Modifiers are a commonly seen in the GMAT, especially the Sentence Correction problems in the exam. Before you attempt these problems, you need to understand the concept well. Modifiers are words and phrases which give additional information about other words and phrases. Adjectives modify nouns while adverbs modify verbs. Simply put, modifiers provide extra information to the reader.
Noun modifiers are commonly tested in the GMAT. A key rule to remember is that a noun modifier is next to the noun it modifies. However, it not necessary in case of non-vital modifiers. If the modifier provides a vital piece of information, it is called vital modifier while more vague pieces of information are classified as non-vital modifiers. You will typically find vital modifiers associated with a comma.
Let’s look at two sentences:
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“I drove around Tennessee, which has some of the best roads in the world.”
“My neighbours who live above have a very cute dog.”
The vital modifier is highlighted in the first statement. It offers additional description for Tennessee. In the second sentence however, the highlighted part offers vague information which does not add much value to the reader. Both vital and non-vital modifiers can appear together in a sentence but the former will get more logical priority in the sentence.
Another common trap question in the GMAT are when modifiers are combined with possessives. Possessives are used with nouns to show relation between one thing and the other. For instance, Steve’s Car. Remember that a possessive itself acts a modifier. Typically, such questions start with modifiers in the beginning of the sentence which seem to modify the possessive itself. Sentences structured this way are plain wrong!
Sometimes long sentences can act as modifiers which can be more difficult to spot in the GMAT. Lengthy modifiers are frequently seen in the GMAT. If you get stuck, always remember that modifiers can be removed from a sentence without affecting the intended meaning of the sentence.
To get a better understanding of modifiers, try spotting them in your daily reading. Many authors use modifiers liberally to provide extra information to their readers. Watch out for them!