Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Pronoun Errors

GMAT Verbal Section -- Pronoun Errors

Pronoun Errors

A pronoun is a word that stands for a noun.This noun is termed as antecedent of pronoun.

(1). Pronouns must agree with their antecedant in both number (singular or plural) and person (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.).

Definite Pronouns - Has antecedents.
Indefinite Pronouns - Has no antecedents.

Always singular Indefinite Pronoun - Anybody, either, one, each, neither, another, some one, each one,anything, nobody,
somebody,no-one, something, everybody, nothing, everyone, whatever, everything, whichever, whoever.

Always plural Indefinite Pronouns - Both, few, others, several.

Sometimes singular sometimes plural Indefinite Pronouns -All, many, some, any, most.


Everything was in its place.
Everyone at the meeting voiced his/her opinion.

(2). Singular or plural depends on number of word or phrase to which it refers.


Some of the grass has lost its colour.
Some of the flowers have lost their petals.

(3). A pronoun should refer to one and only one noun or compound noun. This is the most common error in test questions. If a pronoun follows two nouns, it is often unclear which of the nouns the pronoun refers to.

Incorrect - The destabilization of the economy has left unstable stocks in the hands of frightened investors. It is imperative that they be more tightly controlled.

Should the unstable stocks be controlled or the frightened investors?

Either interpretation is possible from the structure of the sentence.

Correct - The destabilization of the economy has left unstable stocks in the hands of frightened investors. It is imperative that the unstable stocks be more tightly controlled.

(4). Subjects and objects:Objects that come in end of prepositional phrases:

Form --------- Object Form

I --------------------------- Me
You -----------------------You
He ------------------------Him
She ---------------------- Her
It ------------------------- It
We ---------------------- Us
They -------------------- Them

Incorrect - Her and me fought over the tea.
Correct - She and I fought over the tea.

(5). "They" or "it" should not be used without definite antecedents.


In that store they make a customer feel stupid.---Here use of they is incorrect as there is no antecedent for "they" in this sentence so instead of they a proper noun should be used.

Note:In expressions of time and weather antecedent of it is not given.


It is too hot today.

(6). A pronoun must also agree with its antecedent in person

Incorrect - When atheletes break training rules,we sometimes pay with poor performances.
Correct - When atheletes break training rules,they sometimes pay with poor performances.

(7). Subject form of pronoun always comes after ‘than’ or ‘as’.


Peggy is smaller than I (am).

(8). Indefinite pronouns which are always singular require singular verbs.


Somebody has left her purse.
Everyone has done his/her homework.

(9) Pronouns either and neither require singular verbs even if seem to refer,in a sense two things.


Neither of the two traffic lights is working.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Misplaced Restricters

GMAT Verbal Section -- Misplaced Restricters

Restricters are one word modifiers , they limit the meaning of other words or phrases.Restricters include almost, exactly, even, just, nearly, hardly, merely and scarcely.

Restricter is placed directly before the word or phrase it modifies.

Example of misplaced restricter

My roommate only smiles on weekends.

Literally the sentence suggests that on weekends the roomate does nothing except smiling - he/she does not eats,talks etc.
Since this unlikely the restricter should be placed before its actual headword.There are 3 ways to edit the above example .

Edited 1 - My roommate smiles only on weekends. => He/ She does notsmile on Monday through Friday.

Edited 2 - My only roommate smiles on weekends. => The writer has one roommate, period.

Edited 3 - Only my roommate smiles on weekends. => All the other people the writer knows or sees never smile on weekends.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Squinting Modifiers

GMAT Verbal Section -- Squinting Modifiers

Squinting modifiers create uncertainity by appearing to either of two possible headwords
Squinting modifiers are those modifiers that are placed between two words so that they could be understood to modify either word. e.g

The sight of teenagers hitting each other violently upset an elderly couple.

To clarify the statement, we should move violently, placing it before hitting if that is the correct meaning, or after couple -

Edited A- The sight of teenagers violently hitting each other upset an elderly couple.

Edited B - The sight of teenagers hitting each other upset an elderly couple violently.

Similarly below is another example -

To exercise regularly results in aches and pains.

Edited A - Regular exercise results in aches and pains.

Edited B - To exercise results regularly in aches and pains.

Link -
Squinting modifier

Dangling Modifiers

GMAT Verbal Section -- Dangling Modifiers

A dangling modifier is a modifier without a headword - a word or phrase that it can modify. Since a modifier always needs a headword, it will attach itself to a false one if the true one is not present in the sentence. The result will be a sentence like this:

Listening to the sad news, my eyes filled with tears.

Here the sentence opens with a modifier - the participle phrase Listening to the sad news.After the modifier , there must be a headword naming the person(s) who did the listening.But instead we come across my eyes.As a result, the sentence seems to say that eyes heard some sad news .(The presence of my hints at the identity of the true headword , but my itself is not a headword.It is a modifier of eyes.).

To clarify the sentence,the writer can do one of two things - rewrite the word group following the modifier, or rewrite the modifier:

Edited A -
Listening to the sad news, I felt my eyes filled with tears.

Edited B- As I listened to the sad news, my eyes filled with tears.

For Gmat example of Dangling modifier click on the link below view sentence 24


Dangling Modifier Link 1
Dangling modifier Link 2

Monday, May 08, 2006

Misplaced Modifiers

GMAT Verbal Section -- Misplaced Modifier

Placing modifiers - In general a modifier must be placed close to its headword - that is the phrase or word it modifies.But different kinds pf modifiers are placed at different positions.

1). Predicate adjectives follow linking verbs.


i). The days were cloudy.---- Here linking verb is "were" and cloudy is predicate adjective .

ii). The ball was large and red.---- Here linking verb is "was" and large and red is the predicate adjective.

2). Adjective phrases usually follow their headword.


i). A duffel bag with white lettering was left behind.---- Here "duffel bag" is the headword and with white lettering is the adjective phrase.

3). Adjectives and determiners usually precede their headword.


i). The child was bouncing a large, red ball.---- Here "the" and "a large, red" are the determiner and adjective preceding their headword "child" and "ball".

4). Adverbs can appear in various places near or next to their headwords.


i). He always handles the eggs carefully.---- Here the adverbs are "always" and "carefully".

5). Adverb phrases belong near their headword.


i). They will work on the roof until sundown.---- Here the adverb phrase is "on the roof until sundown" and its headword is "work".

6). Appositives usually belong next to their headword.


i). One of his jokes, a story about two fisherman lost in Chennai, leaves an audience gasping for breath.---- Here headword is "jokes" and "a story about two fisherman lost in Chennai" is the appositive.

7). Absolute phrases can precede or follow the noun they modify.


i). Its old timbers shifting, the house creaked.


ii). The house, its old timbers shifting, creaked.


iii). The house creaked, its old timbers shifting.---- In all 3 sentences the noun is "house" and absolute phrase is "Its old timbers shifting".

8). Like adjectives, single participles normally precede their headword.


i). A piece of broken glass glittered on the path.---- Here "broken" is the single participle before its headword "glass".

9). Participle phrases can appear in various positions.


i). Waving to reporters, the President looked jubliant.---- Here participle phrase is "waving to reporters" and its headword is "president".

10). Infinitives and infinitive phrases follow the noun or adjective they modify.


i). Sacket is definitely one film to see.---- Here "to see" to see" is the infinitive phrase following the noun "one film".

Editing misplaced modifiers

Misplaced modifiers do not point clearly to their headwords - the words or phrases they modify.The result is a misleading, confusing sentence.To edit the mistake, move the modifier next to its headword.


i). Incorrect - There was a pumpkin on the porch witha a
smiling face.
Correct - There was a pumpkin with a smiling face on the

ii). Incorrect - The final scene two characters who, in the
beginning,had hated each other in a convincing
Correct - The final scene unites in a convincing way two
characters who, in the beginning, had hated
each other.

Tomorrow I will introduce Dangling modifiers, editing of squinting modifiers editing of misplaced restricters, and avoiding of split infinitive with examples.Any queries you are most welcome to ask.

Monday, May 01, 2006


GMAT Verbal Section -- Sentence correction

Parallelism or Parallel structure

is the coordination of words, clauses and phrases in a sentence. Parallelism heightens the relation between connected elements by lining up noun with noun, phrase with phrase, and verb with verb.In Parallelism all linked words should match in form. e.g

1). Write injuries in dust, benefits in marble.

2). A living dog is better than a dead lion.

3). Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.

In the 3rd example, the construction of the second sentence is fully parallel with the construction of the second.The similarity in form helps to dramatize the difference between uplifts and degrades, and between just and unjust.

a). Situations in which we should make use of parallel constructions:

1). LIST

She was a personality before she became a person – she was simple, complex, generous, selfish, unattractive, beautiful, lazy, and driven.

There are 8 adjectives used in the above sentence since all are adjectives parallelism is maintained.


A fool’s brain digests philosphy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry.

There are 3 matching phrases consisting of a noun plus a prepositional phrase.


They marched slowly but steadily.

Slowly and steadily show parallelism as both are adverbs.


Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.

Use of 4 nouns show parallelism.


We can repair the roof now, or we can replace the entire house in a year.

There are 2 independent clauses with the same subject and similar predicates.


A life without festivities is a long road without inns.

Here there are 2 nouns plus a matching prepositional phrases.


Economy is the art of making the most of life.

There is a noun and a noun phrase.


For most men the love of justice is only the fear of suffering injustice.

There are 2 noun phrases ,thus it shows parallelism.


Walking in dust can be more rewarding than sitting on silk.

Here there are matching verbal nouns and prepositional phrases.

b). Using Correlatives with Parallelism

Correlatives are words or phrases used in pairs to join words, phrases, or clauses. Correlatives include:

Not only…..but also
Neither …..nor
Whether …..or


1). Most tourists are willing to travel either by bus or by train.

2). They found mice not only in the cupboard but also under the sink.

3). Michelangelo was both a great sculptor and a great painter.

NOTE: Besides placing correlatives properly, be careful to use a parallel structure after each one:

Editing faulty parallelism

1). Incorrect – Janice’s way of reading menus is better than most people.
Correct – Janice’s way of reading menus is better than most people’s.
Correct – Janice’s way of reading menus is better than that of most people.
Correct – Janice’s way of reading menus is better than the way of most people.

2). Incorrect – The farmers will either find ways to cut their costs, or the banks will lower the interest
rate on loans.
Correct – Either the farmers will find ways to cut their costs, or the banks will lower the interest
rate on loans.

c). Other rules for forming parallel structure

1). When two adjectives modify the same noun, they should have similar forms.

Incorrect - Brenda treated the patient swiftly and calm.
Correct - Brenda treated the patient swiftly and calmly.

2). When a series of clauses is listed, the verbs in each clause must have the same form.e.g

Incorrect - On sunny days many like to skate on the village pond or sledding on Mount
Correct - On sunny days many like skating on the village pond or sledding on Mount
Correct - On sunny days many like to skate on the village pond or to sled on Mount

3). Both halves of a sentence should have the same structure.e.g

Incorrect - To acknowledge Divine wisdom is taking the first step to nirvana.
Correct - Acknowledging Divine wisdom is taking the first step to nirvana.
Correct - To acknowledge Divine wisdom is to take the first step to nirvana.