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Tips to Tackle Inverted Sentence Structures in GMAT

One of the biggest challenges in the GMAT test is the question type called ‘Sentence Correction’. The questions are deliberately structured in a way that the right answers seem wrong and the wrong ones seem right. Such questions certainly do not sound or read like how we normally speak or write. Such a structure is called the ‘inverted structure’ of the sentence.

For example:
The money was kept on the table – a simple sentence
On the table, was my money – an inverted sentence

In a typical sentence, the subject precedes the verb, however in an inverted sentence, as it is rightly called, the verb precedes the subject. The clue for such a construction is typically a prepositional phrase – in this case, “on the table”, followed by a verb. It is important to recognize that the object of the prepositional phrase, “table,” cannot be the subject of the verb, “was,” so we know that the subject will come after the verb.

Let’s look at an actual example of an inverted structure from an official GMAT question:

The Achaemenid empire of Persia reached the Indus Valley in the fifth century B.C., bringing the Aramaic script with it, from which was derived both northern and southern Indian alphabets.

(A) the Aramaic script with it, from which was derived both northern and
(B) the Aramaic script with it, and from which deriving both the northern and the
(C) with it the Aramaic script, from which derive both the northern and the
(D) with it the Aramaic script, from which derives both northern and
(E) with it the Aramaic script, and deriving from it both the northern and

So what do we think the alphabets were derived from? From the Aramaic script.

Notice that in options A and B, the closest referent to “which” is “it.” It would be confusing for one pronoun, “which,” to have another pronoun, “it,” as its antecedent. Moreover, “it” here seems to refer to the Achaemenid Empire. Can we say that that the alphabets derived from the empire? No, we cannot. Thus, the first two options get cancelled. Option E also indicates that the alphabets derived from the empire, so it also is cancelled.

We’re now left with options C and D. We have the clue “from which,” followed immediately by a verb “derive” or “derives.” Thus, the subject for this verb is going to come later in the sentence, in this case, the northern and southern alphabets. If we were to rearrange the sentences  so that they had a more conventional structure, our correct answer would lie between the following options:

C) Both the northern and the southern Indian alphabets derive from [the empire.]
or
D) Both northern and southern Indian alphabets derive from [the empire.]

The correct verb to pair with “alphabets” is “derive.” Therefore, option C is the answer you would choose in this case.

Therefore, if you see a prepositional phrase with a verb, it is in most likelihood an inverted sentence. In that case, you need to look for the subject after the verb instead of before to arrive at the correct answer.

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