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Sentence Correction: Idioms on GMAT





Here is a set of free short videos for stepwise preparation of Idioms on GMAT. For a more detailed treatment of the topic, you may want to opt for our GMAT online course or our GMAT test series of 15 mock tests.


If Versus "Whether"



The distinction between the words “if” and “whether” is one that the GMAT often employs in highly complex sentence correction questions. The meaning of the two words is very similar, making it quite difficult to determine which one is the correct usage in any situation. Here, we will cover the difference between "if" and "whether" and how to determine their proper usage on the GMAT.

The fundamental difference between these two words and the simplest way to tell them apart is that “if” leads to a then clause and “whether” does not. Let us explain further, through the following examples.

Example 1 - If you promise to come along, (then) I will also come for the party.
As you can see, in example 1, the word “then” is written in brackets. The reason behind this inclusion is that the word is that, in this sentence, “then” is silent; it is not actually written in the sentence, its use is merely implied. Nevertheless, the clause "I will also come for the party" is still a then-clause and the sentence is perfectly correct.

Now let us look at a different example:

Example 2 - I am not sure if it will rain today.
Example 2 is not a correct sentence. Here, “if” is not followed by a then clause, meaning that “if” is not the right word to use. In such a case, "whether" would be the correct word to use. The correct form of this sentence is:

I am not sure whether it will rain today.

A very useful tip to keep in mind, when solving “if or whether” questions, is that in sentences where "if" is the correct usage, "whether" sounds very awkward. Although trying to determine the correctness of a sentence, based on whether it sounds awkward, is not typically a good strategy for GMAT sentence correction, this situation is an exception. To fully understand this point, please consider the following example:

Example 3 - Whether you promise to come along, I will also come for the party.
Example 3 is very awkward, in a very obvious way. You do not have to worry about encountering such a sentence on the GMAT, as it will never be written. . What is tested on the GMAT is cases such as Example 2, wherein, "if" is written but "whether" is the correct usage. Therefore, we can conclude that if you are caught between "if" and "whether" on the GMAT, most of the time, whether will win.


Like Versus "as"



Here, we shall cover the difference between “like” and “as” and exactly where these two words should be used. Although both these words are used to make comparisons, , there is a subtle difference between then that means that they are not interchangeable. Please pay close attention to this explanation; the difference between “like” and “as” is a fairly commonly tested concept on the GMAT. However this concept can often be difficult to grasp, as these words are used interchangeably, quite often, in everyday speech.

There is one main difference between the words “like” and “as”, the context in which it is appropriate to use them. "Like" is used when nouns are compared and "as" is used when processes or clauses are compared. Please go through the following examples to understand this concept, fully.

Example 1 - Jack's height, as that of his father, is exactly 190 centimeters.
A careful reading of example 1 will reveal that the heights of Jack and his father are being compared, meaning that the sentence is comparing two nouns. Therefore, this sentence is incorrect; the word “as” is not supposed to be use to compare nouns. In this sentence, the word "like" should be used to compare Jack's height to that of his father; the correct form of the sentence is as follows:

Jack's height, like that of his father, is exactly 190 centimeters.

Now, we will take a look at an example that covers the incorrect use of the word “like”.

Example 2 - Playing squash, just like playing soccer, is a great way for staying fit.
Example 2 compares “playing squash” to “playing soccer”; both of these are actions, meaning we can say that this sentence it compares two processes. Therefore, like is "like" is not the correct usage in this sentence, the word "as" is. Hence, the correct form of this sentence would be:

Playing squash, just as playing soccer, is a great way for staying fit.

Finally, let us take a look at an example with a different structure to gain some further clarity.

Example 3 - Playing squash, just like soccer, is a great way for staying fit.
As you can see, example 3 compares the action of playing squash to the noun soccer. This means that this sentence is actually something of a trap, as this comparison is fundamentally incorrect. In this case, whether you use "like" or "as" does not matter; the only way this sentence can be correct is if it is changed to compare playing squash with playing soccer, or squash to soccer.


Use of "Considered" and "Regarded As"



During your GMAT preparations, you might find that idioms pose a significant and unique challenge. Idioms must always be used in a certain way, and to answer idiom related sentence correction questions, you must memorize the rules governing their usage. These rules, typically, do not have much logical reasoning behind them, and are simply arbitrary grammatical guidelines. Here, we will cover the usage of two idioms, "considered" and "regarded as". Both of these terms broadly convey the same meaning, that something is true according to a particular opinion. However there is a stark difference in their usage that you must understand to identify incorrect GMAT answer choices, involving them.

Use of "Considered" on the GMAT


The appropriateness of using the word “considered” rests on what word should be used in conjunction with it. To illustrate this concept, we have prepared the following example; please go through it and try to see if you can understand which word should come after "considered".

Example 1 - Mahatma Gandhi is considered ____ the father of the nation by Indians.
Conventional wisdom, might say that the correct word to use in conjunction with "considered" is "as" or "to be". However, this is not the case; “considered” requires no conjunction or helping phrase. “Considered” always is always to be followed by the noun, directly. The word “considered” conveys the intended meaning by itself, so using another word alongside it would be redundant. Thus, the correct form of this sentence would simply be as follows:

Example 2 - Mahatma Gandhi is considered the father of the nation by Indians.

Use of Regarded on the GMAT


Now, we shall apply the same reasoning for the word “regarded”. As you did with example 1, please go through example 3 and try to determine whether the word "regarded' should be followed by the word "as", the phrase "to be" or used without any conjunction.

Example 3 - Mahatma Gandhi is regarded ____ the father of the nation by Indians.
Unlike the word "considered", the word "regarded" cannot express the desired meaning on its own and requires the conjunction "as". Thus, the correct form of the sentence will be as follows:

Example 4 - Mahatma Gandhi is regarded as the father of the nation.
In conclusion, the correct usages of these two terms are "considered" and "regarded as" and there are no alternate usages for these terms.


Because Versus "In That"



As we have mentioned elsewhere, idioms tend to pose an especially difficult challenge to GMAT candidates, as there is not much underlying logic to their proscribed uses. To properly identify incorrect uses of idioms, on the GMAT, you will have to memorize the rules governing their usage. Here, we will cover the correct usage of two idioms, "because" and "in that".

Difference between the use of "Because" and "In That"


To understand the distinction between these two idioms, you must first understand their meanings. The word "because" is used to indicate a cause-effect relationship, while the phrase "in that" is used to reflect an intrinsic property, of a person or thing. To understand this concept, fully, please go through the following examples.

Example 1 - Jack is wise in that he stays calm under pressure.
Staying calm under pressure is an intrinsic quality, and this sentence informs us that Jack possesses it. Thus, the use of "in that" is appropriate and this sentence is correct. If the sentence utilized "because" in place of "in that" it would be incorrect.

Example 2 - Jack won the game because he stayed calm under pressure.
Let us contrast this sentence with example 1. Here, there is a cause and effect relationship, expressed by the phrase “stayed calm under pressure”. It was due to staying calm under pressure that Jack won the game. Thus, "because" is the right term to use and this sentence is correct. In such a case, the phrase "in that" would not be the correct usage.

A Helpful Tip


A useful tip that will be quite helpful, should you get stuck between “because” and “in that” answer choices, on the GMAT, is to remember that the correct answer will typically be "in that". The GMAT prefers “in that” answer choices, as in sentences where "because" is the correct usage, "in that" tends to come across as awkward, but the reverse is not true. To illustrate, let us use "in that" in Example 2:

Example 3 - Jack won the game in that he stayed calm under pressure.
Example 3 is clearly very awkward but if we use "because" in Example 1, it does not sound wrong; observe:

Example 4 - Jack is wise because he stays calm under pressure.
Thus, on the GMAT "because" is often used as a trap where "in that" is the appropriate choice but not vice-versa.


Use of "So as to"



Here, we will cover the correct usage of the idiom “so as to” on the GMAT. Please go through this articles carefully and memorize the rules governing the use of this phrase. Doing so will enable you to tackle your GMAT sentence correction questions, namely those that involve idioms, more efficiently and accurately.

"So as To"


On the GMAT, the only idiomatically correct use of this phrase is is "so + cause + as to + effect". Any other usage can be disqualified, immediately. Please go through the following examples to understand this concept better.

Example 1 - Jack is so sharp, as to be admired.
In example 1, the effect being produced is Jack being admired and the cause is him being sharp. Thus, Example 1 follows the correct use of the phrase - so + sharp (cause) + as to + be admired (effect) and is correct.

Having covered the basic concept of this idiom’s correct usage, let us delve deeper into what to expect from "so as to", on the GMAT, through the following example:

Example 2 - Jack studied hard, so as to score high on GMAT.
Example 2 is fairly wordy; the same sentiment could be expressed in a much more concise way as "Jack studies hard, to score high on GMAT." At this point, it would be wise to remember that GMAT sentence correction favors conciseness, meaning that, broadly speaking, the phrase "so as to" will not be part of the correct answer choice. Certainly, if the choice is between an answer choice that uses "so as to" and one that uses "to", the latter is more likely to be correct.

Nevertheless, it is important to keep the correct usage of "so as to" in mind, while attempting the GMAT sentence correction questions. There may still be the occasional question where the answer choice that utilizes "so as to" is the most appropriate one.


Use of "Modeled"



Here, we will cover the use of the word “modelled” on the GMAT. Please go through this articles carefully and memorize the rules governing the use of this phrase. Doing so will enable you to tackle your GMAT sentence correction questions, namely those that involve idioms, more efficiently and accurately.

All things considered, it is not difficult to understand, remember, and apply the idiomatically correct usage of the word “modelled”. There is only one correct usage of this word, on the GMAT, "modeled after". If you come across any other usage, for example "modeled as per", "modeled like", or "modeled as", consider it to be incorrect. Please take a look at the following example to understand this concept, better.

Example 1 - Venetian, the famous hotel in Macau is modeled after Venice.
As example 1 makes clear, he correct use of the word "modeled" is to state that something has been modeled after something else.


Use of "Native"



Here, we shall cover the use of the word “native” on the GMAT. Please go through this articles carefully and memorize the rules governing the use of this phrase. Doing so will enable you to tackle your GMAT sentence correction questions, namely those that involve idioms, more efficiently and accurately.

How "Native" is Used on the GMAT


Similar to the word “modelled”, mentioned above, the use of “native” on the GMAT is fairly straightforward. There are two acceptable uses of “native” on the GMAT; it can either be used in the phrase "Native to", or the phrase "A native of". Which of these two uses is acceptable in any given sentence depends upon the specific context of its employment. "A native of" can only be used to refer to human beings, while “native to” is used for all non0human entities. Please go through the following examples to understand this concept better.

Example 1 - The Great Bengal Tiger is native to West Bengal, a state in eastern India.
In example 1, "native to" is the correct usage, as "native" is being used to refer to the Great Bengal Tiger, a non-human entity. Using "native of" would have been incorrect, as would have any other related phrase.

Example 2 - Although Albert Einstein Was not a native of the USA, most of his research happened there.
Here, the word “native” is being used to refer to Albert Einstein. As Einstein was, very much, a human being, the correct phrase to employ here is “native to”.


Use of "Being"



In GMAT sentence correction, there are certain words and phrases that you must keep a close lookout for; their presence signifies that the answer choice is very likely to be incorrect. Keeping this fact in mind will help you solve the GMAT sentence correction section, much faster, by swiftly eliminating obviously incorrect answer choices. That having been said, you must also remember that the mere presence of these words is not a guarantee that the answer choice is wrong. There are exceptions to this rule that you must be mindful of. Here, we shall cover the use of one such word, "being", on the GMAT.

Why “Being” is Usually Incorrect


Typically, if the word “being” is used in the GMAT, it is inappropriate to do so. Therefore, the resulting answer choice will be incorrect. The use of the word “being” tends to lead to a word and awkward construction. Approximately 80% of answer choices that use “being” are incorrect. Please go through the following examples to understand this concept, fully.

Example 1 - Jack is being honest in accepting his mistakes.
This sentence is needlessly wordy, due to the inclusion of “being”. Example 1 could be written to be more concise, if “being” was not used. You can find this sentence, below:

Example 2 - Jack is honest in accepting his mistakes.
As you can see, Example 2 conveys the same meaning that example one does but it takes fewer words to do so.

The Exceptions


While eight out of ten answer choices that use the word “being” will be incorrect, on the GMAT, as mentioned above, there are two cases wherein this word can be used. The situations include sentences in which “being” is is part of a noun phrase and when it reflects the passive continuous verb tense. We will now explain these two situations with the help of some examples.

1. Noun Phrase


Example 3 - Being the team leader, Jack has been planning the project.
In example 3, "being the team leader" is a noun phrase, a phrase centered on a noun. If the word “being” is part of such a phrase, it is not considered awkward or wordy.

2. When it reflects the passive continuous verb tense


Example 4 - Chimpanzees are humans' closest relatives, leading complex social lives and being handy with tools.
In example 4, , "leading complex social lives" and "being handy with tools" both reflect the passive continuous verb tense. Thus, this sentence is also correct.

Several GMAT books commit the mistake of stating that any sentence correction answer choice that contains the word "being" should be discarded.As we have seen here, that is not the case. If you come across an answer choice that includes the word “being”, be mindful of these exceptions before eliminating it.


Compared With Versus "Compared to"



Here, we will cover the use of the phrases "compared with" and "compared to" on the GMAT.Please go through this articles carefully and memorize the rules governing the use of this phrase. Doing so will enable you to tackle your GMAT sentence correction questions, namely those that involve idioms, more efficiently and accurately.

The Difference Between "Compared With" and "Compared To"


As should be obvious, both “compared with” and “compared to” are used to denote a comparison of qualities between two or more things, essentially fulfilling the same broad purpose. The primary difference between these two phrases is in the nature of things that they are used to compare; the phrase "compared with" is used to compare similar things, while the phrase "compared to" is used to compare dissimilar things.Please go through the following examples, to understand this concept fully.

Example 1 - Compared with his father, Jack is taller.
Example 1 compares two human beings, Jack and his father. Both the things being compared here human beings, meaning that they are of the same type, and “compared with” is the correct usage.

Example 2 - Compared to the pillar, Jack is shorter.
By contrast, example 2 compares two things of different types, a human being, and an inanimate object. Thus, the correct phrase to use is "compared to".

We hope that we have been able to provide you with sufficient clarity on this concept. However, please note that the example used here is fairly straightforward. On the GMAT, you might find this concept used in a more complex manner. Keep this rule in mind to tackle such sentence correction questions.


"Agree With" Versus "Agree to"



On the GMAT, there are certain idioms that you must pay especially close attention to. The use of these idioms is highly context-specific, and a slight shift context can necessitate the use of an entirely different word or phrase. Here, we will cover the use of the phrases “agree with” and “agree to”.

Use of Agree With and Agree To on GMAT


Similar to other phrases discussed on this page, the basic function of “agree with” and “agree to” is obvious. Both of these phrases are used to denote a sense of agreement between two or more entities. The difference between these two phrases is fairly simple. The phrase "agree with" is used for referring to agreeing with a person, and the phrase "agree to" is used for referring to agreeing with a non-person. If you find the latter usage confusing, bear in mind that one can also be in agreement with an idea or an ideology. Please go through the following examples, carefully, to understand this concept fully.

Example 1 - Jack agrees with his father on the decision to hold the stocks.
In example 1, “agree with” is the correct phrase to use, as the agreement expressed is between two individuals.

Example 2 - Jack has agreed to hold the stocks.
Here, the agreement expressed is not between Jack and the holder of an idea, rather the agreement exists between Jack and the idea to hold the stocks, itself. Thus, the correct phrase to use is “agreed to”.

While attempting the GMAT sentence correction, be sure to keep this distinction in mind. In doing so, you will be able to eliminate incorrect answer choices more efficiently and avoid traps.


Use of "Distinguish"



Here, we will cover the use of the word "distinguish". Please go through this articles carefully and memorize the rules governing the use of this phrase. Doing so will enable you to tackle your GMAT sentence correction questions, namely those that involve idioms, more efficiently and accurately.

Correct Use of “Distinguish”


On the GMAT, there are only two possible uses of the word “distinguish”:

1.Distinguish between A and B
2.Distinguish A from B

Please understand that any other use of “distinguish” that you might see, while attempting sentence correction questions, is incorrect and should be discarded. Through the following examples, you will be able to understand this concept better.

Example 1 - Teacher asked the student to distinguish between a delta and a valley.

Example 2 - Teacher asked the student to distinguish a delta from a valley.
Both of these sentences are fine examples of how the word "distinguish" should be used in a sentence.


Where Versus When



Here, we will cover the correct use of the words “where” and “when” on the GMAT. “Where” and “when” are two of the words that that you must pay especially close attention to, while working on GMAT sentence correction, as their correct idiomatic use of such words can shift subtly but significantly, depending on the exact context. Such idioms are often used to set up highly complex questions that will require you to approach them carefully and have a firm understanding of how exactly the words are to be used.

The distinction between these two words is fairly straightforward. The word “where” is used to refer to a person or thing’s location in space, while the word “when” is used to refer to a person or thing’s location in time. To put it another way, “where” refers to “place” and “when” refers to time. Please go through the following example, carefully, to understand this concept better.

Example 1 - Where is the event?
Meaning - At what place is the event?

Example 2 - When is the event?
Meaning - At what point in time is the event?

In the first sentence, through the use of the word “where”, the question of what place the event will be at is raised. In the second sentence, the use of the word “when” raises an inquiry into what point in time the event will take place at. By keeping this simple distinction in mind, you will be able to identifyobviously incorrect answer choices more easily and improve your efficiency on the GMAT sentence correction.


Although, Though, Despite, and While



Here, we will cover the correct usage of the idioms, although, despite, and though. Please go through this articles carefully and memorize the rules governing the use of this phrase. Doing so will enable you to tackle your GMAT sentence correction questions, namely those that involve idioms, more efficiently and accurately.

Although and Though


On the GMAT, both of these words have the same function; they are used to show contrast, specifically, a negative-positive contrast. To elaborate, “although” and “though” are used in sentences where a negative event is described before a related positive event. Please go through the following example to understand this concept, better.

Example 1 - Although the team did not win, it was applauded.
In example 1, , a negative event, the team not winning, is contrasted with a positive event, the team being applauded. As the negative event is mentioned first, the word “although” is used.

Example 2 - Though the team lost the match, it won hearts.
Through this similar example, we can see that the word "though" functions in much the same way. Again, a negative event is mentioned first, the team losing the match, and then something positive is mentioned as a contrast.

Despite


The word “despite” is somewhat similar to “although” and “though”, in that it too is used to show contrast between positive and negative events. Where this word differs from those two is that it is used to show a positive-negative contrast, meaning that when the word “despite” is used the positive event is mentioned before the negative event.

Example 3 - Despite winning, the team failed to win respect.
Here, “despite” is used, and a positive event is mentioned first, winning, followed by a negative event, failing to win respect.

While


Finally, we come to the word “while”. “While” is also a word used to show contrast, but in its case the positive or negative nature of the events does not matter; it is used to show a contrast between events that take place in the same time frame and there is no other qualifying factor for its use.

Example 4 - While Jack played, Henna studied.
Here, two events are contrasted, Jack playing and Henna studying. These two events are both described neutrally, neither in a positive nor negative light but both are stated to take place at the same time.



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