GMAT Tips – Sample Problem: Sentence Correction Pronouns
Today’s GMAT Tip comes to us from Kaplan. In this article, Kaplan GMAT instructor Bret Ruber provides helpful advice on answering Sentence Correction questions that feature pronoun errors:
Today we will be looking at a sentence correction problem that features a pronoun error. Pronoun errors are fairly common on the GMAT, so you want to be ready for them. Remember, when you see a pronoun, it must match its antecedent (the word it is replacing) in number and it must be unambiguous – that is, you must know without any doubt what the pronoun’s antecedent is.
During World War II, “code talkers” were Native American soldiers that were specifically recruited to develop codes based in the Navajo language; these codes made any intercepted communications virtually indecipherable.
(A) that were specifically recruited to develop codes based in the Navajo language
(B) who were specifically recruited to develop codes based in the Navajo language
(C) that used the Navajo language to develop the codes they were specifically recruited for
(D) that, when specifically recruited, developed codes based on the Navajo language
(E) who were specifically recruited to develop codes based on the Navajo language
When analyzing the sentence, notice the relative pronoun “that”
at the beginning of the underlined portion. “That” is used to refer to the Native American soldiers. However, because Native American soldiers are people, rather than objects, the pronoun “that” is incorrect. Instead, the sentence should use the pronoun “who.”
If you scan the answer choices, you will see find that options (A), (C) and (D) all use maintain the use of “that,” which we know is incorrect. Therefore, we can eliminate choices (A), (C) and (D).
This leaves (B) and (E) as possible answers. The only difference between these two choices is the preposition used after “based.” Thus, in order to solve this problem, we need to know the correct idiom. As idioms are based on common usage rather than grammatical rules, you simply need to memorize any idioms you do not know. In this case, the preposition “on” should be used after the verb “to base.” Therefore, we can eliminate choice (B), as it incorrectly uses the preposition “in.” We are left with option (E) as the only remaining answer, which is correct.
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