GMAT Verbal : Correcting Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GMAT Verbal

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Correcting Usage 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.

In the nineteenth century, poets were considered national treasures by readers, while today they are fringe cultural figures.

Possible Answers:

while today these are fringe cultural figures.

while today they are fringier cultural figures.

while today poets are fringe cultural figures.

while today they are fringe cultural figures.

while these days they are fringe cultural figures.

Correct answer:

while today poets are fringe cultural figures.

Explanation:

The use of "they" in the underlined portion of the sentence creates confusion, as the pronoun could refer either to "poets" or "the public." The confusion can be fixed by changing the word to a more specific reference. The only answer choice that actually clears up this confusion is "while today poets are fringe cultural figures."

Example Question #2 : Correcting Usage 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 publicist made it clear that he was speaking for both the organization and him, inviting even more criticism from the press.

Possible Answers:

to both the organization and him

for both the organization and him

for both the organization's and him

for both the organization and he

for both the organization and himself

Correct answer:

for both the organization and himself

Explanation:

The pronoun "him" in this sentence is confusing and ambiguous, as it makes it unclear precisely to whom the pronoun is referring. By making it a reflexivepronoun, the sentence will be made much less confusing. The only choice that uses the reflexive pronoun is "for both the organization and himself," making it the correct answer.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

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 server went to check on her last customer; she was frustrated by her impatience.

Possible Answers:

The server went to check on her last customer; she was frustrated by her impatience.

The server went to check on her last customer and found that she was frustrated by her impatience.

The server checked on her last customer; she was frustrated by her impatience.

The server went to check on her last customer, and she was frustrated by her impatience.

The server went to check on her last customer, who was frustrated by the server's impatience.

Correct answer:

The server went to check on her last customer, who was frustrated by the server's impatience.

Explanation:

The use of "her" in the last phrase of the sentence, "her impatience," is confusing, as it is unclear whether this refers to the server or the customer. By using more careful and precise language, the sentence can be made less ambiguous. The only answer choice that properly clears up the pronoun confusion in this sentence without introducing new errors is "The server went to check on her last customer, who was frustrated by the server's impatience."

Example Question #2 : Correcting Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

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.

After hours of negotiation and bargaining, the CEO and the technology expert had reached a bargain in which he received most of his demands.

Possible Answers:

the CEO and the technology expert had reached a bargain in which the technology expert received most of his demands.

the CEO, and the technology expert, had reached a bargain in which he received most of his demands.

the CEO and the technology expert had reached a bargain in which he received most of his demands.

the CEO and the technology expert had reached a bargain in which they received most of their demands.

the CEO and the technology expert received most of his demands.

Correct answer:

the CEO and the technology expert had reached a bargain in which the technology expert received most of his demands.

Explanation:

The use of "his" at the end of the sentence is ambiguous, as the gender of neither the "CEO" nor the "technology expert" has been stated and "his" and "he" could refer to either individual. The sentence must be rewritten to more clearly show that the "technology expert" had given the demands. The only answer choice which properly clears up the ambiguous pronoun usage is "the CEO was finally willing to give the most of the demands the technology expert had set."

Example Question #5 : Correcting Usage 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.

There were few employees willing to stand up to the executive when he was in one of his rages, as they often led to many people being fired.

Possible Answers:

as they often would lead to many people being fired.

as they often led to many people being fired.

as they often led to many peoples being fired.

as these rages often led to many people being fired.

as they often led to more people being fired.

Correct answer:

as these rages often led to many people being fired.

Explanation:

The use of "they" in the underlined portion creates ambiguity and confusion, as it is unclear whether "they" refers to "employees" or "rages." Making the pronoun into a specific noun will clear up the confusion. The answer choice which best rids the sentence of its ambiguity is "as these rages often led to many people being fired."

Example Question #1 : Correcting Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

The old man was extremely reclusive, never allowing them to see him.

Possible Answers:

never allowed them to see him.

never allowing them to see him.

never allowing people to see him.

never allowing them to be seeing him.

not allowing them to see him.

Correct answer:

never allowing people to see him.

Explanation:

The use of the pronoun "them" in this sentence is confusing, as it is unclear who "them" is referring. "Them" needs to be changed to something more concrete. Only one answer choice, "never allowing people to see him," does this, which makes it the correct answer choice.

Example Question #2 : Correcting Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

John and Michael both made good points, but in the end, I had to side with him.

Possible Answers:

John and Michael both made good points, but in the end, the one with whom I had to side.

John and Michael both made good points, but in the end, I had to side with John.

(No changes to original.)

John and Michael both made good points, but in the end, the one I had to side with.

John and Michael both made good points, but in the end, I had to side with he.

Correct answer:

John and Michael both made good points, but in the end, I had to side with John.

Explanation:

It is unclear if the “him” refers to John or Michael. The correct answer makes it clear with whom I side.

Example Question #1981 : Correcting Grammatical 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.

He always tried to send a copy of each newsletter to him for his records before he sent it to the rest of his colleagues.

Possible Answers:

He always tried to send a copy of each newsletter to him for his records before sending it to the rest of his colleagues.

He always tried to send a copy of each newsletter to himself for his records before he sent it to the rest of his colleagues.

He always tried to send a copy of each newsletter to him for his records, before he sent it to his rest of the colleagues.

He always tried to send a copy of each newsletter to him for his records before he sent it to the rest of his colleagues.

He always tried to send a copy of each newsletter with him for his records before he sent it to the rest of his colleagues.

Correct answer:

He always tried to send a copy of each newsletter to himself for his records before he sent it to the rest of his colleagues.

Explanation:

The use of the simple objective pronoun "him" in the sentence is odd and confusing, as it is unclear who exactly that usage is referring to. The pronoun should be changed to the reflexive pronoun, "himself." Therefore, the correct answer choice is "He always tried to send a copy of each newsletter to himself for his records before he sent it to the rest of his colleagues."

Example Question #1602 : Sat Writing

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.

Under the influence of the guru, the man began to improve him.

Possible Answers:

began to be improved by him.

began to make improvements for him.

began making improvements to him.

began to improve himself.

began to improve him.

Correct answer:

began to improve himself.

Explanation:

The use of "him" as the object of the sentence is extremely confusing, as it could refer to the subject or the "guru." To clarify this issue, the reflexive pronoun can be used to refer back to the subject of the sentence. The answer choice that appropriately uses the reflexive pronoun is "began to make improvements in himself."

Example Question #1982 : Correcting Grammatical 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.

He was always generous to others, to the point of ignoring him.

Possible Answers:

to the point of ignoring him.

to the point of ignoring himself.

to a point of ignoring him.

to the point of ignore of him.

to the point to ignore him.

Correct answer:

to the point of ignoring himself.

Explanation:

The use of "him" at the end of the sentence is confusing. With the subject of the sentence being the third person pronoun, the object can be the reflexive pronoun and refer back to the subject. Therefore, the correct answer choice is "to the point of ignoring himself."

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