Grammar Basics

GMAT Preposition vs Phrasal VerbGMAT Sentence correction tests the use of a preposition at the end of the sentence. From our school days, we are taught that this is a violation of Basic English grammar. But a common mistake that we make while spotting prepositions at the end of the sentence is our inability to differentiate between proposition & a phrasal verb.


Preposition as the name suggests is pre-position. It comes before a noun or a pronoun and connects to another word. However, there are exceptions where preposition comes after a noun or a pronoun.

Before we go into the usage of a preposition and how it changes the definition of these words from ‘preposition’ to ‘Phrasal Verb’, here is a list of some of the common Preposition:

• Against
• Above
• Away
• Across
• About
• Along
• Among
• At
• Around
• Between
• Before
• Beyond
• Below
• Beside
• During
• Except
• From
• For
• In
• Into
• Like
• Of
• Off
• On
• To
• Through
• Until
• Up
• Under
• Upon
• With
• Within


Tone Diction GMATAs you may know, diction refers to word choice. Usually, we use the term “diction” to describe an author’s tone or style - rarely does word choice have an effect on grammar. In some cases, though, it does. The GMAT Sentence Corrections will test you only on those occasions when word choice affects grammar, not when one word will be more effective than another.

1. Adverbs vs. Adjectives

While the subject of adverb usage may deserve its own category, the topic can be included under diction. Simply put, an adverb (those words that often end in ly) describes a verb, adjective, or another adverb, while an adjective describes a noun.

Adverb usage is the reason we say “I did well on my test” and not “I did good on my test;” well is an adverb while good is an adjective.

Example 1. Scientists dream of one day creating armies of nanobots, tiny robots smaller than a cell, that can enter the human body and use their practical unlimited access to find and repair defects in bodily structures.

On the GMAT sentence corrections, an “idiom” is a recognized grammatical construction that is a rule simply because of tradition. The idiom constitutes the ultimate tautology: we say something a certain way because, well, that’s how we say it.

On the test, most of the idioms you will face involve preposition usage. Why do I listen “to” the radio instead of listen “at” the radio? We say “listen to” because that is how English speakers have said it for hundreds of years. We like it that way, and we are not willing to change.

For some test-takers, idiom errors can be the easiest to spot on the exam. To these test-takers, an idiom error sticks out like a sore thumb. When they read something like “listen at the radio,” they hear dissonance. The only way to restore grammatical harmony is to replace the grating “at” with the soothing “to.” Balance is restored.

English as second language

Not everybody thinks this way. For many who learned English as a second language, and even for those who have a purely logical--as opposed to intuitive--understanding of language, idiom errors are extremely difficult to detect. After all, there is no logical explanation for why we say “listen to” instead of “listen at.”...

You may feel confident with the most commonly tested grammar rules on the GMAT Sentence Corrections - subject-verb agreement, verb tense, pronoun reference, pronoun number, misplaced modifiers, parallelism, idioms, false comparisons, and quantities. It’s hard to imagine any other grammar rules that could possibly be tested, but you can bet the GMAT test writers are pretty exhaustive. Here are four grammar rules that don’t receive as much attention; you’ll need to master these if you’re going for a top score.

1. Subjunctive Mood

You won’t see the subjunctive mood tested on college entrance exams like the SAT and ACT; it’s purposely reserved for the GMAT for good reason. Most of the English verbs we use are in the indicative mood - that is, verbs that have happened, are happening, or will happen. The subjunctive mood is used to express wishes or possibilities that have not happened.
The most common subjunctive verb that you might encounter is were, the subjunctive form of was.

Example 1: If he were athletic, he could make the football team. (He is not actually athletic, so the verb communicates an idea that does not really exist).

Notice that “If he was athletic…” would be incorrect, even though you may not reconize such an error in speech or writing.

Example 2: The teacher requires...

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