Verbals on the GMAT Sentence Correction

First, a few GMAT Sentence Correction Practice questions.

1) During the Hundred Days conflict, the Royal British Navy blockaded all the ports of France, and also prevented Napoleon to escape to North America after his defeat at Waterloo.

(A) and also prevented Napoleon to escape

(B) but prevented Napoleon from escaping

(C) thereby preventing Napoleon from escaping

(D) for the purpose of preventing Napoleon to escape

(E) and, correspondingly, preventing Napoleon from escaping


2) The political motivation behind the Livonian Crusade was not so much to convert to Christianity the last non-Christian people in Europe, and also for establishing control over the commerce of the entire Baltic region.

(A) and also for establishing

(B) yet to establish

(C) while establishing

(D) as to establish

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(E) but more for establishing


3) The CEO said that opening new markets in China, especially in Shanghai, and in the developing economies of southeast Asia, such as Vietnam, where the corporation’s sales revenue has been the most robust over the past three years, and this course of action gives the most support to the their long term vision for an international presence in the sector.

(A) and this course of action gives the most support to the their long

(B) and this course of action gives the most support to the corporation’s long

(C) give the most support to the their long

(D) gives the most support to the its long

(E) gives the most support to the corporation’s long



Verbs take many forms, as verb, as they switch tense & mood.   In addition to all the legitimate forms as verbs, verbs can also take forms in which they act as other parts of speech.  These “verbs not behaving as verbs” forms are called verbals, and include gerunds, infinitive, and participles.   Gerunds can act in virtually any noun role: subject, direct object, or object of a preposition.   Infinitives also act in a noun role, but are more limited: they can be subjects, or, with certain verbs, idiomatically take the place of the direct object.  Infinitive also show the purpose for any action.   Participles are modifiers, and can modify a noun or a verb or even a whole clause.

Anything that can follow a full verb can also follow any verbal of that verb.  The verb and everything that follows it — objects and modifiers, including modifying phrases & clauses — is called the predicate.  We can change any verbal to a phrase by tacking on a predicate.   Consider the simply sentence:

4) I bought a present for Kevin on his birthday.

In that sentence, everything after the subject-pronoun “I” is the predicate.  Now, we can use this predicate to construct a gerund phrase:

5) Margarette‘s plan depended on buying a present for Kevin on his birthday.

There, the gerund is the object of the preposition “on.”  We can use the same predicate to construct a infinitive phrase:

6) I wanted to buy a present for Kevin on his birthday, but I ran out of time.

The infinitive “to buy” is the direct object of the verb “wanted.”  We can use the same predicate to construct a participial phrase:

7) Buying a present for Kevin on his birthday, I ran into Chris at the store.

There, the entire participial phase acts as an adjective phrase and modifies the subject-pronoun “I.”


Not a full verb

The predicates that follow verbals can be long and can include one or more modifying clauses.   Sometimes, there’s so much detail that it’s easy to lose track of the grammatical architecture of the sentence as a whole.  A verbal cannot do what a full verb can do, so don’t be fooled.  Sentences with verbals followed by long predicates can contain the famous missing verb mistake.   Always make sure each clause has a full bonafide verb of its own!



Of course, none of these grammar words (“verbal”, “predicate”, etc.) will be tested on the GMAT.  The GMAT will just give you complicated sentences and expect you to make sense of them.   We folks who try to explain what’s going on in these sentences use all these grammar terms as part of our attempt to clarify everything!

Here’s another GMAT Sentence Correction practice question:

8) Snow leopards live in the snow-capped mountain ranges of Central Asia …

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Practice question explanations

1) Split #1: the idiom with “prevent.”   The correct idiom involves the preposition “from” plus a gerund; following “prevent” with an infinitive is wrong.   Choices (A) & (D) are wrong.

Split #2: the connector words.   At the start of the second half of the sentence, right at the beginning of the underlined section, we need a connecting word that shows the relationship between (1) “blockading the ports” and (2) “preventing Napoleon from escaping.”   This is not a contrast, so the word “but” in (B) is wrong.   It’s not clear whether the purpose of first action was to accomplish the second, but certainly the second was a result of the first.  Choice (C) states this very eloquently, with the word “thereby” — this is correct.   Choice (E) uses the word “correspondingly“, and this is unclear — it’s unclear exactly what correspondence, what pattern of matching, might be occurring here.   A correspondence is not necessarily the best way to talk about the relationship between an action and its result.   Choice (E) is not correct.

Choice (C) is the best answer.

2) This question is all about the idiom “not so much X as Y.”  This is a correlative conjunction, and X & Y should be in parallel.  First of all, the infinitive “to convert” must have the parallel infinitive “to establish.”  Furthermore, the idiom demands the “as” beginning the second branch.   The only choice that meets these requirements is (D), the best answer.

3) Split #1: the pronoun problem.  Whose “long term vision“?  It’s the corporation’s long term vision.  First of  all, “corporation” is singular, so the plural pronoun is wrong.  More importantly, that word only appears in the comparative, and so cannot be a proper antecedent.   We need to repeat the word, and only choices (B) & (E) do this.

Split #2: missing verb mistake.   Except for the first three words, the entire sentence is part of a gigantic “that” clause.  The subject of the “that” clause is the gerund phrase begin with “opening.”  This subject needs a verb.  Choices (A) & (B) follow this long subject and modifiers with the word “and”, and start a new clause.   The subject never gets a verb — this is the famous missing verb mistake.  Choices (A) & (B) are not correct.   Choices (C) (E) rectify this, by giving the subject “opening” the verb “gives.”

The only possible answer is (E).


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