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Word Groups 

As you might have observed in some of the examples discussed above, simple words are not enough to express the complex concepts. Thus, we need groups of words to do so. Thus, the need for larger parts of sentences arises.

 

Study the following to understand this concept.

  • Students need scores. (In this sentence, the concept is rather simplistic and may not serve our purpose of communication.)
  • Students aspiring for good B-schools will surely need respectable scores in GMAT.

Besides stating the subject, verb and object, you need to put a lot of qualifications and descriptions to these basic elements to communicate your idea effectively. This addition is possible only through the use of word groups.


Word groups are usually two types: phrases and clauses.

  1. Phrases
    A phrase is a group of words that does not have subject and verb. They are just like parts of speech in the basic functions. Thus, they may be noun phrases, verb phrases, adjective phrases and adverb phrases. See the comparison in the below examples to understand this.
  • My friend (noun) understood (verb) the lessons (noun) clearly (adverb).
  • Some of my friends in the class have understood even the difficult lessons very clearly.

Understand the differences between the above two sentences. Though both of the sentences talk about understanding the lessons clearly, second sentence is fine-tuning the infomation by adding the phrases. Understand how phrases are used for this purpose.

  • Some of my friends (noun phrase) in the class (prep phrase) have understood (verb phrase) even the difficult lessons (noun phrase) very clearly (adverb phrase).

Each underlined part is a different phrase and you should have understood how specifications and qualifications are added to the rather simplistic sense of the first example to make it more precise, perfecting our expression. This is all G-matic language is about!


Given their importance, we are going to study modifier phrases in detail in this section.

  1. Noun phrases
    A noun phrase is a group of words with is built around a noun and sometimes, a pronoun. They serve the functions of a noun, which will be discussed in detail in a later chapter.

Study the following examples in which the noun phrases are italicized.

  • Oil and gas production is the backbone of New Mexico’s economy.
  • The highest of the mountain range poses a formidable challenge even to a seasoned mountaineer.

We will discuss these in detail in the chapter Nouns and G-matic Perspectives.

  1. Verb phrases
    as we have already mentioned, a single word may not be enough to express different time and continuity aspects of action. thus, many times, verb contains, not a single word, but a group of words. These are called verb phrases.

Study the following examples in which the verb phrases are italicized.

  • Comics, as a distinct art form, have been entertaining kids since the end of 19th century.
  • Some planetary systems of the universe may have been formed by processes still unfathomable to human mind.

The verb phrase is resulted mainly from the tense considerations, which we will study in detail in the verbs chapter.

  1. Modifier phrases
    We have already noted that both adjectives and adverbs are called modifiers. However, these two parts of speech have rather limited utility when we are to describe complex situation. Many word groups serve this function in the sentence. These word groups are called modifier phrases.

It is absolutely critical to understand these because there is virtually no G-matic expression without modifier phrases.

Prepositions/ing forms of verb/ third forms of verbs/adjectives/ nouns + all the words dependent on them” forms a distinct group in a sentence. This group is popularly called modifier phrases.


Modifier phrases can describe a noun which is present before or after them. If they modify verbs, they modify the nearest verbs.


Study the following examples and see how the modifier phrases describe the related nouns or verbs.

  • Many emissions from the chemical factories near the city degrade the air quality.

In this example, the prepositional phrase (from the chemical factories near the city) modifies the noun phrase many emissions. Within this modifier phrase, another prepositional phrase (near the city) modifies the noun phrase the chemical factories.

  • Among the many possible contributing factors, epidemic diseases seem to be a significant reason for the decline of Native American populations.

This sentence has three prepositional modifier phrases:

among the many possible contributing factors – this phrase modifies the noun epidemic disease;

for the decline of Native American populations – this phrase modifies the noun reason;

of Native American population – this phrase is related to the noun decline.

  •  Students coming from middle income families are more likely to undertake part time jobs during college education than those coming from high-income families.
This sentence has two ing modifier phrases: coming from middle income families – this phrase is talking about the nouns studentscoming from high-income families – this phrase is talking about the pronoun those, which refers to students.
  • The paper made from recycled paper may not be of good quality, but it saves forests.
The sentence contains an –ed modifier phrase: made from recycled paper – this phrase is describing the noun paper.
  • My friend, eager to know what had happened, sent forth a torrent of questions.
This sentence is with a modifier phrase with adjective: eager to know what had happened – this modifier phrase is describing the noun my friend. This sentence means my friend, who was eager to… / my friend, because he was eager to …
  • The Glyptodont, an extinct relative of the modern armadillo, first evolved during Miocene era in South Africa.

This sentence is with a noun modifier phrase and two prepositional phrases: noun phrase an extinct relative of modern armadillo – this modifies the noun the Glyptodont. The prepositional phrases during Miocene era and in South Africa modify the verb evolved, giving the time and place of the action respectively.
 

Identification of modifier phrases
Identify both modifier phrases and the elements modified by them in the following sentences.

  1. The symptoms of psoriasis are manifest in a variety of forms.
  2. Laws governing competition are found in human history during the last two millennia.
  3. The Indus Valley Civilization, with its sophisticated and technologically advanced urban culture, developed the world’s first known urban sanitation system.
  4. The Globe Theatre, associated with William Shakespeare, was built in 1599, but was destroyed in a fire accident in 1614.
  5. Agriculture, playing a key role in the development of human civilizations, employed most of the workforce until the advent of Industrial Revolution.
  6. Written record totally unavailable, archaeologists studying Prehistory must depend totally on scientific methods to estimate the age of artifacts from this period.
  7. Originally present in a temple in Egypt and currently displayed in British Museum, The Rosetta Stone presents one of the oldest examples of ancient Hieroglyphs.
  8. Geothermal energy, the power extracted from the heat stored in the earth, has been used for bathing since Paleolithic times and for space heating since Ancient Roman times.
  9. Scientific community, seeing a lack of statistically significant astrological predictions, considers astrology a pseudo-science whereas psychology, attributing the faith in astrology to the feeling of insecurity from uncertainty, sees the discipline as the result of cognitive biases.
  10. A period of radical political and social upheaval in the French history, French Revolution resulted in an epic transformation of French society as the feudal, aristocratic and religious privileges previously enjoyed by the elite evaporated under the sustained attack from liberal political groups and the masses on the street.

Keys

  1. The symptoms of psoriasis are manifest in a variety of forms.
    The sentence has two prepositional phrases: of psoriasis – this modifies the noun the symptomsin a variety of forms – this modifies the verb are manifest.
  2. Laws governing competition are found in human history during the last two millennia.
    This sentence has three modifier phrases: governing competition – an ing modifier describing the noun lawsin human history – this modifier is related to the verb are foundduring the last two millennia – this modifies the verb are found giving the time.
  3. The Indus Valley Civilization, with its sophisticated and technologically advanced urban culture, developed the world’s first known urban sanitation system.
    The prepositional phrase with its sophisticated and technologically advanced urban culture – this modifies the noun the Indus Valley Civilizationworld’s first known – this adjective phrase describes the noun urban sanitation system.
  4. The Globe Theatre, associated with William Shakespeare, was built in 1599, but was destroyed in a fire accident in 1614.
    The sentence contains one –ed modifier phrase and three prepositional phrases: associated with William Shakespeare – this is related to the noun the Globe Theatrein 1599 – this gives the time of verb was builtin a fire accident and in 1614 – these two modifiers give infomation about the verb was destroyed.
  5. Agriculture, playing a key role in the development of human civilizations, employed most of the workforce until the advent of Industrial Revolution.
    The sentence contains an –ing modifier phrase and a prepositional phrase: playing a key role in the development of human civilizations – this modifies the noun agriculture; until the advent of Industrial Revolution – this modifier gives the time of the verb employed.
  6. Written records totally unavailable, archaeologists studying Prehistory must depend totally on scientific methods to estimate the age of artifacts from this period.
    This sentence is complex with a lot of modifications: written records totally unavailable – this noun phrase modifies the verb must depend giving the reason for the dependence; studying Prehistory – this modifier phrase describes the noun scientiststo estimate the age of artifacts from this period – this modifier phrase describes the purpose of methods; of artifacts from this period – this is related to noun age.
  7. Originally present in a temple in Egypt and currently displayed in British Museum, The Rosetta Stone presents one of the oldest examples of ancient Hieroglyphs.
    This sentence starts with two modifier phrases: originally present in a temple in Egypt – this modifies the subject the Rosetta Stone; currently displayed in British Museum – this too modifies the same noun.
  8. Geothermal energy, the power extracted from the heat stored in the earth, has been used for bathing since Paleolithic times and for space heating since Ancient Roman times.
    The sentence contains a noun phrase the power extracted from the heat stored in the earth. This modifies the noun geothermal energy. The two for phrases modify the verb has been used giving the purpose of action while the two since phrases give the time of respective verbs.
  9. Scientific community, seeing a lack of statistically significant astrological predictions, considers astrology a pseudo-science, whereas psychology, attributing the faith in astrology to the feeling of insecurity from uncertainty, sees the discipline as the result of cognitive biases.
    The –ing modifier phrase in the first part of the sentences modifies the noun scientific community. 
    The second one modifies the noun psychology. Both these modifier phrases give reasons the respective verbs.
  10. A period of radical political and social upheaval in the French history, French Revolution resulted in an epic transformation of French society as the feudal, aristocratic and religious privileges previously enjoyed by the elite evaporated under the sustained attack from liberal political groups and the masses on the street.
     
    The initial modifier phrase, a period of … French history modifies the subject French revolution. The –ed modifier phrase previously enjoyed by the elite modifies the noun privileges. The prepositional phrase under the … street modifies the verb evaporated.

 

Clauses

A clause is a group of words with a subject and a verb. The functions served by phrases are more extended by the use of clauses.


Study the following examples to understand how this is done by words and word groups (both phrases and clauses).

  • The student is my cousin. (Just a determiner the is used to specify a student)
  • The tall student is my cousin. ( an adjective is used to describe the student)
  • The student in the white dress is my cousin. (a prepositional phrase is used to define the student.)
  • The tall student who is standing near the podium is my cousin. (a clause is used to define the student.)

Types of clauses

There are two types of clauses basing on their capability whether or not they can be ‘stand-alone’ clauses. They are main clauses and subordinate clauses. Through understanding of the clauses is important because most of the sentences in G-matic expression are complex sentences combining these clauses.

  1. Main clauses
    Main clauses are independent in the sense they convey complete sense. We generally use specific conjunctions to combine two or more main clauses.
    Conjunctions used to combine main clauses: and, but, or, nor, so, for and yet.

Study the following examples to understand the concept of main clauses. Each italicized portion represents one main clause.

  • The condition of the patient was critical and the doctors were doubtful about survival chances.
  • The day was surely exhausting, but I was full of spirits at the end of the day.
  • The students were confused, for the problem was quite tricky.
  1. Subordinate clauses (sub clauses)
    Sometimes, the subject-verb group (clause) cannot give complete meaning without the help of a main clause. These clauses are called subordinate clauses or dependent clauses.
    Clauses functioning as adverbs, nouns, or adjectives are sub clauses.

List of conjunctions used in subordinate clauses

after

although

as

as soon as

because

before

By the time

even if

even though

every time

if

in case

in the even that

just in case

now that

once

only if

since

though

unless

Until

when

whenever

whereas

whether or

while

 

 


Study the following examples in which the subordinate clauses are italicized for your identification. To illustrate how clauses function just as parts of speech do, two types of sentences (simple and complex sentences), are given with comparison.

  • His statement is correct. (His statement is a noun phrase functioning as the subject of the sentence.)
  • What he stated is correct. (In this example, what he stated is a noun clause. It is correctly substituted in the place of a noun phrase his statement and thus, is functioning as a noun.)
  • The  unusual situation makes the contingency plans useless. (The word unusual describes the noun situation, and hence, it is an adjective.)
  • The situation, which is unusual, makes the contingency plans useless. (The clause which is unusual describes the noun situation, and hence is an adjective clause.)
  • She came home late. (Late is an adverb describing the time of action.)
  • She came home after all of us went to bed. (The clause after all of us went to bed describes when the action occurred. Thus, it is functioning like an adverb.)

The sub clauses are of many types basing on the function they perform in a sentence. However, this classification is just like the classification of words as you might have understood from the earlier illustration. Let me give you brief discussion of these clauses to introduce you to the complexity of G-matic expression.

  1. Noun clauses

These clauses function just as the nouns do. They are usually started with the conjunctions that, whether, or any question word.

Study the following to understand these clauses.

  • I know his sincerity. (Sincerity is the noun.)
  • I know that he is sincere. (Here, the noun is correctly substituted by a noun clause beginning with that.)
  • I know whether he is sincere or not. (the conjunction whether starts the noun clause.)
  • I know why he is sincere. (The conjunction why starts the noun clause.)
  1. Adjective clauses
    Sometimes called relative clauses, these clauses function just as adjectives do. They are usually started with which, that, who, whom etc. When a single determiner or adjective does not serve our purpose of our description, we need to use adjective clauses.

Study the following examples to understand the need and function of adjective clauses.

  • The students welcomed the new professor from the Harvard. (The adjective new and the adjective phrase from Harvard do serve our purpose.)
  • The students who have respectable GMAT scores are likely to apply to top B-schools. (Here, we have used an adjective clause to serve the purpose.)
  • The river systems that are rain-fed are not dependable sources for irrigation. (the adjective clause that are rain-fed describes the noun the river systems.)
  1. Adverb clauses

Adverb clauses are actually the most diverse of all clauses in their function. They usually talk about the time, purpose, reason, manner, result or place of an action. Whatever may be the diversity, they mostly describe the verb just as a simple adverb does.

  • She was having her dinner then. (Then is a simple adverb giving the time of action.)
  • She was having her dinner when we went in. (here, an adverb clause starting with the conjunction when is giving us the time of her action.)

To understand the diverse functions of adverb clauses, study the following examples. It also helps a lot to understand how the conjunctions express the syntactical relation between different elements of the sentences.

  • Neanderthals became capable hunters after they acquired the skill of sharpening the stone tools. (The italicized clause tells us the time of their becoming capable hunters.)
  • He left some books on the table so that I could pass the time in his absence. (The so that clause tells us the purpose of his action.)
  • The bones of birds are quite light because there are air cavities inside the bones. (The because clause gives us the reason why the bones are light.)
  • She ran as if her life were in danger. (The as if clause tells us the manner in which she ran.)
  • The situation is so complex that we need an expert’s advice. (The result of the complexity is given by the that clause.)
  • I parked my vehicle where visitors park their vehicles. (The where clause tells us the place where I parked the vehicle.)

A specific type of clause that is usually started with if, unless, in case, is an adverb clause which is called conditional. This clause gives the condition to be fulfilled for the action in the main clause to happen.

  • You may find it difficult to understand the following chapters unless you understand the concepts of this chapter.
  • If the governments reduce tax rates, more people are likely to pay income tax.
  1. Run-on sentences or the error of comma splice

Comma splice is an error in which two clauses are wrongly connected by using a comma. Sentences thus resulted are called run-on sentences or fused sentences.


As we have discussed earlier, we need to use a conjunction to combine two main clauses. However, sometimes, main clauses are incorrectly joined by a comma, rather than by a conjunction. To correct this error, we need to use relevant conjunction.


Study the following examples to understand this
error.

 Despite his later popularity as an innovative thinker, Karl Marx did not view his work as an ideological response to Capitalism, he believed that his efforts were based on what can be called applied science of economics.

The above sentence has two main clauses which are connected by a comma. The whole sentence becomes a run-on sentence. It can be corrected the following way using a suitable conjunction.

 Despite his later popularity as an innovative thinker, Karl Marx did not view his work as an ideological response to Capitalism, because/since he believed that his efforts were based on what can be called applied science of economics.

There seems to be no precise distinction between religious music and secular music, Mozart used part of his religious compositions in his secular cantatas and extracts from his operas for church purposes.

There seems to no precise distinction between religious music and secular music; Mozart used part of his religious compositions in his secular cantatas and extracts from his operas for church purposes.

The sentence is with two main clauses connected by a comma. To correct this sentence, we need to use a relevant conjunction. However, as the second clause is the explanation of the first clause, it is better to use a semi-colon (;). You should note that a semi-colon is a punctuation mark that connects two grammatically independent but conceptually dependent clauses.
 

Run-on sentences
Identify the run-on sentences from among the following. Two of the sentences are without the error.

  1. The Foreign Secretary was the only person who objected the extradition of the accused, he doubted the possibility of fair trial in a totalitarian state.
  2. The stock markets worst hit because of expected hike in interest rates, many institutional investors were cautious in their trading.
  3. Some economists support performance based pay which depends on the assumption that financial initiative is a strong driving force, the system supposedly reduces absenteeism and ensures employees’ desire to work hard for the company.
  4. In Japan, a country with highest percentage of old people in work force, workers continue in the employment until the age of 70.1 years on average, well past the official retirement age of 64.
  5. A Norse explorer who is regarded as the first European to land in North America, Leif Ericson reached the continent nearly five hundred years before Columbus, it was Columbus who was the first European to set foot, when he came to Puerto Rico in 1493, on what would one day become US territory.

 Keys

  1. The Foreign Secretary was the only person who objected the extradition of the accused, since he doubted the possibility of fair trial in a totalitarian state.
    The original sentence is a run-on sentence. This problem is corrected by using conjunction since.
  2. The stock markets worst hit because of expected hike in interest rates, many institutional investors were cautious in their trading.
    This sentence is correct because the initial phrase the stock … interest rates, is a modifier phrase. 
    Thus, there is only one main clause in the sentence and so the error of comma splice is not present here.
  3. Some economists support performance based pay which depends on the assumption that financial initiative is a strong driving force, as the system supposedly reduces absenteeism and ensure employees’ desire to work hard for the company.
    The sentence is a run-on sentence, which has been corrected by using the conjunction as before the second main clause.
  4. In Japan, a country with highest percentage of old people in work force, workers continue in the employment until the age of 70.1 years on average, well past the official retirement age of 64.
    The sentence is correct as it is. There is only one main clause (workers… on average). The rest of them are modifier phrases modifying different.
  5. A Norse explorer who is regarded as the first European to land in North America, Leif Ericson reached the continent nearly five hundred years before Columbus, but it was Columbus who was the first European to set foot, when he came to Puerto Rico in 1493, on what would one day become US territory.
    This is also a run-on sentence. It has been corrected by using the relevant conjunction but before the second main clause correctly bringing out the contrast present between the two main clauses.

 

  1. Ellipsis
    Ellipsis is the omission of the words or word groups when such omission does not result in ambiguity.

Study the following examples to understand this concept.

  • You can consider this alternative if you want to.
    In this sentence, we need to use consider after to. Even if it is not mentioned, it can be easily understood from the context of the sentence. Such omission is ellipsis.
  • The situation is tricky, but manageable. (= the situation is tricky, but it is manageable.)

In the above example, the clause after but is not fully given. The italicized part in the brackets is omitted in the original sentence because it can be easily understood by the reader without any confusion.

  • You yourself or your friends can help me. (= you yourself can help me or your friends can help me.)

In this example, the clause before or is not fully given. The italicized part in the brackets is omitted.

In the last two examples, we have combined two main clauses in a sentence using coordinating conjunctions. Even with subordinate clauses, ellipsis possible as in the case of the following examples.

  • When ill, you should visit a doctor. (= when you are ill, a you should visit a doctor)

This kind of verbal economy is quite frequently found in G-matic sentences. However, careless omission of this kind may result in mismatching and thus results in errors. This error (illogical predication error which we will study in the next chapter) is frequently tested in GMAT.


Study the following example and understand the error.

 The difficulty levels of some GMAT questions are quite high and thus are not easy to answer.

The sentence looks quite ok to you, right? However, supply the missing words and read the sentence again.

The difficulty levels of some GMAT questions are quite high, and thus, the difficulty levels of some GMAT questions are not easy to answer. (Do you mean to say the difficulty levels are not easy to answer? This is surely mismatching. Look at the corrected version of the same sentence.

 The difficulty levels of some GMAT questions are quite high and thus, the questions are not easy to answer.

When ill, a doctor should be visited.

In the given sentence, the subject and verb group is omitted. When such ellipsis is present in the sentence, the subject in the later part of the sentence (a doctor) is to be taken as the missing subject. Now the sentence means that when a doctor is ill, he should be visited. This is illogical. The following is the corrected version.

When ill, you/one should visit a doctor.

When you are/one is ill, a doctor should be visited.

You should remember that if any word or word group is omitted in a sentence, the corresponding element in the remaining part is to be understood in the ellipsis. If this is not followed, errors of the above kind will be resulted.

Let’s take up a Down-to-earth practice to test your understanding of this concept.

 

Ellipsis
Study the following sentences with ellipsis and correct any errors present.

  1. Traditional religious customs in Africa, though shared by many African societies, are usually unique to specific ethnic groups.
  2. While at Oxford, Victor Bulmer Thomas’ involvement in Left Wing students’ politics seems to have prompted his colleagues to doubt some of his pioneering ideas in Latin American Studies.
  3. Cultures around the world have rich vocabularies related to bird names and are often based on detailed knowledge of birds’ behavior.
  4. In 1747, while working as a surgeon at HM Bark, Salisbury, England, James Lind’s controlled experiment was aimed at finding a cure for scurvy.
  5. Founded by Anglicans and Separatists, who later came to be known as Pilgrim Fathers, Plymouth Colony was one of the earliest successful colonies founded by the English in North America and the first sizable English settlement in the New England region.

Keys

  1. Traditional religious customs in Africa, though shared by many African societies, are usually unique to specific ethnic groups.
     
    The sentence is correct as it is. The subordinate clause in which the subject and verb are omitted can be correctly used with the subject of the main clause.
  2. While at Oxford, Victor Bulmer Thomas was involved in Left Wing students’ politics and this involvement seems to have prompted his colleagues to doubt some of his pioneering ideas in Latin American Studies.
     
    In the original sentence, the subject of the main clause cannot be logically used in the subordinate clause as the subject. The corrected version solves this problem and uses the logical subject for the second clause.
  3. Cultures around the world have rich vocabularies related to bird names, which are often based on detailed knowledge of birds’ behavior.
     
    The logical subject for the clause after and is birds’ names, but the sentence structure illogically makes cultures the subject. This problem can be corrected either by using the logical subject after and or by using the relative pronoun which.
  4. In 1747, while working as a surgeon at HM Bark, Salisbury, England, James Lind conducted a controlled experiment that was aimed at finding a cure for scurvy.
     
    The subject of the main clause cannot be the logical subject of subordinate clause with ellipsis. This problem is corrected by changing the subject and by making necessary changes in the sentence.
  5. Founded by Anglicans and Separatists, who later came to be known as Pilgrim Fathers, Plymouth Colony was one of the earliest successful colonies founded by the English in North America and the first sizable English settlement in the New England region.
     
    The sentence is correct as it is.





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