Modifiers: Grammar and Meaning
- January 21, 2017
- Posted by: gmatdudes
- Category: Strategies and Tips
By Clipper Ledgard.
The GMAT tests for the correct use of modifiers very frequently. In fact, most mistakes in the GMAT are related with modifiers, and the most common errors are misplaced modifiers and dangling modifiers. While it is necessary to recognize that the modifier is incorrectly placed, or that it is modifying a noun that is not present, it is more effective to concentrate on the meaning of the modifier; in other words, we must ask ourselves the following question: can this modifier describe the noun that it is touching? Or Does the modifier make sense with the noun it is supposed to modify?
This point can be illustrated by GMAT sentences that start with a modifier. We can look for grammar errors in the underlined part of the sentence; we can also check whether the modifier is misplaced or dangling. My point, however, is that, by focusing on the question “Can this modifier describe the noun?” we can eliminate several answer choices in a very short time.
Let’s look at the following example:
Although covered in about 11 inches of snow, aviation officials said that conditions on the runway at the time of the emergency landing was acceptable.
- aviation officials said that conditions on the runway at the time of the emergency landing was acceptable
- the runway conditions during the emergency landing were acceptable according to aviation officials
- according to aviation officials, the runway was in acceptable condition during the time of the emergency landing
- the runway was in acceptable condition during the emergency landing, according to aviation officials
- aviation officials said that conditions on the runway at the time of the emergency landing were acceptable
By asking ourselves “who” or “what” is “covered in about 11 inches of snow,” we can realize that the only possible answer to this question is “the runway”; in consequence, we can eliminate all the choices that modify other nouns, as well as the choices in which “the runway” is not next to the modifier, thus, leaving option 4 as the only possible answer.
Similar examples in the use of modifiers are very common in the GMAT, and by focusing on what is being modified, we can save precious minutes that can be used in other more time consuming questions.