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Prepositions, conjunctions, punctuation

Prepositions:
The meaning of the word preposition is literal. It is pre-positioned to a
noun or a pronoun to help it to establish a relationship with other
words in the sentence.
There are some rare cases when the preposition is used after the
noun/pronoun as well, but most of the time it is pre-positioned.
For all the thousands and millions of words in the English language,
only 100-150 of them are used as prepositions. Some commonly used
prepositions are listed below
On, about, of, to, off, before, after, against, along, among, between,
beside, except, towards, opposite, onto, from, during, by, at
The usage of the prepositions is highlighted in the sentences below:
I feel like I am flying on Cloud No. 9
It was only after he left that Kelly could leave the office
To better understand the importance and the role of prepositions,
consider any 2 objects or people. Lets say Luke and water. What
are the possible sentences that we could make with these 2 words.

Luke was swimming in the water


The dam burst open and suddenly the water level went above
Lukes head
Luke was sitting by the waterfront.
Luke was thirsty and he was looking for some water to drink.
Luke jumped into water and saved the kid from drowning.

To describe any relationship between Luke and water we need to


use prepositions.
The prepositions can also have more than just 1 word. For eg: as long
as, instead of, as far as, in view of, next to, because of.
Now, there are some common prepositions that we may use
incorrectly. Lets talk about them
Between vs Among

Mostly, we are taught that between is used while comparing 2 things


and among is used with 3 or more things. However, this is not
entirely true.
These 2 prepositions are used for the same purpose to compare 2 or
more objects or persons.
Between is used with 2 separate and distinct things.
For eg: A fight erupted between Julie and Cassandra
I am stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Between can also be used with 3 or more things as long as they are
separate and distinct.
For eg: Please distribute the chocolates between Bob, Rob, Toby and
Jacob
The differences between the Spanish, the Portuguese, and the Catalan
language are not that significant from a scientific point of view.
Among is used to show comparison in a group and is used to signify
membership in a group
For eg: A fight erupted among all the team members
The sacking scandal caused a rift among the fans of the club
Einstein and Hawking are among the scientists featured in the Most
Influential People List.
Some sentence can be slightly modified to use either between or
among and still convey a similar meaning.
For eg: The negotiations between Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore
are going well
The negotiations among the South-East Asian nations are going well
Beside vs Besides:
The basic difference is that the word besides means - in addition to
or except
And beside means next to or close to
The word beside is used as a preposition to indicate the position of
one object when compared to the other.

For eg: George was sitting beside her, consoling her on the tragic
loss
A majestic cathedral stood beside the Castle of Orleans
The word besides can be used as a preposition or an adverb.
For eg: Besides the prize money, the victory also gave Mark a chance
to attend the Harvard Business School. (preposition)
Besides you, there is no one in my life who I care about anymore
(preposition)
Besides, its not just about the money. Its about creating an impact
(adverb)
Prepositional Phrases:
A prepositional phrase is made up of the preposition and its object.
For eg: with fire, without food, above water, in the classroom
We need to be able to identify the prepositional phrases in a sentence.
The prepositional phrases start with a preposition and end with a noun.
They would NOT include the verb.
Prepositional nouns serve as adjectives or adverbs in a sentence. We
should be able to identify them so that we can eliminate them
temporarily, and focus on the subject and verb.
In the GMAT, the adjectives and the adverbs (often in the form of
prepositional phrases) are used to disguise or take attention away from
the main subject and the verb. This makes spotting Subject-Verb
agreement errors more difficult and, hence, creates an excellent GMAT
SC question.
Therefore, it is important that we are able to view a sentence
independent of its adjectives and adverbs to focus on its constituents
the subject and the verb.
The way to spot prepositional phrases is to remove them and see if you
still have a meaningful sentence.
Lets try to find them in a few sentences
i.
ii.
iii.

The chair with the broken leg is kept downstairs


The duck jumped into the pond.
The monk was fasting and had survived without food and
water for more than 3 days.

iv.

Coming out of the forest and getting back to the city life felt
strange to him.

In the 1st sentence the prepositional phrase is with the broken leg
and it serves as an adjective to the noun chair
In the 2nd sentence the prepositional phrase is into the pond and it
serves as an adverb to the verb jumped.
In the 3rd sentence, the prepositional phrases are without food and
water and for more than 3 days. These phrases act as adverb to the
verb survived
In the 4th sentence, the prepositional phrases are of the forest to the
city life and to him.
The phrase of the forest serves as an adjective to the noun coming
out.
The phrase to the city life serves as an adjective to the noun getting
back.
The words coming and getting are the gerunds here (i.e. a verb of
the ing form that serves as a noun). To judge whether its a noun or
not, ask yourself the question.. What felt strange to him? The answer
would be the noun
Coming out and getting back felt strange to him Therefore, these
are the nouns.
The phrase to him serves as an adverb to the verb felt strange.
Conjunctions:
Conjunctions are joining words. They can join together words or parts
of sentences or; even, complete sentences to form a large sentence.
Some commonly used conjunctions are
And, but, for, if, because, since, whether, thus, etc.
Before we discuss further, do you remember compound and complex
sentences? Compound sentences were made up of independent
clauses or sentences, but complex sentences also have a dependent
clause that relies on the independent clause.

Conjunctions are used to join these different clauses or sentences in


compound and complex sentences. They will always be present in a
compound or a complex sentence.
There are 3 types of conjunctions.
1) Coordinating Conjunction:
These connect phrases or words in a very simple manner. There
are 7 coordinating conjunction words, popularly written with the
acronym FANBOYS.
F For
A and
N nor
B but
O or
Y yet
S so
For eg: I am eating the pizza, but not the pasta
We thought the movie was over, so we left the theatre without
seeing the directors message
Be careful on the choice of the conjunction.
For eg: I am a vegan, yet I do not eat the traditional
hamburger.
Is the above sentence correct?
No! The subject is a vegan, i.e. eats only vegetarian food.
However, the sentence seems to imply that I does not eat the
hamburger in spite of the fact that I is a vegan. This seems
counterintuitive, doesnt it
The problem is with the use of the conjunction yet
It does not give the cause-effect structure that the sentence so
demands. Lets replace it with the more appropriate conjunction
so
I am a vegan, so I do not eat the traditional hamburger.
This sounds better now doesnt it. Conjunctions like hence,
therefore would have been correct too.
2) Subordinate Conjunction:

These introduce a subordinate or a dependent clause into the


sentence. They provide the transition of time or place or causeeffect relationship between two ideas in different clauses. Some
common subordinate conjunctions are as, because, since, if,
whether, that, in order to, once, unless, until.
The very idea of introducing a subordinate clause makes us think
of complex sentences. Subordinate conjunctions are used in
complex sentences. The idea behind studying subordinate
conjunctions is to be able to identify the main, independent
clause and the subordinate clause.
For eg: I will start working on the report once I receive reports
from all the division heads
Since Sasha was getting late for the movie, she asked her
friends to meet her directly at the movie theatre
3) Correlative Conjunction:
Correlative conjunctions are a special feature of the English
language. They are used in pairs and impact two different
clauses. However, you must ensure that the two different clauses
that these conjunctions are attached to are grammatically
consistent in terms of count, gender or tense.
Because of this complexity involved, these conjunctions are
frequently tested in the GMAT.
Some common correlative conjunction pairs are
Either, Or
Neither, Nor
Both, And
Not Only, But Also
Whether, Or
For eg: Either he leaves, or I leave
I want neither apples nor oranges
Not only Mary, but also her husband Joe is coming to the party
Now, like we said, the clauses where these paired conjunctions
are used must
agree in count. So lets analyze that
Should it be..
Both my computer and my keyboard are brand new, or
Both my computer and my keyboard is brand new

The answer here is ARE brand new This is because in the


Both-And conjunction we have 2 subjects and hence, we use
the plural.
However, in case of conjunction pairs where there is a choice like
Either-Or, Neither-Nor, Not Only, But Also, Whether, Or
the choice of singular or plural is decided by the object that is
nearer to the verb.
For eg: Neither me nor he is going to the party
Neither me nor them are going to the party
Punctuation:
The GMAT often focuses on distinguishing the use of semi-colon from
that of a comma. A list of special punctuations and their uses is as
under:
Comma:
Commas are used to separate nouns, adjectives or adverbs. In modern
writing, commas are also used to separate out non-important
information.
For eg: I was driving down the road, that led to Nashville, while
listening to country music
Here the comma-structure is used to separate out the phrase that led
to Nashville which effectively is an adjective to the noun road
The important thing to remember about the comma is that we cannot
connect two independent clauses by Just a Comma. We need to use a
conjunction to do so.
Semi-Colon:
Semi-colons (;) are used to separate out independent clauses.
For eg: The stock markets are performing incredibly this year; while
the last year can at best be described as somber
Colons are used to separate the list (containing commas) from the rest
of the sentence.
For eg: The event features 3 US Presidents: George W. Bush, Bill
Clinton, and Barack Obama
The dash:
The dash (-) is used to indicate a break in thought or to separate the
not-so-important information from the rest of the sentence.

For eg: Much of our success monetary or otherwise depends on our


education.