GMAT Verbal : Correcting Ambiguous Modifier Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GMAT Verbal

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Correcting Ambiguous Modifier Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English.

For the last decade, the city has had more tourists every single year.

Possible Answers:

the city has had more tourists coming every single year.

the city has had more tourists each single year.

the city having had more tourists every single year.

the city has had more tourists every single year than the year before.

the city has had more tourists every single year.

Correct answer:

the city has had more tourists every single year than the year before.

Explanation:

The sentence as written is awkward, making it seem as though some unspecified amount of tourists are arriving "every single year." The exact comparison being made by "more" must be made explicit. The only answer choice that clears up this confusion is "the city has had more tourists every single year than the year before."

Example Question #2 : Correcting Ambiguous Modifier Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English.

A majority of the electorate believes that policy directives have little to no impact on the day-to-day lives of the people at the national level.

Possible Answers:

A majority of the electorate, at the national level, believes that policy directives have little to no impact on the day-to-day lives of the people.

A majority of the electorate believes that policy directives have little to no impact on the day-to-day lives of the people at the national level.

A majority of the electorate believe that national policy directives have little to no impact on the day-to-day lives of the people. 

A majority of the electorate believes that national policy directives have little to no impact on the day-to-day lives of the people. 

A majority of the electorate believe that policy directives have little to no impact on the day-to-day lives of the people at the national level.

Correct answer:

A majority of the electorate believes that national policy directives have little to no impact on the day-to-day lives of the people. 

Explanation:

A majority is singular, so the verb "to believe" must agree with that verb form. Additionally, there is an ambiguous modifier at the end of the sentence. "National level" refers to policy, not people; therefore, it must be placed next to "policy," the noun that it modifies.

Example Question #3 : Correcting Ambiguous Modifier Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English.

Working overtime to produce their first issue, the newspaper was instantly acclaimed as a successful venture in the publishing field.

Possible Answers:

Working overtime in producing their first issue

Having worked overtime to produce their first issue

Working overtime to produce their first issue

With its staff working overtime to produce the first issue

Working overtime to produce the first issue

Correct answer:

With its staff working overtime to produce the first issue

Explanation:

As constructed, the sentence reads that the "newspaper," an inanimate object, is what is working overtime, rather than the individuals actually putting in the work. The phrase needs to be reworked to show what is actually working. "With its staff working overtime to produce the first issue" is the only answer choice that makes the correct change.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Ambiguous Modifier Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English.

Gerald fumbled with his papers, apologized to his coworkers, and replaced them on his podium.

Possible Answers:

and replaced those on his podium.

replacing them on his podium.

and replaced it on his podium.

then replaced them on his podium.

and replaced the papers on his podium.

Correct answer:

and replaced the papers on his podium.

Explanation:

The example sentence is unclear because the pronoun "them" has an unclear antecedent. In the example, "them" could refer either to the coworkers or the papers, and is therefore ambiguous. The correction would be simply to specify that it is "the papers" that are being replaced.

Example Question #5 : Correcting Ambiguous Modifier Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English.

Our supervisor instructed us to strictly keep track of the time we spent away from our desks.

Possible Answers:

instructed us to keep track of the time we spent away from our strictly desks.

strictly instructed us to keep track of the time we spent away from our desks.

strictly instructed us to keep track of the time we spent away from our desks.

instructed us to keep track of the time we spent away from our desks strictly.

instructed us to keep strictly track of the time we spent away from our desks.

Correct answer:

strictly instructed us to keep track of the time we spent away from our desks.

Explanation:

The example sentence includes an ambiguous modifier. In the example sentence, "strictly" is not placed close enough to the verb it modifies, and is thus it is impossible to know whether the supervisor gave his instruction "strictly" (meaning in a strict manner), or whether he or she was providing a restriction on what the employees kept track of (i.e. to keep track "strictly" meaning only of the time spent away from their desks). The best correction here would be to move "strictly" closer to "instructed," making it clear that the manner of instruction is being modified. The correct version of the sentence reads, "Our supervisor strictly instructed us to keep track of the time we spent away from our desks."

Example Question #6 : Correcting Ambiguous Modifier Errors

The President told us gleefully to greet the ambassadors.

Which option best replaces the underlined sentence?

Possible Answers:

The President told us gleefully to greet the ambassadors. 

The President told us (gleefully) to greet the ambassadors. 

The President gleefully told us to greet the ambassadors. 

The President told us to greet the gleefully ambassadors. 

The President gleefully told us to gleefully greet the ambassadors.

Correct answer:

The President gleefully told us to greet the ambassadors. 

Explanation:

In the original sentence, "gleefully" is an ambiguous modifier. Is the President gleeful when giving his orders to the group, or is he telling the group to themselves be gleeful when they greet the ambassadors? The correct answer shifts the word to make things clearer. All of the other options have errors of their own. 

Example Question #2 : Correcting Ambiguous Modifier Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

The congressmen conferred quietly in the cloakroom wearing patriotic pins.

Possible Answers:

wearing patriotic pins conferred quietly in the cloakroom

conferred quietly in the cloakroom wearing patriotic pins

quietly conferred in the cloakroom wearing patriotic pins

wearing patriotic pins, conferred quietly in the cloakroom

conferred quietly in the cloakroom, wearing patriotic pins

Correct answer:

wearing patriotic pins conferred quietly in the cloakroom

Explanation:

“Wearing patriotic pins” modifies the noun “congressman” not “cloakroom”; therefore, it must be placed directly after the word “congressmen.”

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