Verbal - Sentence Correction - Advanced
- Verbal - Sentence Correction - Advanced
Last Modified: 2014-07-25
(2) he has gone to louisville since 1977
(3) he has been going to louisville since 1977
The GMAT has opinions on what types of phrases are wordier than others. Recognizing these patterns can help me make confident decisions on the test.
But these are NOT absolute rules. In fact, some (not all) published GMAT problems violate these rules. So use these rules for concision LAST – usually there are other issues besides concision to think about; concision won’t be the make-or-break.
You can rank parts of speech by “concision power”, using the following tool: DRIVE THE V-A-N
V-A-N = Verb > Adjective/Adverb > Noun
<<An active Verb is usually stronger and more concise than an Adjective or an action Noun.>>
The preferred form is usually what the author intended to say, so choosing this form helps to "crystallize" the meaning.
Wordy: The townspeople’s REVOLUTION WAS AGAINST the king.
Better:The townspeople REVOLTED AGAINST the king.
Wordy: They are subject to the applicability of rules.
Better: Rules apply to them.
Wordy: His conception of money was a goal.
Better: He conceived of money as a goal.
Wordy: Her decision was to go.
Better: She decided to go.
**Above, notice how nouns create wordy prep phrases.
**Don’t treat these patterns as a hard-and-fast rule. Use this concision rule last. There's probably other issues.
Concision (3/9) – VAN Pattern 2 – Prefer a That-Clause (with Verbs) to a Series of Phrases (with Nouns) (1/2)
Wordy: The hypothesis ABOUT the COMPOSITION OF the universe AS largely dark energy seems strange.
Better: The hypothesis THAT the universe IS largely COMPOSED OF dark energy seems strange.
When tacking on a long thought onto a noun, better to do so with a That-clause than a bunch of prep phrases
(1) When you are dealing with a noun that is lengthy because of a long thought, put the thought in a That-clause instead of a series of many prep phrases
(2) That-clauses start with “that” and contain a “Working Verb” (which is a verb that, as is, can be the main verb of a sentence). E.g. “Is composed”
(2a) That-clauses are the verb-form of the action, which is a special case of Pattern #1.
(3) A series of prepositional phrases is hard for people to grasp. Using verbs helps to make it easier to read.
“Idea” nouns such as hypothesis, idea, and suggestion, all lend themselves well to this pattern.
The belief THAT the Earth is flat is contradicted by EVIDENCE THAT the Earth is round and the DISCOVERY THAT the Earth circles the Sun.
Wordy: The artist WAS INFLUENTIAL TO the movement.
Better: The artist INFLUENCED the movement.
**Pick the verb form of the action, rather than the adjective form plus the verb “to be”. The directness of the verb makes for better communication.
Wordy: This rash is aggravating to the pain.
Better: This rash aggravates the pain.
Wordy: We are able to go to the store now.
Better: We can go to the store now.
Wordy: This signal is indicative of a problem.
Better: This signal indicates a problem.
Wordy: Her example was inspirational to me.
Better: Her example inspired me.
Concision (6/9) – VAN Pattern 4 – Prefer an Adjective to a Noun
Wordy: THERE IS AN ABUNDANCE of funds for school construction.
Better: Funds for school construction ARE ABUNDANT.
To describe a noun or noun phrase (e.g. funds for school construction), use an adjective (abundant). Avoid the noun derived from that adjective if you can help it.
Wordy: She has the ability to juggle.
Better: She is able to juggle
Best: She can juggle.
Wordy: We have a disinclination to stay.
Better: We are disinclined to stay.
Wordy: He is in isolation.
Better: He is isolated.
(although here you want to be careful about changes in meaning between "isolated" and "in isolation")
Concision (7/9) – VAN Pattern 5 – Prefer an Adverb to a Prepositional Phrase
Wordy: Oil prices have fallen, but prices at the gas pump have not fallen TO A COMPARABLE EXTENT.
Better: Oil prices have fallen, but prices at the gas pump have not fallen COMPARABLY.
To modify a verb phrase (e.g. have not fallen) use a simple adverb rather than a long prepositional phrase that means the same thing. Prep phrases have nouns, so this still uses the VAN principle.
Another problem with the wordy expression above is about meaning. The phrase “Fall to” indicates the LEVEL to which it fell, rather than the EXTENT.
E.g. “Prices have fallen to under a dollar.”
Thus, you have a meaning issue here as well.
Wordy: Marcos is a professor WHO IS ADMIRABLE.
Better: Marcos is an ADMIRABLE professor.
+ Remember that adjective clauses with the verb “to be” (in any of its forms) is generally wordier than the adjective by itself.
Wordy: Joan, WHO IS A FIREFIGHTER, works in Yosemite Park.
Better: Joan, a FIREFIGHTER, works in Yosemite Park.
Be careful with this pattern, since the GMAT does violate it from time to time. It is just a pattern, and all of these examples (both of them!) are correct and clear in meaning.
Concision (9/9) – Remove “it is…that…”
Wordy: IT IS without fear THAT children should play.
Better: Children should play without fear.
While both answers are fine, the GMAT avoids such constructions in correct answers. You should do the same.
The verb “To be” can appear in many instances of wordiness. When I look for a more concise answer, run an “Elimination BE”, and get rid of any unnecessary uses of “be”.
Remember that the verb “to be” can have many other forms, including:
Over-concision (1/6) - Pattern #1: Keep prepositional phrase if you need to (1/3)
The GMAT likes to trick you into falsely making a sentence too concise!!
Don’t be so concise that you make phrases awkward and introduce new errors.
Too short: I talked to the Boston soldier.
Better: I talked to the soldier from Boston.
When you deal with a noun modified by a prepositional phrase, you COULD turn the prep phrase into a noun-adjective (which is a noun placed in front of another noun, and that functions as an adjective). This would shorten the whole expression...
+ Example: A wall of stone vs. a stone wall
+ BUT -- this works best when the preposition is “of”.
If the preposition is not “of” (as with the soldier example), then avoid collapsing the prep phrase!
The examples that follow are comprehensible, but the GMAT thinks they’re unclear!!
Notice that places and locations don’t work well with noun-adjectives, unless the original prep phrases begins with “of”.
Better: salt FROM the Aegean Sea
Too short: Ural Mountain ore
Better: ore FROM the Ural Mountains
Too short: Danube River access
Better: access TO the Danube River
Too short: population changes of honeybees
Better: changes IN the population of honeybees
When you have a time period, quantity, or other measurement as the first word, then keep the prepositional phrase with “of”.
Never modify a measurement using a Noun-Adjective!
Too short: Memorial Day week / Memorial Day’s week.
Better: the week OF Memorial Day
Too short: the merger year
Better: the year OF the merger
Too short: the honeybee population density / the honeybee population’s density
Better: the density OF the honeybee population
Better: The face I see in ads everyday is THAT OF a famous actor.
**Right: It is critical to suspend activities, to notify investors, and to say nothing.
+ There means “in that place”.
This won't apply when saying simple phrases like “there is a cat…”. Here, no antecedent is needed.
“Itself” and “themselves” refer back to the subject. E.g. The panda groomed itself.
Avoid going overboard on shortening a sentence.
+ Right: After the agreement surfaced, the commission dissolved it. --> "it" can ONLY refer to agreement
“One another” and “Each Other” indicate interaction between parties.
Wrong: The guests at the party interacted with themselves.
Right: The guests at the party interacted with one another.
Very easy – just keep in mind that “such” and “one another” are paired with a noun/antecedent.
Such means “like the antecedent.” It can be something similar/same as the antecedent.
Other/another means “additional of the same type” but not “exactly alike”.
You could also replace “Such” with “other/another”
“One” indicates an indefinite copy, or a single indefinite part of a collection.. It can also refer to some individual slice or portion of something larger, like a selection of chocolates for example.
The key here is that “one” is indefinite. It can be any one of these.
Example #1: After walking by the chocolates, Roger had to eat ONE. (he ate some random chocolate)
Example #2: After walking by the chocolates, Roger had to eat THEM. (he ate them all)
***Keep in mind that, as soon as Roger chooses a chocolate, you refer to that particular chocolate as “it”.
“Do so” can refer to an entire action (verbs + objects + modifiers). The phrase “do so” has a similar function to pronouns, except it does that for verbs/verb phrases.
But, “do it” refers to an actual noun antecedent (like a pronoun).
Right: Quinn did not eat dinner quickly, but her brother DID SO. (Quinn's brother "ate dinner quickly").
**Optionally, you could also omit “so”. This has the SAME EXACT MEANING.
Example: Quinn failed to do the homework, but her brother did it.
** “It” refers to the homework.
** You don’t have to use the verb do/did, you could also use something else, like “completed”, "ate", etc.
There are situations where we want to move an awkward subject/object to the back of the sentence. In these cases, we use "it" where the subject/object used to be, in order to make the sentence less awkward.
(2) "It" refers to a That-Clause Subject
Better: It gave us motivation that we scored at all.
(3) Postpone infinitive or That-clause Objects
"After roasting the deer, the hunter extinguished the fire and then searched for a tree to hang it from."
It doesn’t have to be the same word…just has to make sense, so there are many options you’ll have when using generic sentences. It’s flexible :)
As I search for the antecedent of a pronoun, certain principles determine how suitable a noun is as an antecedent.
+ Gender (his/her, it/its which are neutral, they/them/their which can be any gender)
+ Repeated pronouns (e.g. every it/its refers to the same singular noun)
There’s other factors: proximity and case. These 2 factors are not absolute (unlike the other 3).
There are right and wrong structures.
Right: This model explains all known particles, some of which were only recently discovered. (note the use of a verb, which the other forms don't have!)
Right: …some of them only recently discovered.
Right: …some only recently discovered.
Wrong: This model explains all known subatomic particles, of which some were only recently discovered.
Wrong: …some of them which were only recently discovered.
Wrong: …some of which only recently discovered.
Present participles get their tense form the main verb in the sentence!!
Past: I SAW a man CLEANING the steps.
Present: I SEE a man CLEANING the steps.
Future: I WILL SEE a man CLEANING the steps.
Wrong: I SEE the man CLEANING the steps yesterday.
Right: I SEE the man WHO CLEANED the steps yesterday
They are made of nouns + noun modifiers. They don't modify what they touch -- instead, they modify the MAIN CLAUSE of the sentence in some way. They are separated from the full sentence by a comma or dash.
e.g. His head held high, Owen walked out of the store.
Example (1) Scientists have found high levels of iridium in meteors, and this suggests the cataclysmic impact of a meteor in the past.”
--> You might say something like the above, but it’s W-R-O-N-G on the GMAT.
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