or misplaced modifier)


1. Jane nearly ate the whole cake
2. Taking his time, the test was easy.
3. The article is on the table, which I wrote.

Answers:
1. Jane ate nearly the whole cake. (Misplaced modifier)
2. He took his time, as the test was easy. (Dangling modifier)
3. The article, which I wrote, is on the table. (Misplaced modifier)


Words and Phrases, Clauses

Parallel structure means using the same pattern of words to show that two or more ideas have the same level of importance. This can happen at the word, phrase, or clause level. The usual way to join parallel structures is to use coordinating conjunctions such as "and" or "or".


Words and Phrases

With the -ing form of words:
Parallel: Timothy likes reading, swimming, and bicycling.
With infinitive phrases:
Parallel: Timothy likes to read, to swim, and to ride a bicycle.


Clauses

A parallel structure that begins with clauses must keep on with clauses. Changing to another pattern or changing the voice of the verb (from active to passive or vice versa) will break the parallelism


Example 1

Not Parallel: The captain told the players that they should get a lot of sleep, that they should not eat too much, and to do some warm-up exercises before the game.


Idiom

The English language is full of idioms (over 15,000). We use idioms all the time, often without realizing that we are doing so.

An idiom is a phrase or a sentence whose meaning is not clear from the meaning of its individual words and which must be learnt as a whole unit.


For example,

1. The hill dropped off near the river.
2. While doing his homework, he dropped off.
3. Would you drop this off at the post office?

Here, the idiom ‘drop off’ has been used in three different ways.
In sentence 1, it means decline gradually.
In sentence 2, it means fall asleep and
In sentence 3 it means to stop and give something to someone.


Examples

DIRECTIONS: In each of the following sentences a part or whole of the sentence is underlined. Beneath each sentence, five different ways of phrasing the underlined part are indicated; choose the best alternative from among the five.

1. My father was delighted to learn about me getting a degree at college.

(A) me getting a degree
(B) my getting a degree
(C) my degree getting
(D) my getting degree
(E) myself getting a degree


2. This one of the most entertaining movies that has appeared this year.

(A) movies that has
(B) movies thats have
(C) movies that have
(D) movies that
(E) movie that have


3. I have seen Mario’s paintings, who was a student of Narayanan.

(A) Mario’s paintings, who was a
(B) paintings of Mario, who was a
(C) paintings by Mario,
(D) paintings of Mario, a
(E) paintings, Mario who was a


4. When the poor woman asked for help, we two could only look at one another helplessly.

(A) only look at one another
(B) only look at another
(C) look only at one another
(D) only look at each other
(E) look at each other only


5. Anyone of these two books will be used as a script for our next drama.

(A) Anyone of these two
(B) Anyone two of these
(C) Either of these two
(D) Either two of these
(E) Two of any of these


Solutions


1. Correct usage is (B). A pronoun preceding a gerund (an 'ing' verb used as a noun) must be in the possessive case.

2. The correct usage is (C). We need to change has to 'have'. A verb must agree with its subject in person and number, since 'movies' is plural the verb has to be plural as well.

3. The correct usage is (C). The relative pronoun 'who' should be placed as close to its antecedent 'Mario' as possible. (B) sounds correct but it means paintings of Mario, literally.

4. The correct usage is (D). 'Each other' should be used in speaking of two persons or things. 'One another' in speaking of more than two. E.g., when we two parted, we wished luck to each other. But - all of us should love one another.


5. Correct usage is (C). 'Either' should be used in reference to two. When the reference is to more than two, we should use any one. E.g., He is smarter than any one of my students.





 
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