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Top GMAT Grammar Rules You Must Know

The general perception is that the GMAT Quantitative section is tougher than Verbal Reasoning. This may not always be true especially for non-native English speakers. The verbal reasoning section can be equally challenging. Therefore, it becomes important to focus on brushing up some basic English grammar rules. GMAT verbal reasoning section has 36 multiple choice questions based on Reading comprehension, Critical Reasoning, and Sentence Correction.

GMAT Sentence correction questions not only test grammar fundamentals but also test the correct usage of words and phrases. Therefore, while preparing for GMAT sentence correction questions focus on two aspects-

  1. Structure of the sentence– Here the emphasis is on grammar
  2. Meaning of the sentence– Here the attention is on the context

Sentence correction questions measure language proficiency, based on an effective expression that is grammatically sound. Each question will have a sentence or a part underlined, to be restructured, by choosing the right answer from the multiple choices given. While picking the right answer one has to base the choice on context, grammar, word choice, and sentence construction.

While attempting GMAT sentence correction questions identifying grammatical errors alone will not be enough. A grammatically correct sentence should also retain the correct meaning of the original sentence based on its context

Here are some basic sentence correction grammar rules that you need to know to answer questions related to them appropriately:

Subject-Verb Agreement

The agreement is a match between words and phrases, which is essential for clarity of expression. Various parts of speech should agree with each other in number, person, gender, and case to convey a thought properly.

Subject-verb agreement refers to an agreement between the subject and verb, in case and number in a sentence. The rule to remember here is:

  1. A singular noun should have a singular verb form to go with it
  2. A plural noun should have a plural verb form to go with it
  3. Singular verbs end in S whereas plural does not

E.g. He acts (singular), they act (plural)

If answer choices in the test differ based on singular and plural verbs, the question is testing subject-verb agreement. To pick the right answer, identify whether the subject in question is singular or plural. Based on that information, fit in the right verb following the rule mentioned above.

Example:

Singular- A bird flies in the sky

Plural- The birds fly in the sky

Parallelism

In English, it refers to the use of matching sentence structure, phrases, or longer parts to balance ideas of equal importance. It is also sometimes called a parallel structure or parallel construction.

Rules of parallelism

  1. Parallelism is used with elements in lists or in a series.
    Example: Incorrect- She ate her breakfast, had a shower and gone to school.
    Correct- She ate her breakfast, had a shower and went to school.
  2. Parallelism is used with elements joined by coordinating conjunctions.
    Example: Incorrect- He likes cooking and to paint.
    Correct- He likes cooking and painting
  3. Parallelism is used with elements being compared.
    Example: Incorrect-He loves surfing the internet more than to play outside.
    Correct-He loves surfing the internet more than playing outside.

Modifiers

A modifier is a word, a group of words or clauses that function as adjectives or adverbs which are used to describe other words in a sentence. They affect nouns, other verbs, adjectives, and adverbs in a sentence.

Examples

The Green Coat. “Green” as an adjective is a modifier describing the noun “Coat”

The match was exciting. “Exciting” is used as a modifier here to describe the “match”

Modifiers are optional words in a sentence. Adding or removing them does not change the meaning of a sentence. However, when used properly they make writing more descriptive and interesting. GMAT sentence correction questions contain dangling or misplaced modifier related questions.

 

Rule with modifiers

  1. Place them as close as possible to the words or phrases they help modify. Not doing so will make it difficult for the reader to identify which word the modifier is associated within a sentence.

Most commonly made mistakes with modifiers:

  1. Dangling Modifiers– When the writer includes a modifier but forgets to mention the subject it is describing (modifying), it leaves the modifier dangling.

Example: Incorrect-Thirsty, the drink was gulped.

Here “thirsty” is a dangling modifier, as the subject is missing.

Correct: Thirsty, we gulped the drink

 

  1. Misplaced Modifiers- When the placement of the modifier is away from its subject or is misplaced, it is called a misplaced modifier. Incorrect placement makes it difficult for the reader to understand the meaning of the sentence.

Example: Incorrect-Anita only paints on weekends.

The sentence means, Anita does not do anything but paint on weekends.

Correct: Anita paints only on weekends.

The sentence rightly conveys that Anita paints only on weekends.

Faulty Comparison

Faulty comparison occurs when similar comparison pertaining to people, things or a set of group is missing in a sentence.

Example: Incorrect-I like sandwiches, but Café Coffee Day’s sandwiches are better than Barista.

Here the comparison is incomplete as café coffee day’s sandwiches are being compared with Barista (the café). This makes the sentence illogical.

Correct: I like sandwiches, but Café Coffee Day’s sandwiches are better than Barista’s.

Here the comparison is between the sandwiches available at both the cafes, which is a balanced comparison.

 

Rules for Comparison

  1. Compare people to people and things to things.
  2. Use the word other or else when comparing someone or something to other members of the same group
  3. Avoid double comparisons. Example: She is more funnier than him. More is not required as funnier is enough to bring out the comparison between two people.

Use Gerunds carefully

Nouns and verbs ending in -ing are called gerunds. Sometimes verbs and adjectives ending in -ing are also called participles. The general opinion is that gerunds weaken the writing as they make a sentence wordy.

Example: “James is running daily”. This is a wordy sentence.

“James runs daily”. This is less wordy and clear.

Rules with Gerunds

  1. Avoid gerunds at the start of a sentence until absolutely required.
  2. Helping verbs such as –am, are, were, been, have are used with progressive form. Overuse leads to wordy and weak writing.

Idioms

Cambridge University dictionary describes idioms as a group of words whose meaning considered as a unit is different from the meanings of each word considered separately.

The most common mistake students make in the GMAT sentence correction section is using prepositional idioms interchangeably. The correct usage is given below:

 

  1. Like Vs As

Like is used for comparison

As is used for examples

 

  1. Due to Vs because of

Due to is used to modify nouns

Because of is used modify verbs

 

  1. Whether Vs If

Whether is used for introducing alternatives

If is used for conditional

 

  1. Less Vs Fewer

Less is used for uncountable nouns

Fewer is used for countable nouns

Be aware of these rules while reading, writing and speaking in general. This will help you become conscious of the context, which in turn will speed up your learning and will help you perform better in the GMAT sentence correction questions section.

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