GMAT Tips Sat 06 2016

Sentence Structure on the GMAT

Whether we belong to the crowd who grew up speaking English as a native language, or consider ourselves to be one of those who took it upon ourselves to master it as a second language, we often take the linguistic constructions of English for granted. This liberty, however, forsakes us when it comes to preparing for the GMAT; the GMAT dedicates an entire section to sentence correction.

The first issue to consider in a sentence is its structure. The question we ought to ask after reading a sentence is, it a complete sentence? STANDARD WRITTEN AMERICAN ENGLISH (SWAE) has quite strict notions about what constitutes a sentence. Beware of the sentence fragment —an incomplete sentence, a string of words that does not have all it takes to make a sentence. Also, beware of the run-on sentence — a sentence that is a little too complete, a string of words that should actually be written as two sentences.

Lucky for us, there are a set of rules we can master to ace the sentence correction section of the GMAT. As far as the sentence structure is concerned, there are five rules that we ought to master.

Rule 1: Every sentence must have a subject and a conjugated verb. In speech and casual writing it may be acceptable to produce sentences without verbs, but it is not acceptable in SWAE.

INCORRECT: Violence on television. That is what makes today’s young people so indifferent to human suffering.

CORRECT: Violence on television is what makes today’s young people so indifferent to human suffering.

Rule 2: A clause beginning with a subordinating conjunction cannot be the main clause of a sentence.

Conjunctions like “before,” “after,” “although,” “because,” “if,” “when,” or “while” are subordinating conjunctions. A clause that begins with a subordinating conjunction cannot stand-alone. Such a clause must be attached to another clause.

INCORRECT: Why was the move postponed? Because the new location was not yet ready for occupancy.

CORRECT: ?The move was postponed because the new location was not yet ready for occupancy.

INCORRECT: Although every attempt was made to rescue the agreement, ranging from compromise through concession to threats.

CORRECT: Every attempt was made to rescue the agreement, ranging from compromise through concession to threats.

The conjunctions “and,” “but,” “or,” “nor,” “for,” “so,” and “yet” are coordinating conjunctions. A clause that begins with one of these conjunctions can be attached to another clause, but such a clause can also stand-alone. Some traditionalists object to the practice, but in contemporary SWAE it is acceptable to begin a sentence with “and” or “but.”

Rule 3: A clause beginning with a “which” or “who” cannot be the main clause of a sentence (unless the sentence is a question).

“Which” and “who” are relative pronouns. A clause that begins with a relative pronoun is a subordinate clause and needs another clause to attach to.

INCORRECT: The president has a degree from Harvard, and the vice president has a degree from the University of Virginia. Which is the Harvard of the South. ?

CORRECT: The president has a degree from Harvard, and the vice president has a degree from the University of Virginia, which is the Harvard of the South.

Rule 4: Do not join two independent clauses with a comma.?

If two clauses can each stand alone as a sentence, then they must be separated by something more final than a comma. A period usually works best, but a semicolon will work as well.

INCORRECT: The tomato is not a vegetable, it is a fruit.

CORRECT: The tomato is not a vegetable. It is a fruit.

CORRECT: The tomato is not a vegetable; it is a fruit.

 

INCORRECT: The forecasts were accurate, the market is rebounding.

CORRECT: The forecasts were accurate. The market is rebounding.

CORRECT: The forecasts were accurate; the market is rebounding.

 

INCORRECT: A monetary donation is not required, there are other ways to contribute.

CORRECT: A monetary donation is not required. There are other ways to contribute.

CORRECT: A monetary donation is not required; there are other ways to contribute.

Be aware that American readers find the semicolon pretentious. Usually a period is all you need. Use semicolons sparingly.

Rule 5: Do not use adverbs to join clauses.

The following words are adverbs: thus however instead therefore nevertheless

These words are not conjunctions and should not be used to join clauses. Begin a new sentence, or at least use a semicolon.

INCORRECT: The quadrilateral is a parallelogram, therefore opposite angles are equal.

CORRECT: The quadrilateral is a parallelogram. Therefore, opposite angles are equal.

CORRECT: The quadrilateral is a parallelogram; therefore, opposite angles are equal.

 

INCORRECT: No former President has ever served in the Senate, however one did serve in the House of Representative.?

CORRECT: No former President has ever served in the Senate. However, one did serve in the House of Representatives.

CORRECT: No former President has ever served in the Senate; however, one did serve in the House of Representatives.

 

INCORRECT: Auto emissions and industrial waste are under control, nevertheless air pollution is on the increase.

CORRECT: Auto emissions and industrial waste are under control. Nevertheless, air pollution is on the increase.

CORRECT: Auto emissions and industrial waste are under control; nevertheless, air pollution is on the increase.

 

INCORRECT: The meeting was not held in the conference room as planned, instead it took place in the director’s office.

CORRECT: The meeting was not held in the conference room as planned. Instead, it took place in the director’s office.

CORRECT: The meeting was not held in the conference room as planned; instead, it took place in the director’s office.