GMAT Verbal: Sentence Correction Example Problem #8

Problem:

Because the financial review covered only the fiscal years of July 1992 through June 1994, so the investigators were unable to determine the extent of possibly earlier overpayments.

(A)   1994, so the investigators were unable to determine the extent of possibly

(B)   1994, and the investigators were unable to determine the extent of possibly

(C)   1994, the investigators were unable to determine the extent of possible

(D)   1994, therefore the investigators were unable to determine the extent of possibly

(E)    1994; therefore, the investigators were unable to determine the extent of possible

Solution:

               Grammar Rule Tested! Introductory Clauses, Adverbs, and the Superfluous “-ly”

This question tests your understanding of commas, and what may or may not follow them. It also tests your knowledge of adverb endings.

Oftentimes, for native English speakers, you can determine grammatical soundness by sounding out or speaking a sentence. For example, “He is the most short person on the basketball team,” just doesn’t sound right. A native English speaker should intuitively know it would be easier to say, “He is the shortest person on the basketball team.” While ‘sounding’ a sentence out can supplement an initial diagnosis of its grammatical validity, relying on it exclusively is a dangerous habit because tests like the GMAT use examples that play on people’s proclivity to associate how we speak with correct grammar.

                Tip! Use but do not rely on “sounding” a sentence out to determine grammatical correctness.

In this instance “possibly” is an adverb that modifies the adjective “earlier,” which is itself characterizing the period of time at which these “overpayments” were made. Spoken aloud, “possibly earlier overpayments” might sound correct because it closely resembles our natural parlance, which is far more casual than standard written English. According to the requirements of standard written English, however, the statement “possible earlier overpayments” is more correct because “overpayments” is a noun;  nouns can only be modified by adjectives. Adverbs are for verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.

Given the knowledge that the answer choices with the word “possibly” instead of “possible” are incorrect, we can eliminate answer choices (A), (B), and (D).

Because the sentence starts with “Because,” it is grammatically incorrect to use a semicolon instead of a comma. A semicolon is used to separate two independent clauses that have no connecting words. Use of the conjunction “because” indicates the phrase following “because” is dependent, because the word “because” implies there is a reason for something to be a certain way. By using “because,” you necessarily tie the phrase following “because” to an independent clause that clarifies the dependent clause’s reason for being a certain way. If the sentence did not start with “because,” (E) would be the correct answer; “the financial review covered only the fiscal years of July 1992 through June 1994” is an independent clause that can stand on its own.

HOWEVER, because the sentence begins with “because,” a comma is needed to connect the dependent clause to the independent clause. The answer is therefore (C). Also, in case you are wondering, the “so” in the original sentence is redundant because you only need one conjunction to join two clauses, and because is that conjunction. Do not be troubled that there is no conjunction actually between the two clauses; placing the because clause after the independent clause would place the conjunction between the two clauses, but with subordinating conjunctions it is perfectly acceptable to put the dependent clause first instead.

Find more sentence correction problems and solutions by clicking on the links below:

Sentence Correction #1

Sentence Correction #2

Sentence Correction #3

Sentence Correction #4

Sentence Correction #5

Sentence Correction #6

Sentence Correction #7

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