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Solving Sentence Correction Questions: Modifiers

Sentence Correction question needs one to have clarity on English Grammar concepts. Read the article to get an understanding of the concept of Modifiers and their usage in MBA Entrance Exam questions. Such questions are asked nearly in all the MBA Exams including CAT, MAT, CMAT, XAT, SNAP, IBSAT.

Apr 22, 2013 15:22 IST

Modifiers are words or sentence elements that limit or qualify another word, phrase or a clause. Adjectives and adverbs act as modifiers. Adjectives modify a noun or a pronoun. Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives or adverbs.

There are three different types of modifier errors.

Errors of Misplaced modifiers occur because modifiers are placed in the wrong position so that they appear to modify the wrong thing

Almost, hardly, nearly, just, only, merely etc act as misplaced modifiers

Eg: (Only) Sheena gave me (only) Rs 5 (only) to clean the board (only).

As seen in the above sentence the placement of ‘only’ at different places changes the meaning of the sentence. Hence, the speaker needs to place the modifier correctly else the context of what he/she is saying will be misinterpreted.

Sanju has nearly annoyed every teacher he has had [Incorrect- ‘nearly annoyed’ is incorrect usage. The teacher will be annoyed or will not be annoyed.]

Sanju has annoyed nearly every teacher he has had. [Correct – All the teachers have been annoyed]

Errors of squinting modifiers occur when the modifier is placed in a manner that it can modify the word before it or after it. It appears to squint as it looks at different words (words placed before or after it) depending on how the reader is reading it.

Eg: What you hear often you will believe.
‘Often’ is a squinting modifier.
Read the same sentence with the comma placed where the reader needs to pause.

What you hear, ‘often’ you will believe. [This means that what one hears he will tend to believe most of the times]

What you hear ‘often’, you will believe. [This means what one hears most of the times he will tend to believe.]

The correct way of writing these sentences would be:
Often what you hear you will believe.
What you hear you will believe often.

Split infinitives may cause errors of squinting modifiers

The infinitive form of the verb consists of the word ‘to’ followed by the base form of the verb: ‘to be’, ‘to dance’, ‘to go’ etc.
Inserting a word or words between the ‘to’ and the verb of an infinitive, results in what is known as a split infinitive.

The task force voted to, before they launched the operation, have a dry run. [Incorrect – the infinitive ‘to have’ has been split, thereby resulting in an unclear sentence.]

The task force voted to have a dry run before they launched the operation. [Correct]

Errors of dangling modifiers occur when the modifier is left dangling. One cannot make out to who i.e. which word the modifier belongs to.

While reading a book, the dog bit me. [Incorrect – It is not clear who is reading the book, the dog or I, common sense would say that how dogs can read a book, hence let us assume that I am reading the book, but the written word should not carry any ambiguity]

While reading a book, I was bitten by the dog. [Correct]
I was bitten by the dog while I was reading the book. [Correct]

Aspirants should also Read

How to Solve Sentence Correction Questions (Pronoun based concept)

Solving Sentence Correction Questions (Grammar – Subject Verb Agreement)

Types and approaches to Vocabulary questions in CAT

How to Solve Parajumbles in MBA Entrance Examinations?

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