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More on Diction

Diction is one of the eight major areas of GMAT Sentence Correction.  Here are six new questions to practice on this topic.

1) The team of research scientists will not know whether the procedure for reversing damage to individual genes was successful if the scientists do not get access to the advanced optical technology at the university.

(A) whether the procedure for reversing damage to individual genes was successful if

(B) whether the procedure of gene damage reversal was successful depending whether or not

(C) if the procedure to reverse damage to individual genes was successful if

(D) if the gene damage reversal procedure was successful, and if

(E) if the procedure of reversing damage to individual genes was successful whether

2) Rome’s great intellectual achievements laid in organizing the Empire, but Greece’s had laid in mathematical and philosophical breakthroughs.

(A) laid in organizing the Empire, but Greece’s had laid

(B) laid in the organization of the Empire, but Greece’s had lain

(C) laid in organizing the Empire, whereas Greece’s had lain

(D) lay in organizing the Empire, whereas Greece’s had lain

(E) lay in the organization of the Empire, whereas Greece’s had laid

3) The CEO of Ergon, a multi-million dollar company, asked the consultant for an economical forecast of the entire sector, so that he would be able to plan business strategy for coming year.

(A) economical forecast of the entire sector, so that he would be able to

(B) economical forecast of the entire sector, and could

(C) economic forecast of the entire sector, now he can

(D) economic forecast of the entire sector, so as to possess the ability to

(E) economic forecast of the entire sector, so that he could

4) The library at the state college could have much less books and still is above the minimum number required by state educational standards.

(A) much less books and still is above the minimum number

(B) many fewer books and still be above the minimum number

(C) many less books and still be above the minimum amount

(D) much fewer books and still is above the minimum number

(E) many fewer books and still above the minimum amount

5) Thoreau stood by his principles and, going to jail, instead of paying taxes supporting the Mexican-American War that he felt was unjust.

(A) Thoreau stood by his principles and, going to jail, instead of paying taxes supporting the Mexican-American War that he felt was unjust.

(B) Standing by his principles and going to jail, rather than paying taxes, Thoreau felt the Mexican-American War to be unjust.

(C) Thoreau did not pay taxes supporting the Mexican-American War because he felt it was unjust; instead, he stood by his principles and went to jail.

(D) Feeling the Mexican-American War was unjust, Thoreau, instead of paying taxes, stood by his principles and went to jail, because they supported it.

(E) Rather than paying taxes supporting the Mexican-American War, Thoreau, standing by his principles and going to jail, felt it as unjust.

6) Neap tides, the low amplitude tides that occur during first and third quarters of the lunar month, are due to the cancellation of the tidal forces of the Sun and the Moon.

(A) Neap tides, the low amplitude tides that occur during first and third quarters of the lunar month, are due to the cancellation of the tidal forces of the Sun and the Moon.

(B) Known as neap tides, the low amplitude tides occurring at first and third quarters of the lunar month are because of the way the Sun and the Moon having tidal forces that cancel.

(C) The low amplitude tides, which occur during first and third quarters of the lunar month, are called neap tides, and these are because of the Sun and the Moon and the way their tidal forces cancel.

(D) When the tidal forces of the Sun and the Moon cancel, during first and third quarters of the lunar month, these are called neap tides, the low amplitude tides that happen then.

(E) The cancellation of the tidal forces of the Sun and the Moon, during first and third quarters of the lunar month, are due to the low amplitude tides that occur then, known as neap tides.

 

Diction

Good diction means using the right words in the right ways.  Diction is one of the eight major areas tested on the GMAT Sentence Correction.   Some typical issues include

a) countable vs. uncountable (e.g. “less” vs. “fewer”)

b) lie vs. lay

c) due to vs. because of

d) economic vs. economical

e) instead of vs. rather than

You will find more details below in the explanations to these six questions.  Here’s another question from inside Magoosh:

7) http://gmat.magoosh.com/questions/3257

If you have any questions about what I have said here, please let us know in the blog comments.

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Practice problem explanations

1) Split 1A: the first whether/if split.  The scientists want to know, “was the procedure successful?”  That is the content of what they want to know, the answer to that yes/no question.  For the content of a yes/no question, the answer to which someone wants to know, we use “know whether.”  At the beginning of the underlined section, we need “whether,” not “if.”  Only (A) & (B) have this correct.

Split 1B: the second whether/if split.  Will the scientist get access to the optical technology?  This is a condition.  If they get this access, then they will know what they want to know.  For a genuine if-then condition, we always use “if”, not “whether,” and that’s what we should have at the end of the underlined section.  Choices (A) & (C) & (D) get this correct.

Split 2: the phrasings of “procedure for reversing”, “procedure to reverse,” and “procedure of reversing” are all correct, all legitimate idioms.  The phrasing “gene damage reversal procedure,” in (D), is awkward.

The only possible answer is (A).

2) The verb “to lay” means “to put or place.”  The verb “to lie” means “to recline” or, metaphorically, “to be located.”  This latter metaphorical use is what we want: at both the beginning and the end of the underlined section, we want forms of the verb “to lie.”  The past tense of “lie” is “lay” and the past participle is “lain.”  Thus,

Today, X lies in Q

In the past, X lay in Q.

Over time, X has lain in Q.

Thus, for the first verb, we want to say that Rome’s achievements “lay” in one area, past tense, and for the second, Greece’s “had lain” in another area, past perfect tense.  The only answer choice that gets both of these correct is (D).

3) Split #1: The word “economic” means “of or relating to money, the economy, or economics.”  The word “economical” means “cheap, inexpensive.”  The CEO is not looking for a bargain forecast of the sector.  This is a multi-million dollar company: they are not scrimping pennies!  The CEO wants a forecast about the economy in that entire sector!  The correct word is “economic”, not “economical.”  Choices (A) & (B) are incorrect.

Split #2: clause of consequence.  The clause “so that he could …” in (E) is elegant.  The clause “so that he would be able to …” in (A) is a little wordy, and “so as to possess the ability to …” in (D) is very wordy and awkward.

Split #3: choice (B) puts “asked … and could” in parallel, which is awkward, because the first is a factual statement about the past, and the second, a hypothetical statement of intention.  Logically, the parallelism doesn’t work.  (B) is incorrect.

Split #4: choice (C) is a run-on sentence(C) is incorrect.

The only possible answer is (E)

4) Books are countable.  For something countable, we need “many fewer” and “number.”  The only answer with all of these together is (B).

5) (A) This makes a mistake with “instead of.”  The compound preposition “instead of” is designed for nouns.  Here, we are comparing actions.  The GMAT does not like the “instead of” [gerund] construction for comparing actions.  The GMAT prefers the structure “rather than” [verb] —- “rather than pay taxes …”  Furthermore, the “going to jail” set off like this is awkward: it is unclear what grammatical structure was intended here, but it doesn’t work.   As it stands, (A) is incorrect.

(B) The verb “to feel” takes a “that”-clause, not an infinitive (“felt the War to be unjust”).  Also, this version simply narrates a bunch of disconnected facts, and there’s no attempt to elucidate the logical interconnections.  (B) is incorrect.

(C) This is perfect: logical and clear.  The pronoun “it” clearly refers to the Mexican-American War.  The contrast is very clearly presented.  All the action is stated as verbs, very powerful and direct.

(D) The participle “feeling” without “that” is too casual.  The pronouns at the end are a complete trainwreck of ambiguity: “they supported it” — “taxes supported war”? “principles supported jail”? “principles supported war?” etc.   (D) is incorrect.

(E) It’s a bit awkward that all the action is stuffed into the modifiers, and almost none of it comes in the form of a bonafide verb.  The pronoun at the end, “it”, is quite ambiguous — war? jail? going to jail?  (E) is incorrect.

The only possible answer is (C)

6) (A) The construction X is due to Y is perfectly correct.  This choice is elegant and problem free.

(B) The construction X is because of Y is suspect, not as natural sounding as X is due to Y.  Also, the last part of the sentence, “…the way the Sun and the Moon having tidal forces that cancel,” is completely ungrammatical.  This choice is not correct.

(C) This one changes the meaning slightly.  The prompt is talking about those low amplitudes tides that occur during quarter moons; the prompt leaves open the possibility that there might be other low amplitude tides, at other times, for different reasons.  Choice (C) assumes that all low amplitude tides are neap tides; maybe they are, maybe they aren’t, but that is a logically different meaning from that of the prompt.  Furthermore, the final part is far too casual and inexact.  This choice is not correct.

(D) The demonstrative pronoun “these” needs a clear antecedent — the tidal forces? the Sun and Moon? the first and third quarters?  The antecedent is not clear, and none of these possibilities is identical with “neap tides.”  This choice is incorrect.

(E) This choice is grammatically correct, but logically wrong, because it reverses the order of causality.  The tides are due to gravity from the Sun & Moon, not the other way around.  The “due to” construction implies a clear cause-effect relationship, and the wording of this choices reverses the cause and the effect.  This choice is incorrect.

 

 

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4 Responses to More on Diction

  1. Niyant August 1, 2014 at 7:37 am #

    In the Q5 , correct choice C

    Thoreau did not pay taxes supporting the Mexican-American War because he felt it was unjust; instead, he stood by his principles and went to jail

    “Thoreau did not pay taxes supporting the Mexican-American War” ….

    Does this statement not sound as if it means that – taxes are supporting the war ?
    So the meaning seems awkward to me.

    Mike, Please Clarify.

    Thankyou

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike August 1, 2014 at 9:51 am #

      Dear Niyant?
      Yes, precisely. Thoreau didn’t want to pay those taxes because those taxes supported the war. Taxes go to the federal government, and it’s this government that conducts war. Does this make sense?
      Mike 🙂

  2. Ankush June 5, 2014 at 3:05 pm #

    Hi Mike,
    Can you please let me know how is option 5 correct?
    Option E has “economic forecast of the entire sector, so that he could” .
    I believe the correct structure is so X,that Y.

    Can you please give your inputs.

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike June 5, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

      Dear Ankush,
      My friend, there are six different questions on this page. Please refer to the questions by number, and please refer to the answer choices by their assigned letters.
      The structure “so [adjective] that [clause]” is one correct idiom: “so tired that I fell asleep“, “so expensive that nobody buys it“, etc.
      This is a completely different correct idiom, the idiom of consequence “so that“: “I went to Paris so that I could see the Eiffel Tower,” “they saved their money so that they could buy a house”, etc. See:
      http://magoosh.com/gmat/2013/gmat-idioms-cause-and-consequence/
      Mike 🙂


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