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Verb Forms on the GMAT Sentence Correction

First, a few practice Sentence Correction questions about verbs.

1) Next October, the commission’s delegation will visit the Prince of Westphalia, contributing the largest amounts to the commission over each of the last seven years.

    (A) contributing
    (B) having contributed
    (C) who contributed
    (D) who has contributed
    (E) who had contributed

2) The Federal investigators at Stapleton Industries have failed to find any evidence that has suggested that the unusually large contributions to its accounts are derived from government kickbacks, nor its officers guilty of improper relations with industry regulators.

    (A) that has suggested that the unusually large contributions to its accounts are derived from government kickbacks, nor its officers guilty
    (B) that suggests that the unusually large contributions to its accounts are derived from government kickbacks, or its officers guilty
    (C) suggesting that the unusually large contributions to its accounts had been derived from government kickbacks, with its officers guilty
    (D) to suggest that the unusually large contributions to its accounts are derived from government kickbacks or that its officers are guilty
    (E) to suggest that the unusually large contributions to its accounts had been derived from government kickbacks, nor were its officers guilty

3) Since the beginning of the year, the community medical clinic verified rigorously the potency of each flu vaccine sample, lest any of its patients are vulnerable to the flu.

    (A) verified rigorously the potency of each flu vaccine sample, lest any of its patients are
    (B) rigorously verified the potency of each flu vaccine sample, lest any of its patients would be
    (C) is rigorously verifying the potency of each flu vaccine sample, lest any of its patients not be
    (D) rigorously has verified the potency of each flu vaccine sample, lest any of its patients are
    (E) has verified rigorously the potency of each flu vaccine sample, lest any of its patients be

4) Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony, which is known as the “Leningrad” Symphony, was composed at the outset of World War Two, made the composer a hero to the Soviet people who embraced the work as a symbol of heroic resistance to Nazism.

    (A) which is known as the “Leningrad” Symphony, was composed at the outset of World War Two, made
    (B) known as the “Leningrad” Symphony, composed at the outset of World War Two, and made
    (C) which is known as the “Leningrad” Symphony, was composed at the outset of World War Two and made
    (D) known as the “Leningrad” Symphony and was composed at the outset of World War Two, and made
    (E) known as the “Leningrad” Symphony, which was composed at the outset of World War Two, and made

5) Modern planetary science has a detailed understanding of the conditions necessary for a planet to develop life, but scientists are still unable to determine whether a given specific planet meeting all these conditions does develop life.

    (A) does develop
    (B) is developing
    (C) might have developed
    (D) has developed
    (E) could be developing

 

Verbs

Verbs are the mainspring of a sentence.  Every sentence needs a full bonafide verb at its core.   Full verbs have several qualities, and verbs also take forms that retain some of the verb-like qualities.  The four major qualities of any verb are mood, voice, tense, and number.

 

Verb moods

There are three verb moods in English.  The first, the indicative, accounts for more than 95% of all verbs used on the GMAT.   The indicative is used for stating ordinary facts.  Every sentence in this paragraph and in the previous paragraph are in the indicative.

The second, the imperative, is used for commands and exhortations.  “Stop!” “Enjoy yourself.” “Buy our product.”  The imperative appears frequent in road signs and in advertising, but it almost never appears on the GMAT Sentence Correction.

The final, the subjunctive, is used for hypothetical situation and doubtful possibilities.  The subjunctive is wildly misused or ignored in colloquial speech, so the GMAT likes to test it from time to time.

Everything else that follows is about verbs in the indicative.

 

Verb tenses

Verb tenses indicate the time of the action.   Most folks understand the simple tenses (past, present, future), but folks sometimes find more challenging the rules concerning the perfect tenses and the progressive tenses.

 

Verb voice

The two verb voices are active and passive.   As the former blog explains, active language is a priority on the GMAT, so often the active voice is preferable to the passive voice, but the latter blog indicates some instances in which the passive voice would be acceptable on the GMAT.

 

Verb number

Verb number is the distinction of whether a verb is “singular” or “plural”, and understanding this is crucial for subject-verb agreement.   This distinction only exists in the “third person” — in the “first person” (“I” vs. “we”) and in the “second person” (“you” (sing.) vs. “you” (pl.)), all verbs other than forms of “to be” are identical, but in the third person (“he/she/it” vs. “they”), the form may be different.  The distinction only exists in the simple present tense or in tenses in which the auxiliary verb has different singular/plural forms.

 

Verb forms

All of the foregoing talks about quality of full verbs.  Every sentence needs at least one full verb.  Verbs also have other forms that can’t take the place of the main verb of a sentence, but which can have many of the other properties of verbs — they can have direct objects as well as adverbs & adverbial phrases.   The three most important verb forms are:

a. infinitives

b. participles

c. gerunds

When any of these is followed by direct object or an adverbial phrase, the whole thing becomes a phrase: an infinitive phrase, a participial phrase, or a gerund phrase.  None of these, no matter how long and complex, can take the place of a bonafide full verb.

 

Summary

Many of those links might answer some questions you have on this topic.  If you have had any realizations while reading this, give another look at the practice questions above before you read the solutions.   If you would like to add anything or ask a question, please let us know in the comments section.

 

Practice question solutions

1) The action in question, making contributions, has happened in the past (over the past seven years) and continues to the present moment.  This is best described by the present perfect tense.  Only (D) uses the present perfect tense correctly.

The present participle in (A) is wrong.  The simple past tense in (C) and the past perfect tense in (E), as well as the participle in (B), all imply a past action that is over and completed, which is not the case here.

2) Split #1: “are derived” vs. “had been derived”.  The present tense “are derived” is correct.  The past perfect “had been derived” would only be used to contrast with another past tense verb, which isn’t the case here.   (C) & (E) are wrong.

Split #2: parallelism.  The first “that” clause properly has a full verb, so the second part must also be a “that” clause with a full verb.  (A) & (B) & (C) all have an absolute phrase, [noun] + [adjective], in the second half.

Split #3: double negative.  The verb “fail” in the main clause has a negative meaning.  The “nor” in (E) is therefore a double negative that changes the meaning of the sentence.

For all these reasons, (D) is the only possible answer.

3) Split #1a: [adverb] + [verb].  Throughout the answer choices, the adverb “rigorously” appears both before and after the verb.  Which is correct?  Either is.  This is a false split.  They look different, but both orders are perfectly fine.

Split #1b: In (C), the adverb splits the auxiliary verb from the main verb: some writers consider this inappropriate, and it certainly is not common on the GMAT, but (C) is not automatically wrong for this reason.

Split #2: tense.  This action, the verifying, has been taking place since the beginning of the year.  We need to emphasize that it has been done and that it continues through the present time.  For this, we need the present perfect, “has verified”. Only (D) and (E) have this correct.

Split #3: the “lest” clause.  A “lest” clause demands the subjunctive.   Choices (A) & (C) use the ordinary indicative after “lest”, so they are wrong.   The word “lest” implies a negative, so (C) has a double negative that changes the meaning of the sentence.   Choice (B) has a curious hypothetical phrasing, “would be vulnerable to the flu”: this is not appropriate to this context.   Only choice (E) has the correct “lest” clause.

For all these reasons, (E) is the only possible answer.

4) Choice (A) divides two parallel verbs simply with a comma, and no conjunction “was composed …, made”.  This is incorrect.

Choice (B) puts two participles (“known … composed”) in parallel with a full verb (“made”).  This is incorrect.

Choice (C) follows the modifier with two main verbs in parallel.  No mistakes here.

Choice (D) has a participle (“known”) in parallel with main verbs.  This is incorrect.

Choice (E) has a participial phrase joined by “and” to a main verb.  This is incorrect.

(C) is the only possible answer.

5) Split #1: both progressive verbs are entirely inappropriate.  We don’t need to know whether life on some other planet is in the process of developing at this exact instant.  That’s not the concern of the sentence.  Both (B) & (E) are wrong.

Split #2: according to the scientists, the conditions themselves already guarantee that live “could develop”.  If a planet meets these conditions, there’s nothing hypothetical in question — we know life “could develop.”  We want to know whether life actually has developed.   Both hypothetical answers, (C) & (E), are wrong.

Split #3: The development of life is not necessarily in the present moment, so the present tense in (A) is incorrect.  This development could have happened in the past, up to and including the present: for this, we need the present perfect tense. Only (D) has this.

(D) is the only possible answer.

 

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6 Responses to Verb Forms on the GMAT Sentence Correction

  1. Dev May 24, 2017 at 2:05 am #

    Hi Mike,

    I had a very basic doubt for Q5. Since there is a parallel marker in the question ‘but’, the sentence should follow parallelism. Now, the verb in the first clause (‘has’) is present perfect. But the verb in the second clause (‘are’) is simple present. Can you please explain how these 2 clauses follow parallelism?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 27, 2017 at 7:01 am #

      You’re on the right track here. But you failed to notice something about “has.” In the first clause, “has” is a main verb. As a main verb, “has” is simple present and means “to possess.” “Has” is only present perfect if it’s acting as an auxiliary verb and is followed by a main verb that ends in -ed. This would be the case if– to give just one example– the opening clause in Q5 were changed so that it read “Modern planetary science has given us a detailed understanding…”

      But, as-is, both clauses use simple present. Simple present “has” as a main verb, and simple present “are” as a main verb. (It may be further worth noting that both “has” and “are” can either be used as main verbs or as auxiliary verbs.)

  2. Mike February 15, 2016 at 2:14 am #

    Could you elaborate a little more on the below explanation? Since the act of such contribution had taken place in the past, shouldn’t the verb “be derived” be past tense?

    2) Split #1: “are derived” vs. “had been derived”. The present tense “are derived” is correct. The past perfect “had been derived” would only be used to contrast with another past tense verb, which isn’t the case here. (C) & (E) are wrong.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 15, 2016 at 12:53 pm #

      Hi Mike,

      It’s true that the contributions were taking place in the past, but we have no reason to assume that they are not still happening now. Since the contributions are apparently not illegal, we can’t assume that they have been discontinued.

      The “had been” tense would only be appropriate if the action had ended and if the action occurred before some other action in the past.

  3. Veenu June 11, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    Hello,

    I have one query regarding qstn4

    What is the antecedent for “him” in the question?

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike June 11, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

      Dear Veenu,
      That was actually a typo, and I corrected it. Of course, the antecedent was intended to be Shostakovich, but since that name only appears in the possessive, it can’t be a proper antecedent. Thank you for pointing this out. Best of luck to you.
      Mike 🙂


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