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

Idiomatic Usage.001

In the two previous posts we covered the major idioms tested on the GMAT. While the list of idioms can be potentially unending, a solid understanding of the idioms we covered so far and a few more that we will cover in this post will hold you in good stead to tackle GMAT SC questions that test idiomatic usage.


IDIOM 1: Attribute to

ATTRIBUTE is used both as a noun — one of the major attributes of — and as a verb . Whenever the word is used as a verb it should be followed by TO since the word means

  • regard something as being caused by: he attributed the firm’s success to the efforts of the managing director | his resignation was attributed to stress.
  • ascribe a work or remark to (a particular author, artist, or speaker): the building was attributed to Inigo Jones.
  • regard a quality or feature as characteristic of or possessed by: ancient peoples attributed magic properties to certain stones.
SENTENCE 1

Defense attorneys have occasionally argued that their clients’ misconduct stemmed from a reaction to something ingested, but in attributing criminal or delinquent behavior to some food allergy, the perpetrators are in effect told that they are not responsible for their actions.

(A)  in attributing criminal or delinquent behavior to some food allergy,
(B)  if criminal or delinquent behavior is attributed to an allergy to some food,
(C)  in attributing behavior that is criminal or delinquent to an allergy to some food,
(D)  if some food allergy is attributed as the cause of criminal or delinquent behavior,
(E)  in attributing a food allergy as the cause of criminal or delinquent behavior,

If you are aware of th usage attribute + to,  you can straightaway eliminate D and E.

We had discussed in an earlier post that you should view the VERB-ing form with a certain suspicion, especially when other alternatives are present. Among A, B & C,B is the correct one since “in attributing” is in continuous tense whereas the rest of the verbs in the sentence, *argued* and *told* are not.


IDIOM 2: Estimated to be

In the previous post we discussed how AS cannot be used in conjunction in ESTIMATED. The correct usage is always ESTIMATED TO BE or ESTIMATED THAT depending on the sentence.

SETENCE 2
Paleontologists believe that fragments of a primate jawbone unearthed in Burma and estimated at 40 to 44 million years old provide evidence of a crucial step along the evolutionary path that led to human beings.
(A)  at 40 to 44 million years old provide evidence of
(B)  as being 40 to 44 million years old provides 
evidence of
(C)  that it is 40 to 44 million years old provides 
evidence of what was
(D)  to be 40 to 44 million years old provide 
evidence of
(E)  as 40 to 44 million years old provides evidence

Based on the knowledge of how this idiom should be used, we can eliminate A, B and E. Option A might sound correct but estimatedat is only used to indicate a location.

Between C and D, the former is incorrect since in this case the use of that creates  problems due to the presence of an another that near the beginning of the sentence. If we look at C with respect to the structure of the sentence it would read as follows:

  • Palaeontologist believe that X…and estimated that Y

This is problematic since firstly the verbs believe and estimated in this structure need to be parallel since both are linked to the paleontologists and secondly it creates a fragment

  •  believe that fragments of a primate jawbone unearthed in Burma (left unfinished)
  • and estimated that…

Option D correctly uses estimated + to be and ensures that the meaning of the sentence is maintained.

  • Paleontologists believe that fragments of a primate jawbone
    • unearthed in Burma and
    • estimated to be 40 to 44 million years old
  • provide evidence

This is rather long explanation is just to ensure that queries that might arise around the usage of estimated + that in option C are taken care of.

The faster method is to always keep an eye open for the 3-2 split on both sides of the options — B, C and E have provides, which is incorrect since they refer to fragments, it has to be provide, which is the present only in A and D. Option A is incorrect since it uses estimated + at.


IDIOM  3: Between X and Y

When comparing two things using the word BETWEEN, the usage should always be between  X and Y.

SENTENCE 3
The plot of The Bostonians centers on the rivalry between Olive Chancellor, an active feminist, with her charming and cynical cousin, Basil Ransom, when they find themselves drawn to the same radiant young woman whose talent for public speaking has won her an ardent following.

(A)  rivalry between Olive Chancellor, an active feminist, with her charming and cynical cousin, Basil Ransom,
(B)  rivals Olive Chancellor, an active feminist, against her charming and cynical cousin, Basil Ransom,
(C)  rivalry that develops between Olive Chancellor, an active feminist, and Basil Ransom, her charming and cynical cousin,
(D) developing rivalry between Olive Chancellor, an active feminist, with Basil Ransom, her charming and cynical cousin,
(E)  active feminist, Olive Chancellor, and the rivalry with her charming and cynical cousin Basil Ransom,

Option A is incorrect since it uses between x with y; option D makes the same mistake.

Option B is incorrect since centres on the rivals x against y does not make any sense. Option E is also incorrect since centres on x and rivalry with Y does not make sense.

SENTENCE 4
One of the primary distinctions between our intelligence with that of other primates may lay not so much in any specific skill but in our ability to extend knowledge gained in one context to new and different ones.
(A)  between our intelligence with that of other primates may lay not so much in any specific skill but
(B) between our intelligence with that of other primates may lie not so much in any specific skill but instead
(C)  between our intelligence and that of other primates may lie not so much in any specific skill as
(D)  our intelligence has from that of other primates may lie not in any specific skill as
(E)  of our intelligence to that of other primates may lay not in any specific skill but

Options A and B are incorrect since they use between x with y

Options D and E are incorrect since difference or distinction should be followed by between when comparing two things.


IDIOM 4 : A is to B, WHAT X is to Y

This idiom is not a regular feature on GMAT SC and you might encounter the odd idiom like this one or even an unfamiliar one. The best strategy hence is always to read the sentences for the structure using Xs and Ys.

SENTENCE 5

A leading figure in the Scottish Enlightenment, Adam Smith’s two major books are to democratic capitalism what Marx’s Das Kapital is to socialism.

(A)  Adam Smith’s two major books are to democratic capitalism what
(B)  Adam Smith’s two major books are to democratic capitalism like
(C)  Adam Smith’s two major books are to democratic capitalism just as
(D)  Adam Smith wrote two major books that are to democratic capitalism similar to
(E)  Adam Smith wrote two major books that are to democratic capitalism what

The correct form of the idiom, A is to B, WHAT X is to Y, is followed only in A and E.

Even if you are unaware of this rule, reading for Xs and Ys will make the others sound patently incorrect.

  • Adam Smith’s two major books are to X  like Marx’s Das Kapital is to Y
  • Adam Smith’s two major books are to X just as Marx’s Das Kapital is to Y
  • Adam Smith wrote two major books that are to X similar to Marx’s Das Kapital is to Y

Even if B does not sound incorrect, C and D definitely sound incorrect. But B, like A, makes the subject of the sentence, Adam Smith’s books, whereas the subject as indicated by the sentence — A leading figure in the Scottish Enlightenment — should be Adam Smith and not his books.

Reading a sentence using Xs and Ys to unearth its underlying structure is possibly the biggest skill you can posses to ace the GMAT SC, since what is tested is your ability to use the right structures irrespective of the content.

Please let me now if there are any particular kind of GMAT SC questions that you feel could do with a post, else we will be taking up more of CR and RC.

 

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