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GMAT Idioms: Cause and Consequence

UPDATE: You can find this blog and others about idioms in our new GMAT Idiom eBook!

The triumph of Science over the past five centuries has been its ability to delineate what causes what.   While nothing in Economics is quite as precise as, say, Chemistry, the ability to identify causes and effects is still valuable — indeed, the economist who can clearly demonstrate that any large scale economic process is definitively the cause or consequence of something else regularly wins the accolades of his peers.  Similarly, the business person who effectively discerns what policies or moves will cause greater profits or greater growth in a given market reaps tremendous success.

Clear cause-consequence relations are well worth discussing in the business world.  Small wonder, then, that these idioms appear frequently on the GMAT Sentence Correction.


Idioms of cause

The three primary idioms dealing with causes are as follows:


because of

due to

The first two were already discussed in their own post.  The big idea is that because is a subordinate conjunction, which means it must be followed by a full blown [noun] + [verb] clause, a clause which, without the word “because,” could stand on its own as a bona fide independent sentence.

1) Because oxygen receives electrons in almost all its chemical reactions, oxygen itself is never “oxidized“; instead, oxygen is reduced as it oxidizes the other reactant.

2) Because Roosevelt violated Washington‘s precedent of serving only two terms, the American people enshrined this precedent as law in the Twenty-Second Amendment.

Notice that in both sentences, everything after the word “because” and before the first comma could be a standalone sentence.

By contrast, because of is a compound preposition.   It also identifies a cause, but that cause must be the object of a preposition: a noun.  Occasionally, the object may be a gerund or a substantive clause, but these constructions are rare on the GMAT Sentence Correction.

3) Because of the lingering effects of the recession, the Federal Reserve introduced multiple rounds of Quantitative Easing.

4) Physicists have abandoned most theories that call for proton decay, because of a complete lack of experimental evidence for this process.

The phrase due to is similar to because of, and colloquially they are used interchangeably. But there is a subtle difference between them.  The words “because of” are a compound preposition, and the preposition phrase formed can modify the verb and thus be placed in any part of the sentence.  The word “due” is an adjective and must modify a noun.  Most often, this occurs when “due to” follows “is”/”are” in the predicate, modifying the subject.  Again the “to” that idiomatically follows the word “due” is a preposition and can only be followed by a noun, or, on rare occasions, by a gerund or substantive clause.

5) The delay, due to the senator’s change in plans, cost the convention sponsors thousands of dollars.

6) The sharp rise in this stock is due to the crisis in the corporation of their closest competitor.

In sentence #5, “due” modifies the noun “delay”, and sentence #6 shows the most typical use of the “due to” structure, following the word “is” and modifying the subject.  The GMAT is quite unlikely to test the subtle difference between “because of” and “due to“.

The GMAT does not like the structure [preposition]+[noun]+[participial phrase].  Prepositions aren’t designed to handle that much action. If you want full [noun] + [verb]-type action, use a subordinate conjunction.


That sentence structure will be wrong 100% of the time on the GMAT Sentence Correction.  Here is a corrected version of the same sentence, using the subordinate conjunction “because” instead:


7a) Because his troops were dying from the cold, Napoléon had to retreat from Russia.


Clauses of consequence

There are six clauses of consequence that appear regularly on the GMAT:

so that

so as to

such that

so [adjective] that

so [adjective] as to

such [noun] that

In all six of these, what precedes these words is the causal situation or condition, and what follows them is what results as a consequence.  This is a standard construction for demonstrating the purpose of an action.  The four with “that” require a full [noun] + [verb] clause, and the two with “to” demand an infinitive phrase.

8) The Berlin Airlift provided the city with food and valuable resources, so that the vitally important city would not fall into Soviet control.

9) Upon his election, Pope John Paul II decided to learn Spanish, so as to communicate directly with the single largest group of Catholics in the world.

10) The local rulers of early medieval Europe were almost constantly at war, such that the infrastructure had little chance to develop beyond the most rudimentary level.

In the two structures that involve an adjective, it must be an adjective that admits of degree — i.e. one could be more or less of this adjective.  One can be more happy or less happy, more tired or less tired, more rich, more healthy, more educated, etc.   Some adjectives have an all-or-nothing quality — left-handed, electric, financial, individual, etc. — one cannot be “more” or “less” or any of these.  Technically, the word “unique” is in this latter category — something is either unique or it isn’t, and it is logically incorrect to say something is “more unique” or “less unique.”  Only adjectives that admit of degree, adjectives about which we can legitimately say “more” or “less”, can be used in these two structures. Notice, we could use a participle in the place of an ordinary adjective.

11) The highest peaks of the Himalayas are so tall that there is insufficient oxygen to support life at the peaks.

12) The appeal of the 1942 film Casablanca is so enduring that, ever since its release, it has been named as one of the greatest films of all times.

13) Glenn Gould was so devoted to recreating flawlessly the intentions of the composers that he foreswore live performance entirely and chose to perform only in the pristine conditions of the recording studio for the last 18 years of his life.

14) The planets Venus and Jupiter are so bright as to outshine easily the stars of the nighttime sky.

15) Critics suggest that Johnson became so concerned with the American involvement in Vietnam as to neglect entirely the social programs for which he had been elected.

Notice, in both #13 and #15, the adjective’s place is taken by long participial phrases: expect to see similar constructions on the GMAT Sentence Correction.

In the final construction, such [noun] that, the noun may be modified by an adjective that is the object of the intensifier “such”.  The noun also may be a singular noun with the article “a” — “such a tragedy“, “such a triumph“, “such a problem“, “such a help” — but this construction would be rare in the formal language of the GMAT.

16) Modern mathematics is such a diverse and fragmented discipline that few professors understand much outside of their own narrow region of expertise.

17) The Don Juan legends presented such a provocative character that numerous works of art and subsequent philosophical works explored the themes.

18) The ballet Le Sacre du printemps presented such radical breakthroughs in tonality that it produced riots among the audience at the premiere.



Know the idioms given in bold in this post.  As always with idioms, read, read, read!   Search for the idioms in this post in context.  You understand English best when you understand it in context.


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5 Responses to GMAT Idioms: Cause and Consequence

  1. Yasiruddin August 13, 2016 at 10:52 pm #

    I’m perplexed about this construction from official verbal review: A proposed new style of aircraft, say its proponents, could fly between most points on Earth in under two hours because of its skimming along the top of the atmosphere.
    The above construction is similar to the construction ” [preposition]+[noun]+[participial phrase]”. The only difference is instead of noun, there is a pronoun. So, I eliminated this answer choice. Let me know if it is correct to do that. Another place, I’ve read is that this sentence suggests that the plane is already doing this skipping.
    Is it the cause/effect shown by this phrase that it implies this cause is already in effect ?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 14, 2016 at 1:05 pm #

      From what you’ve told me, and based on GMAT grammar rules, it sounds like you were right to eliminate this construction from the answer choices. I’d need to see full context to be sure though. (I can’t quite tell what edition/year of the GMAT verbal review book you’re using, or the page number.) You’re also correct that “because of” suggests the cause and effect have already happened. This too is a problem, because the plain is described as “proposed,” not as something that currently exists.

      • Yasiruddin August 14, 2016 at 8:51 pm #

        The complete question is here. Thanks 🙂
        According to its proponents, a proposed new style of aircraft could, by skimming along the top of the atmosphere, fly between most points on Earth in under two hours.

        A. According to its proponents, a proposed new style of aircraft could, by skimming along the top of the atmosphere, fly between most points on Earth in under two hours.

        B. By skimming along the top of the atmosphere, proponents of a proposed new style of aircraft say it could fly between most points on Earth in under two hours.

        C. A proposed new style of aircraft could fly between most points on Earth in under two hours, according to its proponents, with it skimming along the top of the atmosphere.

        D. A proposed new style of aircraft, say its proponents, could fly between most points on Earth in under two hours because of its skimming along the top of the atmosphere.

        E. According to its proponents, skimming along the top of the atmosphere makes it possible that a proposed new style of aircraft could fly between most points on Earth in under two hours

        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 21, 2016 at 5:22 pm #

          Yes, you were definitely right to eliminate (D). 🙂 And it looks like the best answer is (A).

  2. John September 26, 2015 at 3:36 am #

    Hi Mike,
    ‘Because of moisture that was exhaled by tourists’ – is this construction correct?
    Here ‘because of’ is followed by a noun and ‘that exhaled by tourists’ is an essential modifier that modifies moisture. Am I right. Please correct me if I am wrong.
    Many Thanks!

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