Today’s article details the answers from yesterday’s Verbal Challenge and also announces the winner of a Free Grockit GMAT Complete Course! Congrats to all who tried and stay tuned for other potential challenges in the future.
Placing a modifying phrase is usually easier than it seems; the rule is that it must be placed right next to whatever it is modifying. Modifying phrases can be tricky, though, when the separate a subject and verb, making it more difficult to establish agreement between those two words or phrases. Let’s revisit Question One:
Lewis Carroll, with his story Alice in Wonderland filling it with memorable characters and quotes, created a work of fiction that has been loved by generations of children.
a. Lewis Carroll, with his story Alice in Wonderland filling it with memorable characters and quotes,
b. With his story Alice in Wonderland filling it with memorable characters and quotes, Lewis Carroll
c. With his story Alice in Wonderland, which he filled with memorable characters and quotes, Lewis Carroll
d. Filled with memorable characters and quotes, Lewis Carroll, with his story Alice in Wonderland,
e. Lewis Carroll, with his story Alice in Wonderland, filled it with memorable characters and quotes and
Who is performing the action in this sentence? Lewis Carroll. And what was that action? He filled Alice in Wonderland with memorable characters and quotes, and he created a beloved work of fiction. One or both of those must be the main verb in the sentence, and any other information should be in the form of a modifier that we can “lift out,” leaving an intact sentence. By “lift out,” I mean that you should be able to delete or ignore that phrase and still have a complete sentence, with a subject and a verb in agreement.
Modifier placement is a good starting point for eliminating answer choices. Look at choice ‘d’ here; the modifying phrase “filled with memorable characters and quotes” is next to Lewis Carroll. Was Lewis Carroll full of memorable quotes? Well, maybe. But unless he had multiple personalities, he wasn’t full of memorable characters. That modifying phrase is meant to describe Alice in Wonderland, and its placement next to Lewis Carroll is an error that justifies elimination.
Commas are important in modifier placement as well; leaving out a comma can have unintentionally comedic consequences. Ignoring for a moment the fact that the –ing form of the verb “filling” is incorrect in this sentence, notice that there is no comma between Alice in Wonderland and “filling” in choices ‘a’ and ‘b.’ This makes it sound like Alice in Wonderland was filling some mysterious “it” with characters and quotes. But we know that Lewis Carroll did that, and therefore ‘a’ and ‘b’ are incorrect.
A similar issue comes into play with choice ‘e,’ in which the phrasing makes it sound like Lewis Carroll was with Alice in Wonderland when he filled that mysterious “it” with characters and quotes. The phrase “with his story Alice in Wonderland” isn’t necessarily wrong, but its placement here, combined with the pronoun “it,” results in a confusing sentence.
That leaves us with choice ‘c,’ which makes it clear that Lewis Carroll filled Alice in Wonderland with memorable characters and quotes, and in so doing created a beloved work of fiction.
As we’ve seen here, comma placement can be tricky; sometimes the placement of a single comma makes the difference between a correct sentence and a run-on or fragment. Take a look at this example:
The island of Elemen was colonized by the Newagens in 1854, outside the government and educational system, Newagen was rarely spoken by the islanders.
b. outside of
c. but outside of
d. but outside for
e. while outside
As we saw in the FANBOYS articles, a comma and a conjunction will correctly link two independent clauses into a single sentence. Without that pairing, though, your two independent clauses become a run-on sentence, like the one in the original sentence here. Choice ‘b’ still lacks a conjunction, and can therefore be eliminated along with ‘a’. That leaves us with 3 remaining choices. The two parts of the sentence are in contrast to one another: even though Elemen is a Newagen colony, people rarely speak Newagen on the island. The correct conjunction for demonstrating a contrast is “but,” and so we’re left with ‘c’ and ‘d’, both of which begin with that word. The only difference between those choices is “of” versus “for,” and the correct idiom is “outside of.” Therefore, the correct choice is ‘c’.
It’s rare for a Sentence Correction to be solved using a single area of grammar, but by brushing up on issues like comma usage and modifier placement, you’ll improve your chances of identifying all of the relevant errors on test day and of improving your verbal score.
Thanks, everyone, for participating in Grockit’s Beat The GMAT Free Course Challenge! The winner of this challenge was Sarathy Srinivas, who not only identified the correct answers, but also gave accurate explanations of how the wrong ones could be eliminated.