GMAT Sentence Correction Modifiers: Types & Rules

Modifiers are words or a group of words that describe other elements in a sentence. While using a modifier, the meaning of the sentence must be clear. Modifiers can act as an adjective describing nouns and pronouns, or they can act as an adverb describing verbs, clauses, and other adjectives. 


Types of GMAT Modifier Errors:

When a Candidate is taking the GMAT exam, he can come across three different modifier errors in the GMAT sentence correction part of the verbal ability section. These errors are

  • Dangling Modifier errors

  • Misplaced Modifier errors

  • Squinting Modifier errors

Let’s understand these errors now:


Error 1: Dangling Modifier Errors:

Dangling modifier errors are the grammatical errors where the modifying word or a group of words is attached to the wrong subject in the sentence or where the subject is missing.

Let’s take an example:

Incorrect statement

Walking through the park, the grass tickled my feet.

The problem

“Walking through the park” seems to modify the grass. However, in reality, the grass cannot walk through the park.

Correct statement

Statement 1: The grass tickled my feet as I walked through the park.

 Statement 2: Walking through the park, I found that the grass tickled my feet.


Error 2: Misplaced Modifier Errors:

For a clear & precise meaning of the sentence, the placement of modifiers is important. Modifiers can cause confusion or unintentional humour in a sentence if they are placed too far from the noun they are modifying. In such cases, the sentence fails to communicate the intended meaning.

Let us take an example:

Incorrect statement

The professor posted the notes for the students covered in the class.

The problem

The modifier “Covered in the class”, appears to modify “the students”. Because the students are not covered in the class, this is a misplaced modifier.

Correct statement

The professor posted the notes covered in the class for the students.


Error 3: Squinting Modifier Errors:

These are the toughest to spot errors. It is a misplaced modifier that, because of its location in the sentence, could modify either the phrase that precedes it or the one that follows it. The common errors are the results of the words – only, except, almost & other adverbs.

Let us take an example:

Incorrect statement

I am only watching the positive news these days.

The problem

The reader will get confused as to whether the subject is watching positive news and nothing else, or while watching the new, he watches only positive news.

Correct statement

I am watching only the positive news these days.


How to Handle the GMAT Sentence Correction Modifiers?

There is no perfect method that can help you solve modifier errors; however, a consistent approach can address such errors with a step-by-step process:

  • Read the sentence, and try to understand the communication

  • Once you have understood the sentence, pay attention to every modifier, and identify its importance in the sentence

  • Logically assess the modification done by the modifiers

  • If the modification is illogical, think about the intended meaning

  • You can make appropriate adjustments in the sentence


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