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Active Verbs on the GMAT

To start, consider these practice GMAT Sentence Correction questions.

1) The Senator’s warm recommendation of the popular Congressman seemed to many an implication that he will not see re-election to his current office.

    (A) an implication that
    (B) to make the implication
    (C) to imply that
    (D) as if implying
    (E) to make implicit that

2) Five-star General John Pershing had such a sweeping command in World War I as no single WWII general is a correspondence to him.

    (A) such a sweeping command in World War I as no single WWII general is a correspondence to
    (B) such a sweeping command in World War I that no single WWII general would be a correspondence with
    (C) so sweeping a command in World War I as no single WWII general would be corresponding to
    (D) so sweeping a command in World War I that no single WWII general corresponds to
    (E) such a sweeping command in World War I because no single WWII general corresponds with



The GMAT prefers active and direct language, clear and powerful.  Why?  Ultimately, this kind of language is what creates sales and drives business deals.  Consider an ad campaign along the lines of “Our product is seen by customers as having a quality that is higher than those of our competitors” — abysmal!  No one would run a campaign like this unless it were intended as a joke, say, said in a drawl by a dim-witted cartoon turtle while things explode around him!  The slogan “No one beats our quality!” is much more powerful and to the point, and much more likely to stick in people’s heads.


Verbs are action words

One split that appears sprinkled throughout the GMAT Sentence Correction questions is having the same root word appear in verb & noun form in different answer choices, or even in verb & noun & adjective form (Cf. OG13, SC#36).  As a general rule, the verb-form will be correct almost every time.  Most often, phrasing the word in noun or adjective form will result in a longer, more indirect, and more awkward construction, while using the verb form will yield a simple, clear, and direct construction.  This is not a hard & fast rule, and this very seldom will be the only split deciding between two answer choices.  Nevertheless, this can be a powerful shortcut for eliminating wrong choices and zeroing in on the correct choice.



Having read this article, take another look at the questions above before reading the explanations below.  Verify that you can find the word that has verb vs. noun forms.


Practice question explanations

1) Split #1: the noun/verb/adjective split.   Choices (A) & (B) use the noun form, “implication”, and indeed, these are longer, wordier, and less direct than they could be; these are not correct.   Choice (C) uses the verb “imply.” Choice (D) uses the participle “implying.”   Choice (E) uses the adjective “implicit”, which changes the meaning significantly, so this is incorrect.

Split #2: “that” — in colloquial speech, we often drop the word “that” in casual conversation — “He said she was angry.”  On the GMAT, though, this is unacceptable.  The formal language of the GMAT demands the word “that”.  Choices (B) & (D) drop the word “that” before the clause, so these two are incorrect.

Because of these, the only possible answer is (C).

2) Split #1: non vs. verb.  The noun “correspondence” appears in choices (A) & (B), and the verb forms “corresponding” and “corresponds” appear in choices (C) & (D) & (E).  This is not conclusive, but we suspect the correct answer will be among these latter three.

Split #2: the idiom with “correspond”.  Both the verb “to correspond” and the noun “correspondence” take the preposition “to” when we are talking about a “correspondence” in the sense of a pattern of matching, as we are here. (We would speak of a “correspondence with” someone if we were talking about an exchange of communication.)  Here, we need the preposition “to” — choices (A) & (C) & (D) have this correct preposition, but choices (B) & (E) make the mistake of using “with”, so these two are incorrect.

Split #3: the “such” & “so” construction.  One correct idiom is “such a [noun] that” — here, the construction “such a sweeping command in WWI that” —- only choice (B) has this version correct.   Another correct idiom is “so [adjective] that” or “so [adjective] a [noun] that” — here, we would need the construction “so sweeping a command in WWI that” —- only choice (D) correctly follows this idiom.  The other three choices don’t follow either of these idioms correctly.

The only possible answer is (D).


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12 Responses to Active Verbs on the GMAT

  1. Atul Raj October 23, 2016 at 12:24 pm #

    Hi Mike,

    My doubt is related to question
    The Senator’s warm recommendation of the popular Congressman seemed to many an implication that he will not see re-election to his current office.

    I have read that “seem as” is a parallelism marker.

    “recommendation seems as an implication” is parallel.

    Please help me to know how does the correct answer follow parallelism.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 26, 2016 at 3:47 am #

      Hi Atul,

      Happy to help! 🙂

      There is not a valid grammatical construction “to seem as [thing].” We have some related ones, like “to seem as [adjective] as [thing]” or “to seem as though [description]” but we cannot use “seem as in the way you are trying to use it.

      I hope that helps!

  2. Rodrigo June 26, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for all your posts. They are the best GMAT materials I have found in the web.

    I have a doubt regarding the question SC#36 OG 13 that you mention in this post:

    “… the strong sales figures released today seem to indicate that the economy, although growing slowly, is not nearing a recession.”

    In this question the GMAT uses the structure “although growing slowly” as part of the correct answer. However I have seen in other post (Participle Phrases on the GMAT) that this structure is 100% wrong because although must follow the subject + verb form required by a subordinative conjunction.

    Please could you explain why this different structure is considered ok in this question?

    Thank you very much


    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike June 26, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

      I’m happy to respond. 🙂 The GMAT is actually a bit ambiguous on this point. In some of their questions, it’s very clear they regard this structure as wrong — they say as much in OEs — but in other questions, often in a non-underlined part of the question, it appears, as if it were entirely unproblematic. To be honest, I am not aware of a crystal clear pattern in their behavior. It does appear that GMAC considers this structure acceptable when the words “it is” are understood and omitted. I think it’s safe to say that this will not be the single deciding split of any GMAT SC question.
      Does this make sense?
      Mike 🙂

      • Rodrigo June 26, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

        Thank you Mike for your answer.

        Can this consideration be applied to other subordinative conjunctions such as “while” and “When” as well?

        Thanks again,


        • Mike MᶜGarry
          Mike June 26, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

          Dear Rodrigo,
          I have seen “although” + [participle] and “while” + [participle], but I have never seen “when” + [participle].
          Mike 🙂

  3. Anshul March 26, 2014 at 9:24 am #

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for a good write-up. I have a question regarding the Practice question 1. In Option C “to imply” is an infinitive. So still we will treat it as Verb and above explanation will apply?

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike March 26, 2014 at 10:07 am #

      An infinitive *is* a verb — it is one form, some would say, the most important form, of a verb. When you look a verb up in the dictionary, the form of any verb listed in the dictionary is its infinitive form, without the preposition “to.” No, we can’t use an infinitive as the main verb of a clause — that situation requires other forms of verbs. Those other verb forms are also important, but don’t allow yourself to be stuck in the grade-school understanding that the only kinds of verbs are those that take subjects in clauses. Verbs are a large and complex category, and infinitives and participles and gerunds are all forms of any verb. Verbs are “action words”, and any form of any verb carries that connotation of action.
      Does all this make sense?
      Mike 🙂

  4. kannav July 14, 2013 at 7:11 am #

    Thank you very much Mike for this wonderful explanation

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike July 14, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

      Dear Kannav,
      You are more than welcome. Best of luck to you.
      Mike 🙂

  5. alsbbbsasda asdam March 3, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

    wow! thanks for that amazing write-up. I really cherished it for the core. Hope you retain submitting this kind of amazing reports

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike March 4, 2013 at 9:27 am #

      Thank you very much for you kind words. Best of luck to you.
      Mike 🙂

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