One of the GMAT’s favorite ways to trip people up on the Sentence Correction section is to employ verbals where a verb is required. Verbals are words that look like verbs but function as nouns or modifiers.
Think of verbals as the long-lost cousins of verbs. They look similar and often appear in the same place in the sentence, but they serve very different functions.
To think of it another way — in the taxonomy of grammar, verbals are the genus, which can be broken down into the following species:
The GMAT tests our knowledge of verbals in four ways:
1) By treating verbals as verbs, creating sentence fragments.
Check out the sample sentence below:
The correct version of the sentence fragment above might read:
Although he specialized in large-scale commercial renovations, the contractor, who was licensed to work in this state as well as in several neighboring states, was painting the bathroom in the apartment building.
Here, “was painting” (helping verb + “-ing” form) acts as the main verb.
Now, on to the second way the GMAT tests our knowledge of verbals:
2) By matching verbals, which are singular when they function as nouns, with plural verbs.
The second sentence on the slide is correct because “skydiving,” a verbal acting as a singular noun, is matched with the singular “its” and “is.”
The third way the GMAT tries to trick test-takers with verbals is:
3) By misplacing verbals used as modifiers.
Does it make sense for “the boat” to be “drinking rum”? No! The “jolly pirates” are the ones boozing (as the picture clearly shows!). When a participial phrase begins a sentence, always check to see that it is modifying the noun directly after the comma.
Participial phrases at the end of the sentence don’t have to follow such strict rules, however:
Both sentences above are correct. When a participial phrase appears at the end of the sentence, just check to make sure it has a logical antecedent somewhere in the sentence.
Now, for the final way that the GMAT makes sure test-takers know their verbals:
4) By including verbals in constructions that require parallelism.
As you can see in the examples above, verbals that appear in a construction that requires parallelism must be in the same form.
Now that we’ve covered all four ways the GMAT tests your knowledge of verbals, check out the quick recap below.