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“Phrase Comma Subject” and “Subject Comma Phrase” on GMAT


This short video explains the usage when a phrase is followed by a comma and a subject as well as when a subject is followed by a comma and a phrase. An important concept for modifiers on the GMAT sentence correction.


"Phrase Comma Subject" and "Subject Comma Phrase"


In this short article, we will cover two sentence constructions that are of great importance on the GMAT, "Phrase + Comma + Subject" and "Subject + Comma + Phrase". Understanding the nature and proper use of these constructions is vital for tackling modifier related questions on your GMAT, as the construction of a sentence determines its meaning.

Phrase + Comma + Subject


We will begin by understanding the Phrase + Comma + Subject construction. Whenever a phrase is followed by a comma, the relevant subject that it refers to must come immediately after the comma. Allow us to illustrate this concept, through the following example:

Example 1 - Running back home, foot of Jack was hurt.
In this example, the phrase "Running back home" is followed by a comma that is, in turn, followed by the subject "foot of Jack". As explained above, whatever comes after the comma will modify the phrase that comes before the comma. Therefore, in this sentence, "Running back home" refers to "foot of Jack". This sentence is clearly incorrect, as it conveys the illogical meaning that Jack's foot was hurt while running rather than the intended meaning that Jack was running home and, in the process, hurt his foot.

The correct form of this sentence would be:

Running back home, Jack hurt his foot.

In this new sentence, the comma is followed by "Jack"; thus, "Running back home" refers to "Jack" and the sentence conveys the intended meaning that Jack hurt his foot while running back home.

Subject + Comma + Phrase


We will now discuss the Subject + Comma + Phrase construction. When a subject is followed by a comma, the phrase that follows refers to the subject. Once again, we will illustrate this concept through an example.

Example 2 - Brussels, a historical city, has many churches.
In this example, the subject is "Brussels" and it is followed by a comma that is then followed by the phrase "a historical city". This sentence is correct, as it follows the appropriate logical structure; "a historical city" modifies "Brussels" to convey that Brussels is a historical city that has many churches and that is the intended meaning of the sentence.

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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