Six Common Idiom Mistakes Found on the GMAT [includes video]

by Manhattan Review, Jul 29, 2020


In preparing for the GMAT Verbal, improving one's understanding of grammar is one efficient way to increase performance. In Sentence Correction questions on the GMAT, test-takers are asked to read a sentence and choose the version which is most grammatically correct. Sometimes, readers are expected to find incorrectly used idioms. Here you can find more about some of the most common idiom mistakes you may see on the GMAT.
For the purposes of the GMAT, idioms do not include colloquialisms. We will be looking at grammatical structures which often must simply be memorized because they do not follow a specific grammar rule.

  • Mix-up #1: Personal Pronouns
    First, we will look at personal pronouns. These include I, me, myself, she, her, herself, and he, him, himself. I, she, and he are all subjects while me, he, and she are objects in a sentence. So, be sure to understand who is taking an action or being described (subject) and who is receiving the action (object).
    Myself, herself, and himself are only used when the subject and object are both the same person.

  • Mix-up #2: Like vs. Such as
    In casual English conversation, it is common to hear a person interchange the words "like" and "such as," however they do not mean the same thing. Such as should be used to provide a list of examples. Like, on the other hand, should only be used as a comparative word to signal when one noun or pronoun is similar to another noun or pronoun.

  • Mix-up #3: Like vs. As
    In mix-up three, we are examining the difference between like and as. As mentioned previously, like compares similar nouns or pronouns. As is used to compare the way or condition something is done. Like is, therefore, followed by a noun or pronoun, while as should be followed by a clause, including a subject and verb.

  • Mix-up #4: Fewer vs. Less
    In mix-up four, we address one of the idioms which usage depends on the number of things being discussed. Fewer is used when one is discussing countable objects, while less is used for objects which are seen as one mass or for less concrete ideas. You can count items of clothing when discussing how many white shirts you own, but you wouldn't count grains of salt when discussing how much you like on your food. So, when discussing pieces of clothing, you would use fewer, while when discussing amount of salt, you would use less.

  • Mix-up #5: Among vs. Between
    Another idiomatic mix-up related to number is the use of among or between. It is always the case that between is used for two things, while among is for three or more things.

  • Mix-up #6: Whether vs. If
    Whether and if are another set of words which are often used interchangeably in casual English conversation, but as far as the GMAT is concerned, if should only be used with a conditional sentence. So, you should only use if when one part of the sentence depends on another part of the sentence. Whether is used to indicate two choices or options in a sentence.

While idioms often require memorization, these tips should help you remember rules of thumb to help when it is time to choose which answer is most grammatically correct. These six idioms are common ones which show up on the GMAT, so take the time to learn and understand them before test day.

Check out our video to learn more about idioms and see examples with full explanations.

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