Avoiding Pronoun Ambiguity on GMAT

Pronouns are an important concept for GMAT sentence correction questions. Avoiding pronoun ambiguity is important for a correct sentence. Watch this short video for a detailed understanding.

Avoiding Pronoun Ambiguity on GMAT

On the GMAT, it is just as important to consider the meaning of a sentence as it is to consider the grammatical rules that apply to it. One of the key factors in determining the correct answer choice in GMAT sentence correction questions is whether the sentence clearly conveys the intended meaning. One very common factor that tends to obscure the meaning of sentences is ambiguity, wherein, a particular word or phrase can be interpreted in multiple ways, obscuring the intended meaning. In this short article, we will cover one particular type of ambiguity typically found in GMAT questions, pronoun ambiguity.

Pronoun Ambiguity

In essence, pronoun ambiguity is said to occur when it is not clear which noun a particular pronoun refers to. On the GMAT, a correct sentence will completely avoid pronoun ambiguity, meaning each pronoun should have a clear noun for reference. Let us illustrate this concept through the following example:

Example 1 - Rose plays squash with Mary so that she can build stamina.
In this sentence, it is not very clear what the pronoun "she" is referring to; it could be referring to the noun "Rose" or the noun "Mary". As a result, there are two possible, distinct meanings that this sentence can convey; either that Rose plays squash with Mary for the purpose of improving her own stamina, or that Rose plays squash with Mary to improve her own stamina. Thus, this sentence is incorrect, as it suffers from pronoun ambiguity.

Now let us take a look at another example, to see what a correct version of this sentence might look like.

Example 2 - Rose plays squash with Mary so that Rose can build stamina.
In Example 2, the sentence has been corrected by removing the pronoun "she", correcting the pronoun ambiguity. The meaning of this new sentence is clear; Rose plays squash with Mary for the purpose of building her own (Rose's) stamina.

This concept is quite important as it can be used to solve GMAT sentence correction questions more effectively; by analyzing the meaning of the sentence you can catch incorrect answer choices. Remember, as mentioned above, the GMAT favors clarity of meaning, as well as grammatical correctness; an answer choice that leaves the meaning of the sentence unclear cannot be correct.

This article has deliberately been kept brief; for a more elaborate explanation, please refer to Experts' Global's Stage One Sentence Correction videos.

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