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What to Memorize for the GMAT: 5 More Must-Know Grammar Rules

Posted in Test Prep on July 11, 2011 by

In the first post of our “What to Memorize for the GMAT Verbal” series, we covered the business and logic vocabulary you should know for the test. In the second post, we covered 5 must-know grammar rules.

Next up: more grammar!

While GMAT grammar isn’t easy, there are certain concepts that the test loves to target. Here are a list of five more rules to memorize that will help you master even the trickiest grammar situations.

Rule 1. –Ing phrases must describe a logical noun.

–Ing phrases can appear three ways in a sentence on the GMAT.

(1) Within or at the end of a sentence and set off by a comma, –ing phrases can describe the subject of the previous clause or the noun immediately before the comma. “Bridget left the party, rushing to catch her plane” logically describes the subject Bridget as “rushing to catch her plane.” “Bridget left the party, dying down because most of the guests fell asleep” logically describes the noun before the comma, the party, as “dying down because most of the guests fell asleep. As long as only one noun is logically described, the –ing phrase can describe either noun. However, “Bridget went to the mall with Sally, loudly screaming” is unclear, because it is unknown whether Bridget or Sally is “loudly screaming.”

(2) Within or at the end of a sentence and not set off by a comma, –ing phrases must describe the noun immediately before them. “The clown making noise in the car is ugly” describes the clown as “making noise,” but “The clown in the car making noise is ugly” describes the car as “making noise.”

(3) At the beginning of a sentence (the most common way the GMAT tests –ing phrases), the –ing phrase must describe the noun immediately after the comma. “Making a pizza, Tony spilled all of the sauce” describes Tony as “making a pizza.”

GMAT sentence: “Assuming the title of “Khagan” after the death of his older brother Mongke, the battle of succession against younger brother Ariq Boke in 1264 was won by Genghis.”

Should be: “Assuming the title of “Khagan” after the death of his older brother Mongke, Genghis won the battle of succession against his younger brother, Ariq Boke in 1264.”

Rule 2. Possessives are not nouns.

The possessive form of a noun (e.g. Joe’s) acts as an adjective that describes the noun belonging to the possessive. The GMAT will try to trick you into thinking that possessives are nouns. For example:

“Auditioning for the play, Joe’s lines were forgotten” contains a misplaced modifier, because “Joe’s lines” did not audition for the play. The misplaced modifier can be corrected by placing the logical noun after the comma, as in:

“Auditioning for the play, Joe forgot his lines.”

GMAT sentence: “Renovating the dining facilities, the park experienced a decrease in revenue, that was due in part to competition from a competing theme park.”

Should be: “While its dining facilities were renovated, the park experienced a decrease in revenue that was due in part to competition from a competing theme park.”

Rule 3. Linked items must look the same.

Two or more words or phrases that play the same role in a sentence must be in parallel form; in other words, they must “look the same.” Nouns should be linked to other nouns, –ing words should be linked to other –ing words, and so on. For example:

“The monkeys love eating bananas and to climb trees” is not correct because “eating” and “to climb” are not in the same form.

When two items seem “linked,” look at the item after the link, which is often the word “and.” In the sentence above, “to climb” follows “and.” In order for “to climb” to be correct, “to climb” must link to another “to be” verb form, but there is no “to be” form earlier in the sentence.

“The monkeys love eating bananas and climbing trees” is correct. The item after “and,” “climbing,” logically links to the other –ing word, “eating.” There are two things that the monkeys love, “eating bananas” and “climbing trees.”

GMAT sentence: “The board of directors will be swayed by quantifiable evidence, favorable market conditions, and to vote unanimously for the proposal.”

Should be: “The board of directors will be swayed by quantifiable evidence, favorable market conditions, and a unanimous vote to pass the proposal.”

Rule 4. Simple tenses describe things that do not change.

Every verb has a tense that tells you when the action occurs in time. Make sure that sentences use the simple present tense to describe the current state of something that does not change. A common way this is tested on the GMAT is with movies or books, which do not change over time. When describing such works, use the simple tense.

For example:

“In the movie Peter Pan, the children are adventuring to a land far, far away” is not correct. Adventure should be in the simple present tense.

“In the movie Peter Pan, the children adventure to a land far, far away” is correct.

Another example:

“I am knowing my country’s national anthem” is ungrammatical, because knowing a national anthem is something that is stable over time.

“I know my country’s national anthem” makes much more sense.

GMAT sentence: “Whether or not the board is understanding the ramifications of the proposal depends on how clearly the costs and benefits are laid out in the presentation this afternoon.”

Should be: “Whether or not the board understands the ramifications of the proposal depends on how clearly the costs and benefits are laid out in the presentation this afternoon.”

Rule 5. Comparisons must make sense.

A comparison is logical only if the objects being compared are of the same type. For example:

“China’s gross domestic product is larger than France” is incorrect, because it is illogical to compare China’s gross domestic product to the entire country of France.

“China’s gross domestic product is larger than France’s” is logically and grammatically correct.

The noun “gross domestic product” can be implied to exist after the possessive France’s.

As soon as you see comparison words like “as… as” or “more/less/greater… than,” see what the sentence is comparing. Make sure that people are compared to people, food is compared to food, literature is compared to literature, and so on.

GMAT Sentence: “Government subsidization of large, nonprofit arts organizations is no less worthy than individual artists who benefit from private charity.”

Should be: “Government subsidization of large, nonprofit arts organizations is no less worthy than private charity that benefits individual artists.”