GMAT Grammar: ‘On a White Bus’ with Subordinate Conjunctions

by on June 1st, 2017

busClauses

In the big world of grammar, there are two kinds of clauses: those that can stand alone on their own two feet and those who can’t. The first kind, independent clauses, can stand alone as complete sentences. The latter kind, dependent clauses or subordinate clauses, would not work on their own as a complete sentence: they have to be part of a larger sentence, a sentence that is anchored with at least one independent clause. Examples of independent clauses as stand-alone sentences:

By contrast, here are three subordinate clauses utterly failing to constitute complete sentences when they stand alone.

Notice that all three of those have the feeling of something left off, as if more of the sentence is about to occur. Subordinate clauses don’t work on their own; they are set up to play a supporting role to the independent clause.

Kinds of Subordinate Clauses

There are four basic categories of subordinate clauses

(i) Substantive Clauses = these act as nouns, taking a noun-role in the sentence, such as subject, direct object, or object of a preposition. These are also called “noun clauses” or “nominal relative clauses.”

(ii) Relative Clauses = these begin with a relative pronoun or adverb, and will act, respectively, as a noun-modifier or verb-modifier

(iii) Clauses that begin with subordinate conjunctions = discussed below

(iv) Comparative Clauses = typically begin with “than” and complete a comparison

All four of these have in common the basic facts that they can’t stand alone as separate sentences and that their entire reason for existing is to support the larger sentence.

Subordinate Conjunctions

Subordinate conjunctions are words that begin a common category of subordinate clauses. All of these clauses function as adverbial clauses, that is, as verb-modifiers. One handy mnemonic for the subordinate conjunctions is “on a white bus:”

O = only if, once

N = now that

A = although, after, as

WH = while, when, whereas, whenever, wherever, whether

H = how

I = if, in case, in order that

= though

E = even though, even if

B = because, before

U = until, unless

S = since, so, so that

You certainly don’t need to memorize this list. It’s helpful, especially for non-native speakers to recognize these words and be familiar with them. Any of these begins a clause that modifies the independent clause and could not stand on its own as a free-standing separate sentence.

Got Verbs?

By definition, any clause has a [noun] + [verb] unit at its core. Every clause, whether independent or subordinate, needs to have a full verb.  Nevertheless, the following sentence is 100% correct.

10) Though polite and refined in person, Boris Karloff was known for playing monsters on screen.

It appears that there’s a problem in the “though” clause: the subordinate conjunction “though” is followed by only adjectives. There’s neither a noun or a verb, it would seem. How can this be correct? In fact, it’s perfectly fine if simple words [pronoun] + [“to be” verb] are omitted.  For example, with the omitted words, this sentence would be:

10a) Though [he was] polite and refined in person, Boris Karloff was known for playing monsters on screen.

When the omitted words are included, we see that the “though” clause was a full bonafide clause all along.

Summary

While GMAT is not going to expect you to know these grammar terms, it’s important to have good instincts about clauses, both independent and dependent. Pay attention when you read to how these clauses behave—seeing what these clauses do in sentence after sentence will help you understand them more deeply.

Try the three practice GMAT grammar subordinate conjunctions questions below, each somehow involving buses!

Practice Problems

1) While spark ignitions start the combustion in gasoline engines, typical in automobiles, high compression of gases, with high temperatures, are igniting the combustion in diesel engines.

(A) high compression of gases, with high temperatures, are igniting the combustion in diesel engines

(B) the high temperatures made by high compression of gases, igniting the fuel in diesel engines

(C) diesel engines highly compress the gasses, and this high compression ignites the combustion of the fuel in the engine

(D) high compression of gases, producing high temperatures, ignite the combustion in diesel engines

(E) it is the high compression of gases, causing high temperatures, that ignites the fuel in diesel engines

2) Even though the original AEC Routemaster has been retired, still this red double-decker bus is familiar, and it has been an icon of culture in Britain.

(A) still this red double-decker bus is familiar, and it has been an icon of culture in Britain

(B) the familiarity of this red double-decker bus still remains, as does its role as a British cultural icon

(C) this familiar red double-decker bus remaining a cultural icon in Britain

(D) this familiar red double-decker bus remains a British cultural icon

(E) the British are familiar with this red double-decker bus and still consider it to be one of their cultural icons

3) The end of the Montgomery Bus Boycott was the Browder v. Gayle (1956) ruling, an apparent victory for civil rights, with most blacks in Montgomery, with the experience of massive discrimination in all sectors of life, resigning themselves to the back of the bus by the early 1960s.

(A) The end of the Montgomery Bus Boycott was the Browder v. Gayle (1956) ruling, which should have been a victory for civil rights, with most blacks in Montgomery, with the experience of massive discrimination in all sectors of life, resigning themselves to the back of the bus by the early 1960s

(B) While the Montgomery Bus Boycott ended with an apparent victory for civil rights in the Browder v. Gayle (1956) ruling, most blacks in Montgomery, in the face of massive discrimination in all sectors of life, resigned themselves to the back of the bus by the early 1960s

(C) The Browder v. Gayle (1956) ruling was apparently a victory for civil rights when it ended the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and because of this, most blacks in Montgomery by the early 1960s resigned themselves to the back of the bus, with the experiencing of massive discrimination in all sectors of life

(D) Because of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the civil rights movement incorrectly believed it had a victory to the Browder v. Gayle (1956) ruling, and by the early 1960s, the blacks with resignation moved to the back of the bus, because they experienced massive discrimination in all sectors of life

(E) Despite a victory that was not a victory for civil rights in the Browder v. Gayle (1956) ruling, the ending of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, in the early 1960s, most blacks in Montgomery facing massive discrimination in all sectors of life and therefore resigning themselves to the back of the bus

Practice Problem Explanations

1) Traditionally, most buses and truck had diesel engines, although many buses today run on alternative fuels.  We have to consider all five answer separately.

(A) the progressive “are igniting” is wrong.  This is incorrect.

(B) the famous missing verb mistake!  This is incorrect.

(C) wordy, repetitive, awkward.  Far from ideal.

(D) SVA mistake: “high compression (singular)  … ignite (plural).”  This is incorrect.

(E) Correct and elegant.  This uses the sophisticated idiomit is A that does X.

(E) is much better than (C) and is the best answer.

2)  The famous red AEC Routemaster double-decker buses!

(A) this is not grammatically wrong, but it is wordy and awkward; we dearly hope to find a better answer than this so we don’t have to settle for this pathetic loser!

(B) “still remains” is redundant.  The GMAT has zero toleration for redundancy.  This is incorrect.

(C) the famous missing verb mistake!  This is incorrect.

(D) elegant, direct, flawless.

(E) “consider X to be” is a idiom mistake.  Also, this is wordy and awkward.  This is incorrect.

The best answer by far is (D)

3) This question is about a sad chapter in American history. The historic Montgomery Bus Boycott was not followed immediately with more progress; instead, there was the “three steps forward, then two steps back” pattern of so much of civil rights progress, even to this day.

The answers are long and have to be considered separately.

(A) This choice uses the “with” + [noun] + [participle] structure, in a construction that incorrectly replaces a full clause. This is incorrect.

(B) No obvious flaws.  This is promising.

(C) The “because of this” in this choice is not an appropriate way to express the logical contrast in the prompt, so this changes the meaning. Also, “the experiencing” is very awkward.  This is incorrect.

(D) This also changes the meaning: it wasn’t “because of the Montgomery Bus Boycott” that something was incorrectly believed. This also lacks the strong logical contrast in the prompt. This is incorrect.

(E) the famous missing verb mistake! This is incorrect.

The only possible answer is (B).

The post GMAT Grammar: ‘On a White Bus’ with Subordinate Conjunctions appeared first on Magoosh GMAT Blog.

Ask a Question or Leave a Reply

The author Magoosh GMAT gets email notifications for all questions or replies to this post.

Some HTML allowed. Keep your comments above the belt or risk having them deleted. Signup for a Gravatar to have your pictures show up by your comment.