Who Does What? Two Commonly Confused Subject Types in Sentence Correction Questions

by on August 21st, 2012

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you see a subject made of a phrase including the word “of”?

Example: The group of experienced and indubitably intelligent doctors, who decree that modern medicine is the end all in our search for cures, is/are not very organized.

Well, it is usually not easy to decide whether the matching verb should be in the singular or in the plural form. Today’s article will deal with two very popular and easily confused subject verb structures.

GMAT-writers often attempt to take advantage of the fact that students confuse two seemingly similar structures related to Subject Verb Agreement. The first one of these constructions is the “X of Y” subject; the second is “one of X that…,” where X stands for a plural noun. Both structures include the preposition “of” and probably that is why test-takers might confuse them.

We will start with the first of the two structures – the X of Y subject.

Let us consider the following example:

Three members of an organization

The question we need to ask ourselves is whether the verb should agree with the X part of the subject or with the Y part.

The answer is: The verb MUST agree with the X part of the subject.

Thus, if X is singular, then the entire subject is singular and the verb should also be singular.

Example: A test of 150 questions is long (The test is long, NOT the questions).

If X is plural, then the entire subject is plural and the verb should also be plural.

Example: Three members of an organization are waiting outside (the three members are waiting, NOT the organization).

We have just learned how to tackle the first type of a problem. Now let us consider the second structure.

A relative clause describes the noun that appears right before it. For example, in the following sentence, the relative clause “who loves Jane” modifies John:

John, who loves Jane, has just turned 28.

Now, let us consider a more complex sentence.

John is one of the people who did not vote in the last elections.

The question we need to ask ourselves, is as follows: Which noun does the relative clause “who have not voted in the last elections” modify?

Is it John?

No, John is as far from the relative clause as it can possibly be. Remember that a relative clause modifies the noun that appears immediately before it.

Does the relative clause modify “one?”

It is a common mistake to think so. Since “one” is singular, if “one” were the noun modified by the relative clause, the verb should have been singular: “has” rather than “have.”

As we have excluded the first two possibilities, we can now be sure that the correct answer is “people”. “The people” are the ones who have not voted in the last elections, and John is one of these people.

Summing up:

  1. The verb which follows X of Y subject should reflect the form of X. If X is singular, the verb should also be singular. If X is plural, a plural verb should follow.
  2. The verb which follows “one of X that” subject should always be PLURAL.
  3. It is always easier to begin with the VERB. Find the Verb and try to make sense of whom is the action referring to. Starting from the Subject and trying to match things is more complex and can easily lead to trap answers.

Finishing off, I leave you with two questions to solve:

The Greek mathematician Archimedes is most famous for discovering that the quantities of water displaced by an immersed object have the same volume as the object itself.

A. discovering that the quantities of water displaced by an immersed object have
B. his discovery that by immersing objects in water, they displace quantities of
C. discovering that the quantities of water displaced by an immersed object has
D. discovering the quantities of water displaced by an immersed object of
E. his discovery of the fact that an object displaces water quantities, when immersed, of

Transplanting is one of the methods that is commonly used for the seeding of rice in irrigated fields, and is performed either manually or by mechanical transplanting machinery in a variety of spatial configurations.

A. is commonly used for the seeding of rice in irrigated fields, and is performed either manually or by mechanical transplanting machinery in
B. is commonly used for rice seeding in irrigated fields, and is performed either manually or by mechanical transplanting machinery in
C. are commonly used for the seeding of rice in irrigated fields, and is performed either manually or by mechanical transplanting machinery for
D. are commonly used for the seeding of rice in irrigated fields, and is performed either manually or by mechanical transplanting machinery in
E. are commonly used for the seeding of rice in fields that are irrigated, and it is performed either manually or by mechanical transplanting machinery in

31 comments

  • I think the answers are: 1. A & 2. D

  • my take would be A and A for both questions.

    Ques1. we need to watch out idiom usage " X as Y or of X as of Y"," discovered that", and S-V agreement.

    Ques2. Gerund has been used; a term has to be followed by a singular verb, and between "seeding of rice and rice seeding" former one is more appropriate.

    • For Ques2. query, rice seeding makes the sentence more concise. Hence option B. Anybody, Please correct me if i am wrong.

  • 1.A & 2.B but I wasn't sure between 'seeding of rice vs rice seeding'. how do I tell this?

    • For Ques2. query, rice seeding makes the sentence more concise. Hence option B. Anybody, Please correct me if i am wrong.

  • 1. C
    2. B

  • I think answers are 1.A and 2.D.

  • 1.A
    2.D

  • Going aptly by the explanation, the answers should be

    1 - A
    2 - D

    Although, for #2, I would like to know the difference between - "machinery IN spatial configuration" and "machinery FOR spatial configuration". Since this is the only difference between C & D, it will be helpful to analyze these.

    Thanks,
    Rohan

  • A & D

  • IMO 1.A 2.B

    Like others, I cant make difference between seeding of rice and rice seeding. If anyone know which one is better, let us know pls

    ty

  • 1. I am confused between A and C but going with A.
    2. B is the answer.

  • rice seeding - name of the activity / process

    seeding of rice - actual activity...which is a verb.

    I think the sentence calls for the actual activity as opposed to the name of the process.

    It would have probably been correct if the sentence read as - Rice seeding is one of the transplanting process....blah blah blah

  • 1. C
    (the quantities of water displaced by an immersed object HAS) since the relative clause "displaced by an immersed object" modifies the noun "water" and water being singular form then the present participle should be "has"

    2. B
    ( one of the methods that IS commonly used.....mechanical transplanting machinery IN a variety ..........)

    • In 1 - although quantities of water is modifying the water, it is the QUANTITIES (qualifier) that HAVE been displaced.

    • I agree with Rohan.
      have is for quantitieS

  • 1. I am leaning towards (C), but not 100 % sure. How to tell whether "has" is correct verb or "have"?
    2. (E). In (A), (B),(C), and (D), "and" is used incorrectly.

  • 1. C
    2. D

    • I would go with
      1. C
      2. D

  • IMO 1. A
    2. D

  • Will Master GMAT not reveal correct answers here?

  • 1. A 2. A

    ....... for 2nd one, Transplanting is singular, so A

  • 1:A, 2:A

    'Transplanting' in No. 2 is a process, hence singular!! 

  • My answers :  A & C

    will anyone pls tell me how B is correct for 2nd question??

    SUMMING UP says : The verb which follows “one of X that” subject should always be PLURAL.

    accn to it, ans should be either C,D orE

  • 1. A 
    2. D 
    Methods is the subject here. Transplanting = X of Y, where Y = methods

    • Correction (just wrote the opposite)
      1. A 
      2. A 
      Transplanting is the subject here. Transplanting = X of Y, where Y = methods
      Not B because rice seeding is like an inventive phrase

  • Thank you for a very fruitful discussion. You will find answer and explanations of the homework here:
    http://www.beatthegmat.com/sva-one-of-the-plural-noun-t121532.html#500751
    http://www.beatthegmat.com/x-of-y-subject-t121529.html

  • 1 c .... We need a has
    2. A

    • I think 1.A and 2. B.
      for 2nd one can somebody explain why "mechanical transplanting machinery for"

  •  IMO 1. A , 2 D

  • 1c
    2d

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