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Dash and Pair of Dashes on GMAT



Dash and Pair of Dashes on GMAT



Description: In this brief video we will cover the use of the dash (-) on the GMAT, including the use of the double dash.

Dash and Pair of Dashes on GMAT


In this brief article, we will cover the use of the dash punctuation (-) on GMAT, including the use of the double dash.

Use of Dash on GMAT


1. Use of Dash as a Colon


The first usage of the dash on the GMAT is to take the place of a colon; essentially, on the GMAT, a dash can very well be used in place of a colon. This includes performing the three main functions of a colon, namely:

1. Introducing a list
Please consider the following example.

Example 1 - There are four natural states of matter - solids, liquids, gases, and plasmas.

Here, the dash introduces “solids, liquids, gases, and plasmas”, a list of the “four natural states of matter”; the same function can also be served by a colon.

2. Introducing an explanation or definition
Please consider the following example.

Example 2 – The least understood state of matter is plasma - it is similar to gas, but the atomic particles are charged rather than neutral.

Here, the first clause, “The least understood state of matter is plasma”, presents an implicit question, “Why…is plasma the least understood state of matter?”; the dash then introduces the bolded part of the sentence, which provides an explanation for the question, “it is similar to gas, but the atomic particles are charged rather than neutral”. This same function can also be served by a colon.

3. Introducing an answer or solution
Please consider the following example.

Example 3 – The plan is simple -work hard

Here, the first clause, “The plan is simple”, presents an implicit question, “What…is the plan?”, and the phrase introduced by the dash, “work hard”provides an answer; the plan is to “work hard”.This same function can also be served by a colon.

Thus, the first function of a dash is to take the place of a colon.

2. Use of the Pair of Dashes (-…-)


When used in pairs, dashes can serve as parenthesis (brackets). TO understand this concept better, please take a look at the following example.

Example 4 – World’s three most populous countries – China, India, and United States – contribute to approximately 40% of the total human population.

Here, we have the phrase “three most populous countries” followed by the phrase “China, India, and United States” between two dashes; the role of these dashes could just as easily have been played by a pair of brackets, but brackets are not very aesthetically pleasing on the GMAT, meaning they are practically never used. For this reason, dashes are usually used rather than brackets on the GMAT.

3. Use of Two Consecutive Dashes (--)


On the GMAT, whenever you see two consecutive dashes they convey the same meaning as the word “namely”. So, when you see two consecutive dashes, see if they can be replaced with the word “namely”. To understand this concept better, please take a look at the following example.

Example 5 - There are four natural states of matter - -solids, liquids, gases, and plasmas.

If we replace the dashes with the word namely, we get “There are four natural states of matter, namely solids, liquids, gases, and plasmas.”, which makes perfect sense. So, the use of the consecutive dashes here is correct.

M and N Dashes


You may have noticed that some dashes used in this article are bigger than other. This information is not very relevant to the GMAT, but in case you are curious, this is because there are two types of dashes – M dash (–) and N dash (-). M dashes are bigger and N dashes are smaller; they are named as such because the two sizes of dashes represent the widths of the letters they are named after, quite well. Please remember, the GMAT is not concerned with such nuances; this was merely a brief aside for those who were curious.

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

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