GMAT Verbal : Correcting Comma Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GMAT Verbal

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Correcting Comma 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 first nineteen years of his life the young man had never traveled more than twenty miles from his hometown, but he was now preparing for a trip around the world.

Possible Answers:

For the first nineteen years of his life the young man

For the first nineteen years of his life, the young man 

For first nineteen years of his life the young man

The first nineteen years of his life the young man

For the first, nineteen years of his life, the young man

Correct answer:

For the first nineteen years of his life, the young man 

Explanation:

The phrase "For the first nineteen years of his life" is an introductory phrase, explaining information necessary to the meaning of the sentence, but sitting outside the main construction of the sentence. Any such phrase needs to be set off from the rest of the sentence by a comma. Therefore, the only possible correct answer choice is "For the first nineteen years of his life, the young man."

Example Question #2 : Correcting Comma 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.

Like his father, the boy was extremely serious and hated any school subjects which he found frivolous like art and gym.

Possible Answers:

which he found frivolous like art and gym.

which he found, frivolous, like art and gym.

which he found frivolous, like art and gym.

which he found, frivolous like art and gym.

which he found frivolous like art, and gym.

Correct answer:

which he found frivolous, like art and gym.

Explanation:

In the sentence, the phrase "like art and gym" is an explanatory phrase, one that conditions the meaning of the sentence, but is not a part of the sentence's core structure. Any such phrase must be set apart from the main portion of the sentence with a comma. The only answer choice that correctly places in a comma is "which he found frivolous, like art and gym."

Example Question #3 : Correcting Comma Errors

We went to see the play, "Anything Goes", with our friend, Winston. 

Which option best replaces the underlined sentence?

Possible Answers:

We went to see the play "Anything Goes" with our friend Winston. 

We went to see the play, "Anything Goes", with our friend Winston. 

We went to see the play, "Anything Goes" with our friend, Winston. 

We went to see the play, "Anything Goes", with our friend, Winston. 

We went to see the play "Anything Goes" with our friend, Winston. 

Correct answer:

We went to see the play "Anything Goes" with our friend Winston. 

Explanation:

All of the commas in the original sentence are needless. The phrases "the play" and "our friend" are not significant enough (unless this is the last play in the world with the last friend in the world) to warrant appositive commas. 

Example Question #4 : Correcting Comma Errors

The GMAT builds character, it is full of challenging questions.

What is the best version of the underlined text?

Possible Answers:

The GMAT builds character; it is full of challenging questions. 

The GMAT builds character, and, is full of challenging questions. 

The GMAT builds character, it is, full of challenging questions. 

The GMAT builds character, full, and of challenging questions. 

The GMAT builds character, it is full: of challenging questions. 

Correct answer:

The GMAT builds character; it is full of challenging questions. 

Explanation:

"The GMAT builds character" and "it is full of challenging sentences" are independent clauses. They are related, but independent; therefore, the best way of separating them within the same sentence is with a semicolon rather than a comma. 

Example Question #5 : Correcting Comma 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 repeats the underlined portion as it is written.

In a surprise move, the company’s board halted their announced layoffs, citing a sharp increase in profit margins, over the final quarter of the year.

Possible Answers:

in profit margins, over the final quarter of the year.

in profit margins, over the final quarter, of the year.

in profit margins over the final quarter of the year.

in profit margins over the final quarter, of the year.

in profit margins; over the final quarter of the year.

Correct answer:

in profit margins over the final quarter of the year.

Explanation:

The comma inserted in the underlined portion of the sentence between "margins" and "over" is unnecessary. The full phrase should run continuously without interruption, as it is all one thought. The only answer choice with appropriate punctuation is "in profit margins over the final quarter of the year."

Example Question #6 : Correcting Comma 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.

All his life the boy wanted to travel around the world.

Possible Answers:

All his life the boy wanted,

All his life, the boy, wanted

All his life, the boy wanted

All his life the boy wanted

All his life the boy, wanted

Correct answer:

All his life, the boy wanted

Explanation:

The phrase "All his life" is an example of a introductory phrase, explaining information necessary to the context of the sentence, but outside of the main sentence, grammatically. These types of phrases must be followed by a comma in order to separate them from the rest of the sentence. The correct answer choice is "All his life, the boy wanted."

Example Question #7 : Correcting Comma 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.

She finally bought the car she always wanted a convertible for her 30th birthday.

Possible Answers:

wanted a convertible for her 30th, birthday.

wanted, a convertible, for her 30th birthday.

wanted, a convertible for her 30th birthday.

wanted a convertible, for her 30th birthday.

wanted a convertible for her 30th birthday.

Correct answer:

wanted, a convertible, for her 30th birthday.

Explanation:

The phrase "a convertible" is a paranthetical expression: a phrase that explains more about a particular word or phrase in the sentence, but is not introduced by a relative pronoun. These phrases must be introduced and completed with a comma in order to separate them from the main clause of the sentence. The correct answer choice is "wanted, a convertible, for her 30th birthday."

Example Question #8 : Correcting Comma 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.

When he picked up his kids from school he surprised them with presents.

Possible Answers:

When he picked up his kids from school, he surprised them,

When he picked up his kids from school he surprised them,

When he picked up his kids from school he surprised them

When he picked up his kids, from school he surprised them

When he picked up his kids from school, he surprised them

Correct answer:

When he picked up his kids from school, he surprised them

Explanation:

The phrase "When he picked up his kids from school" is an example of a introductory phrase, explaining information necessary to the context of the sentence, but outside of the main sentence, grammatically. These types of phrases must be followed by a comma in order to separate them from the rest of the sentence. The correct answer choice is "When he picked up his kids from school, he surprised them."

Example Question #9 : Correcting Comma 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.

They wanted a big blue banner for the party, but were unable to find any.

Possible Answers:

They wanted a, big, blue, banner

They wanted a big blue, banner,

They wanted a big, blue banner

They wanted a big blue banner,

They wanted a big, blue banner,

Correct answer:

They wanted a big, blue banner

Explanation:

The words "big" and "blue" are coordinate adjectives: adjectives that modify the same noun separately, but are not separated with a conjunction. Coordinate adjectives need to be separated with a comma. The correct answer choice is "They wanted a big, blue banner."

Example Question #10 : Correcting Comma 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.

The Willis Tower which is one of the largest buildings in the world was built in 1970.

Possible Answers:

The Willis Tower, which is one of the largest buildings in the world, was built

The Willis Tower which is one of the largest buildings in the world was built

The Willis Tower, which is one of the largest buildings, in the world was built

The Willis Tower, which is one of the largest buildings in the world was built

The Willis Tower which is one of the largest buildings in the world was, built

Correct answer:

The Willis Tower, which is one of the largest buildings in the world, was built

Explanation:

The phrase "which is one of the largest buildings in the world"  is an example of a relative clause, which gives more information about its antecedent: the Willis Tower. Any such phrase that occurs in the middle of a sentence must be introduced and completed with a comma. The correct answer choice is "The Willis Tower, which is one of the largest buildings in the world, was built."

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