GMAT Sentence Correction, GMAT Verbal
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GMAT SC: Idiomatic Usage II

Idiomatic Usage.001

In the previous post on Idiomatic Usage we discussed idioms associated with some words such as hypothesise, considered, comprise, ability and capable. While these are definitely tested on the GMAT it is unlikely that all of these will appear in a single test, not more than one or two will.

There are idioms though that will definitely end up making an appearance. These are the less fancy idioms around smaller words that test-takers take for granted (and hence overlook) and that can save them lots of time and help them increase their accuracy. One such word is AS. So many questions are made around this simple word that it deserves a dedicated post.


IDIOM 1: AS when used for comparison should always be followed by AS

Perhaps one of the most frequently used traps by test-setters, this seemingly innocuous idiom is ignored for the very same reason. Test-takers are usually focussed on the big errors such as Tenses, Subject-Verb and Parallelism and in the process fail to eliminate options using this idiom incorrectly.

SENTENCE 1

Bob Wilber became Sidney Bechet’s student and protégé when he was nineteen and, for a few years in the 1940’s, came as close to being a carbon copy of the jazz virtuoso in performance as anyone has ever come.

(A) as anyone has ever come
(B) as anyone ever had been
(C) as anyone ever had done
(D) that anyone ever did
(E) that anyone ever came

The sentence involves a comparison that is initiated in the non-underlined paer — came as close to being a carbon copy — so the underlined part needs to start with as, making A, B and C the only options standing.

One of the most deceptively tricky errors to pick — the type that most test-takers woud assume they have asnered correctly before moving on to the next one — the key word in this sentnce is ever.

The word ever can only be used in the present tense — you cannot say he was the greated batsmen ever! So the only option that is correct is option A since B and C are in the past tense — had been and had done

Some of  you might argue that sentence is in the past tense — Bob Wilber became…for a few years in the 1940’s — but the comparison is between him during that phase with everyone else until now.

  • During the early 2000s Sachin Tendulkar came as close to becoming the perfect run-scoring machine as anyone has ever come.

IDIOM 2: When to use AS as a standalone word

In the above heading what does the second as, in small caps, indicate? It indicates a function — as a manager, as a device, as a standalone word.

SENTENCE 2

In a plan to stop the erosion of East Coast beaches, the Army Corps of Engineers proposed building parallel to shore a breakwater of rocks that would rise six feet above the waterline and act as a buffer, so that it absorbs the energy of crashing waves and protecting the beaches.

(A) act as a buffer, so that it absorbs
(B) act like a buffer so as to absorb
(C) act as a buffer, absorbing
(D) acting as a buffer, absorbing
(E) acting like a buffer, absorb

The first rule while solving GMAT SC questions, is to always  look for the 3-2 Split. In this sentence the split is between act as and act like.

The breakwater of rocks — is it performing the function of a buffer (act as) or behaving in the manner of a buffer (act like)? It is meant to perform the function of a buffer and hence it has to be act as, ruling out options B and E.

Option D is incorrect since the breakwater WOULD RISE…. and ACT not ACTING.

Option A is incorrect since absorbing should be parallel to protecting in the non-underlined part. Hence, C.

If you notice there is more than one way to elminate an option. This is something that you should always keep in mind. If you stuck between on one part of two options and are unable to decide what form it should take, ignore it and move to another part of the options, you will always find another reason to eliminate.


IDIOM 3: AS should not be used in conjunction with ESTIMATED

We discussed above that usually in a standalone format AS signifies “function”, hence it is incorrect to use AS after ESTIMATED

  • ESTIMATED AS is incorrect it should always be ESTIMATED TO BE. Even
  • ESTIMATED AT is incorrect unless the AT is referring to a place.

Hence,

  • The value of the building is estimates as $20000 – INCORRECT
  • The value of the building is estimated at $20000 – INCORRECT
  • The value of the building is estimated to be $20000 – CORRECT

IDIOM 4: AS should not be used in conjunction with CONTRASTED or COMPARED

AS is used to denote a function and hence cannot be used to contrast or compare:

  • As contrasted with X – INCORRECT
  • In contrast to X – CORRECT
  • In contrast with X – CORRECT
  • AS COMPARED to X – INCORRECT
  • In comparison to X – CORRECT
  • In comparison with X – CORRECT
  • When compared to X – CORRECT
  • When compared with X – CORRECT

IDIOM 5: AS should not be used to indicate a state of being

So frequently do we, Indian speakers of English, take liberties with the spoekn language that we are no longer aware that we might be breaking rules left, right and centre.

So the word AS that technically should be used only to denote function is also used to denote states of being.

APPEAR AS is incorrect unless it is referring to a role or a function.

  • Appear as capable of accomplishing complex tasks – INCORRECT

In the above sentence we are referring to a capability or state not a role or a function, making the usage of AS incorrect.

  • Appear to be capable of accomplishing complex tasks – INCORRECT

How does one use APPEAR AS to denote a role or function?

  • He appears as a cop in the movie
  • He makes an appearance as a minor character

IDIOM 6: The usage of AS TO

The phrase “AS TO” is slipped into many GMAT SC questions, creating an uncomfortable situation for test-takers. While in some cases it is correct in others it is either grammatically incorrect  or considered awkward.

AS TO is correct when it used to maintain Parallel Structure

SENTENCE 3

Galileo was convinced that natural phenomena, as manifestations of the laws of physics, would appear the same to someone on the deck of a ship moving smoothly and uniformly through the water as a person standing on land.

(A) water as a
(B) water as to a
(C) water; just as it would to a
(D) water, as it would to the
(E) water; just as to the

In the above sentence there is a comparison — appear the same to X, which is in the non-underlined part — and hence the underlined part, which has the other half of the comparison,has to maintain the same structure:

  • appear the same to X as to Y

AS TO is incorrect when used with SO to denote degree

The rule of thumb that one should always follow is that when SO is used to indicate degree or extent it has to be followed by THAT. On questions which test this rule, some options have SO followed by AS TO, making them easy to eliminate.

SENTENCE 4

A new study suggests that the conversational pace of everyday life may be so brisk it hampers the ability of some children for distinguishing discrete sounds and words and, the result is, to make sense of speech.

(A) it hampers the ability of some children for distinguishing discrete sounds and words and, the result is, to make
(B) that it hampers the ability of some children to distinguish discrete sounds and words and, as a result, to make
(C) that it hampers the ability of some children to distinguish discrete sounds and words and, the result of this, they are unable to make
(D) that it hampers the ability of some children to distinguish discrete sounds and words, and results in not making
(E) as to hamper the ability of some children for distinguishing discrete sounds and words, resulting in being unable to make

The above sentence uses SO to indicate degree — so brisk — in such cases cases SO has to be followed by THAT, making options A and E straight-away incorrect.

Option D is incorrect since making is not paralel with to distinguish, ability to do X and to do Y. Option C is incorrect since — the result of this — is awkward also introduces and another subject trhough this. Hence, B.


When AS TO is used in place of IN ORDER TO it is considered awkward and hence incorrect

If SO is not used to indicate degree and the phrase SO AS TO is used to mean IN ORDER TO, then it considered awkward and hence incorrect.

In the sentence we discussed above, so as to, is a part of one of the option B.

In a plan to stop the erosion of East Coast beaches, the Army Corps of Engineers proposed building parallel to shore a breakwater of rocks that would rise six feet above the waterline and act as a buffer, so that it absorbs the energy of crashing waves and protecting the beaches.

(A) act as a buffer, so that it absorbs
(B) act like a buffer so as to absorb
(C) act as a buffer, absorbing
(D) acting as a buffer, absorbing
(E) acting like a buffer, absorb

Th main option B is incorrect since absorb is not parallel to protecting. But the explanation also mentions that so as to is awkward.

What if the non-underlined portioned did not have protecting but instead had protects?

In that case since so as to is awkward, option B should have ideally been — act as a buffer that absorbs

The bottomline as far as the phrase as to goes — view it with suspicion.


A few other idioms involving AS when used to compare two things

Since it is such a common words, there are a few more idioms involving as.

  • As is X, So is Y
  • As to X, So to Y

From the above pattern you can see that the list can get longer As for X, So for Y and so on. You just need to ensure that you are manitaining parallel structure.

In the next GMAT Sentence Correction post we will cover the rest of the idioms.

 

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6 Comments

  1. Pingback: GMAT SC: Idiomatic Usage III | The GMAT Blogger

  2. Tarun Kumar says

    “as compared to” is not always incorrect. There is a gmat prep problem in which it is used correctly. Google “:A recent review of pay scales indicates that CEO’s now earn an average of 419 times… “

    Like

  3. Hi Tarun, Googled the sentence you mentioned, there is no ‘as’ in the sentence; it directly uses ‘compared to’.

    Like

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