GMAT Verbal : Correcting Word Usage Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GMAT Verbal

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Example Questions

Example Question #11 : Correcting Pronoun Antecedent Agreement 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.

Although the basketball team used their star players, the match was lost.

Possible Answers:

Although the star players were used by the basketball team

Although the basketball team used its star players

The basketball team used its star players, although

Although the basketball team used their star players

The basketball team used their star players

Correct answer:

Although the basketball team used its star players

Explanation:

Choose a pronoun that properly agrees with the subject. In this case, "basketball team" is singular, although it represents a group of people, and should be accompanied with "its," instead of "their."

Example Question #1 : Correcting Pronoun Antecedent Agreement 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.

A student should always have access to their notes.

Possible Answers:

it's notes

its notes

one's notes

his or her notes

they're notes

Correct answer:

his or her notes

Explanation:

Whenever a sentence refers to a person of unknown gender and a singular possessive pronoun is required that refers to that person, one typically includes both the masculine and the feminine possessive pronouns in the phrase "his or her." In this case, "his or her" is a better choice than "their" because "student" is a singular noun, and "their," which is a plural pronoun, does not agree with it in number. Considering the other potential answer choices, "they're" is the contraction of "they are," which would not make sense in the sentence, "it's" is the contraction of "it is," which wouldn't make sense in the sentence either, and "its" is the possessive form of the pronoun "it," which is not used to refer to a person. So, none of those answer choices can be correct.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Pronoun Antecedent Agreement 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.

Most books printed before the nineteenth century, even ones that have been carefully preserved, contain materials that cause it to decay.

Possible Answers:

that causes it to decay

that causes them to decay

that can cause it to decay

that cause it to decay

that cause them to decay

Correct answer:

that cause them to decay

Explanation:

The original text contains a pronoun agreement error. The intended antecedent of the pronoun "it" is supposed to be "books," which is plural and would therefore require the plural pronoun "them" instead of the singular pronoun "it."

The only answer choices that contain "them" instead of "it" are "that cause them to decay" and "that causes them to decay." The answer choice with "causes," however, uses this singular verb with a plural subject, "materials," and is therefore incorrect.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Pronoun Antecedent Agreement 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 community is currently accepting nominations for the award, which will be given to the person who has most significantly transformed the world through their charitable actions or scientific discoveries.

Possible Answers:

the person that significantly transformed the world through his or her charitable actions or scientific discoveries.

the person who has most significantly transformed the world through his or her charitable actions or scientific discoveries.

the person that has most significantly transformed the world through his or her charitable actions or scientific discoveries.

the person who most significantly transformed the world through their charitable actions or scientific discoveries.

the person who has most significantly transformed the world through their charitable actions or scientific discoveries.

Correct answer:

the person who has most significantly transformed the world through his or her charitable actions or scientific discoveries.

Explanation:

The original text "the person who has most significantly transformed the world through their charitable actions or scientific discoveries" and the answer choice "the person who most significantly transformed the world through their charitable actions or scientific discoveries" contain pronoun agreement errors because they incorrectly use the plural pronoun "their" to refer to the singular noun "person."

The answer choices "the person that has most significantly transformed the world through his or her charitable actions or scientific discoveries" and "the person that significantly transformed the world through his or her charitable actions or scientific discoveries" are incorrect because they use "that" to refer to a person, when "who" or "whom" should be used when referring to a person. (Remember to use "that" only when referring to non-human living things or objects.)

The answer choice "the person who has most significantly transformed the world through his or her charitable actions or scientific discoveries" is correct because it is the only answer choice that correctly uses "who" and the singular pronoun "his or her" to match the singular noun "person."

Example Question #1 : Correcting Pronoun Antecedent Agreement 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.

Mitchell was one of the first members of corporate to realize that employees are most productive when he or she feels to be part of a team.

Possible Answers:

it's more like a team for them

they feel as if they are part of a team

feeling part of a team is made possible

he or she feels to be part of a team

he or she feels part of a team

Correct answer:

they feel as if they are part of a team

Explanation:

The pronoun refers to employees, so the pronoun should be plural rather than the singular he or she.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Pronoun Antecedent Agreement 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 loss of a parent at a young age can traumatize a person for the rest of your life.

Possible Answers:

on the rest of your life.

for the rest of his or her life.

for the rest of yourself's life.

for the rest of your life.

for the rest of your living.

Correct answer:

for the rest of his or her life.

Explanation:

The use of "your" at the end of the sentence is confusing, as the only reference in the sentence is "a person," and the second person pronoun has no place in the sentence. Changing "your" to a third person possessive pronoun will straighten out this problem. Because we do not know whether the "person" in question is male or female, we should use the phrase "his or her." The correct answer choice, therefore, is "for the rest of his or her life."

Example Question #61 : Correcting Agreement 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 rites of ancient Roman religion are nearly impossible to recreate centuries after it was no longer an active faith.

Possible Answers:

after it was no longer active as a faith.

after it was not an active faith.

after the faith not being active.

after it was no longer an active faith.

after the faith was no longer active.

Correct answer:

after the faith was no longer active.

Explanation:

The phrase as written in the underlined portion makes an odd reference. The subject of the sentence are the "rites," and not the religion. The faith needs to be specifically referenced, as well as being fully grammatically correct; therefore, "after the faith was no longer active" is the correct answer choice.

Example Question #21 : Pronoun Antecedent Number 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.

Even though the army used every weapon at their disposal, the enemy was still able to make it into the base.

Possible Answers:

Even though the army used every weapon at their disposal

Even though the army used every weapon at its disposal

Even though the army uses every weapon at their disposal

Even if the army used every weapon at their disposal

Even though the army used every weapons at their disposal

Correct answer:

Even though the army used every weapon at its disposal

Explanation:

The plural possessive pronoun "their" does not agree with its singular subject, "the army." Even though "the army" represents a group of people, it is a singular noun, and should consequently be modified by the pronoun "its."

Example Question #1361 : Gmat Verbal

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.

The event required a large amount of planning and preparation, with the event planner being sure every group of representatives was in their correct place on the stage.

Possible Answers:

every group of representatives were in their correct place on the stage.

every group of representatives was in its correct place on the stage.

every group of representatives were in its correct place on the stage.

every group of representatives was in their correct place on the stage.

each group of representatives was in their correct place on the stage.

Correct answer:

every group of representatives was in its correct place on the stage.

Explanation:

The final phrase of the sentence contains a problem with the pronoun "their" and its antecedent, "group." Because "every group" is a singular noun, it later needs to be referenced with a singular pronoun and verb, although the sentence already uses the appropriate verb form. The only answer choice which has appropriate agreement between all of the words is "every group of representatives was in its correct place on the stage."

Example Question #21 : Correcting Pronoun Antecedent Agreement 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 recent photographs of the giant squid are remarkable because they show these enormous living creatures as moving around in their natural environment, whereas previous pictures have been of only dead animals.

Possible Answers:

because they show this enormous living creature moving around in a

because they show these living creatures as moving around in their 

because these enormous living creatures are shown to be moving around in their 

in that they show this enormous living creature moving around in its 

in that they show this most enormous of living creatures moving around in its 

Correct answer:

in that they show this enormous living creature moving around in its 

Explanation:

Do not make the mistake of deciding to eliminate either ‘because’ or ‘in that’ – both are more or less the same, and they are not what is being tested. The main problem with the sentence is that suddenly the single squid has become a multitude. Thus you can immediately eliminate those containing "these creatures". You can also eliminate the phrase which changes the meaning and makes the squid one of the most enormous of all living creatures. Finally, we are talking about the creature in its natural environment and so the vague ‘a natural environment’ is not appropriate.

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