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Past Participles on GMAT Sentence Correction by ManhattanGMAT

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Manhattan Prep GMAT Blog - Past Participles on GMAT Sentence Correction by Chelsey Cooley Did you know that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GMAT courses absolutely free? We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here . Check out these two sentences: The horse raced past the barn. The horse raced past the barn fell. Believe it or not, both sentences have good grammar. But one of them makes a lot more sense than the other one! Let’s break them down and understand why. In the first sentence, the subject is "the horse." Then, there’s a verb in the past tense: "raced." The core of this sentence—the part of the sentence that tells you who did what —is "the horse raced." There’s also a modifier, which tells you where the horse raced. In the second sentence, it looks like you’ve got the same subject and the same verb. However, once you get to the end of the sentence, there’s another verb, "fell." A sentence can’t have two main verbs, not without a connector, such as "and," in between them. There must be something strange going on. And in fact, there is. In this sentence, the phrase "raced past the barn" isn’t part of the core. Instead, it’s a modifier—a very tricky modifier. To see how that works, let’s rewrite the sentence slightly: The horse, which was raced past the barn, fell. Now, it should be clearer that the "raced past the barn" part of the sentence is a modifier, and the core is actually "the horse fell." In other words, the sentence says that a horse fell—why? Because a jockey (or someone) raced it past the barn .   In the tricky sentence, the word "raced" is a past participle . Past participles are tough for your brain. That’s because in English, they usually look just like normal past tense verbs. Since normal verbs are much more common than participles, your brain isn’t expecting to see a participle when you start reading. When you see the first three words of the sentence—"the horse raced"—you naturally assume that you’ve just read the main subject and verb of the sentence. Then, when you find a second verb, you get confused. You have to go back and "re-understand" the first part of the sentence. This effect is called " garden pathing ." Here’s a summary so far: Here are some examples of good sentences where an "-ed" verb is the first word of a modifier. In every sentence, the modifier appears in bold . Some of these sentences were probably easier for you to understand than others. However, they all have something in common. They all have an "-ed" verb right next to a noun , and then they have another past tense verb, later in the sentence. Let’s dissect sentence number 3. The student awarded first place was overcome by pride. You might start reading this one and immediately assume that the student gave someone an award. That reading makes sense until you hit the word "was." Then, the sentence seems strange. If the student was the one giving the award, shouldn’t the sentence end at this point? Let’s reevaluate the sentence. Awarded first place is actually a modifier—an "-ed" modifier—that describes the student. The core of the sentence is as follows: The student was overcome. Think you’ve got it? Open up your 2017 Official Guide to the GMAT  and try the following Sentence Correction problems. Sentence Correction # 680, 695, 716, 733, 743, 746 Some of these are easier than others, but they all include past participles, and I’ve seen students get tricked by all of them. If you get most of them right, you’re doing great!

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