GMAT Verbal : Correcting Pronoun Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GMAT Verbal

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Example Questions

Example Question #31 : 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.

William talked to Toby because he was a very sociable individual.

Possible Answers:

because he was a very sociable individual.

that was a very sociable individual.

who was a very sociable individual.

since he was a very sociable individual.

because he was a very genial individual.

Correct answer:

who was a very sociable individual.

Explanation:

This sentence uses the pronoun "he," which is very ambiguous in this sentence. Does "he" refer to William or Toby? Changing the "he" to "who" fixes this issue because English grammar dictates that a relative pronoun appear after the word to which it is referring. "That" makes sense because William and Toby are humans (that is reserved for objects) and the other choices do not make any substantial changes to the original sentence. The answer is, "who was a very sociable individual."

Example Question #32 : Correcting Word 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.

Trina's new song, which topped the charts, is loved by many.

Possible Answers:

Trina's new song, which many people love, topped the charts.

Trina's new song topped the charts, which is loved by many.

Trina's new song is loved by many and topped the charts.

Trina's new song is loved by many, so it topped the charts.

Trina's new song, which topped the charts, is loved by many.

Correct answer:

Trina's new song, which many people love, topped the charts.

Explanation:

This sentence contains many errors: foremost, it is very ambiguous in the usage of the pronoun in its current form. It is unclear whether the sentence means that the charts are loved or Trina's song. Additionally, passive voice is used in this sentence when active voice is better for a relatively complex sentence like this one (i.e. The subject must do the action of the sentence) in standard English. The correct choice is, "Trina's new song, which many people love, topped the charts."

Example Question #33 : Correcting Word 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 largest tree in the park, which is very beautiful, is as old as the city.

Possible Answers:

The largest tree in the park, which is very beautiful, is as old as the city.

The beautiful tree in the park, which is as old as the city, is the largest in the park.

The park's largest tree, which is as old as the city, is beautiful.

The largest tree in the park, that is very beautiful, is as old as the city.

The beautiful park's largest tree is as old as the city.

Correct answer:

The beautiful park's largest tree is as old as the city.

Explanation:

The sentence contains an ambiguous pronoun. Technically, the word "which" could apply to both "the tree" and "the park" in this sentence. The word order needs to be reorganized in such a way that it is clear which words specifically refer to which nouns. The correct choice is, "The beautiful park's largest tree is as old as the city" as all of the other sentences contain some degree of ambiguity. This choice is the only one that is specific and clear.

Example Question #34 : Correcting Word 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 ways infants adapt to new situations tells psychologists more about their brain's development than other attempts to measure intelligence.  

Possible Answers:

how children's brains develop than do

developing children's brains than

their brain's development than

they develop their brains than

how one's brain develops than 

Correct answer:

how children's brains develop than do

Explanation:

Eliminate the choices containing ambiguous pronouns, as it is not clear to whom "their," "one," and "they" refers. Note that the correct answer adds the necessary auxiliary verb "do". The use of the noun in "how children's..." resolves any issues with ambiguity.

Example Question #31 : 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 ways babies adapt to new situations tells researchers more about their brain's development than other data.  

Possible Answers:

their brain's development than

how one's brain develops than 

developing infant's brains than

they develop their brains than

how infant's brains develop than do

Correct answer:

how infant's brains develop than do

Explanation:

Eliminate the choices containing ambiguous pronouns, as it is not clear to whom "their," "one," and "they" refers. Note that the correct answer adds the necessary auxiliary verb "do". The use of the noun in "how infant's..." resolves any issues with ambiguity.

Example Question #36 : Correcting Word 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.

Bettors were surprisingly unsure about the team widely perceived to be the odds on favorite before the tournament, as they had only a spotty track record of success.

Possible Answers:

as they had just a spotty track record of success.

as they had only a spotty track record of successes.

as they had only a spotty track record of success.

but they had only a spotty track record of success.

as the team had only a spotty track record of success.

Correct answer:

as the team had only a spotty track record of success.

Explanation:

The use of "they" in the underlined portion of the sentence is ambiguous and confusing, as it is unclear whether "they" refers to the "bettors" or the "team." The best way to clear up this confusion is to not use the pronoun at all, but rather to replace it with the actual noun it replaces. The only answer choice which properly clears up this confusion is "as the team had only a spotty track record of success."

Example Question #1 : Correcting Pronoun Errors: Incorrect Usage

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.

We have both read the report, but neither of us will make any comment until the committee talks both to him and to I.

Possible Answers:

until a committee talks both to he and to I.

until the committee talks both with him and to I.

until the committee talks both to him and to I.

until the committee talks to both he and to me.

until the committee talks both to him and to me.

Correct answer:

until the committee talks both to him and to me.

Explanation:

The use of "I" at the end of this sentence is incorrect, as it is a subjective pronoun used as the object of the preposition "to." Pronouns used as objects of prepositions need to be in their objective, not their subjective forms. As it is used in the sentence, "him" is correct, since it is also an object of "to," but it is an objective pronoun. "I," on the other hand, needs to be changed to its objective form, "me." The correct answer choice is the only one that makes this change, "until the committee talks to both him and me."

Example Question #1 : Correcting Pronoun Errors: Incorrect Usage

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 only time the machine ever ran properly was in it’s original demonstration, but that one exhibition was enough to make the machine’s inventors millions of dollars.

Possible Answers:

ever ran properly was in it’s original demonstration,

ever ran properly was in that's original demonstration,

ever ran properly was in their original demonstration,

ever ran properly was in its' original demonstration,

ever ran properly was in its original demonstration,

Correct answer:

ever ran properly was in its original demonstration,

Explanation:

The use of "it's" as it is used in this is incorrect. "It's" is the contraction of "it is," and not as the possessive form of "it"; the possessive form of "it" is "its." Only one choice uses the correct form, "ever ran properly was in it’s original demonstration," making it the correct answer.

Example Question #31 : Correcting Pronoun Errors

She was always hard on her, battling with low self-esteem since she was a child.

Possible Answers:

hard with her

hard on her

hard on herself

hard to her

hard in herself

Correct answer:

hard on herself

Explanation:

The use of the pronoun "her" in the underlined phrase is confusing, as it is not clear whether this is a new person in the sentence or refers back to the subject. To be more clear, a reflexive pronoun must be used. The correct answer is "hard on herself."

Example Question #1 : Correcting Pronoun Errors: Incorrect Usage

The materials must be brought back to myself as soon as you are done with them.

Possible Answers:

back toward myself

back from myself

back to myself

back from me

back to me

Correct answer:

back to me

Explanation:

The only issue in the sentence as it is written is the use of "myself," a reflexive pronoun, when there is no other first person pronoun to which it can refer back. The only answer choice which both appropriately uses "me," and keeps the same meaning is "back to me."

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