GMAT Tip: Avoiding Errors With Four Common Words
This tip on improving your GMAT score was provided by Vivian Kerr at Veritas Prep.
Are you a non-native English speaker trying to master GMAT idioms, or a native speaker hoping to perfect your English grammar knowledge? Four words—among, between, like, and as—confuse many GMAT test-takers. It is important to note that I have never seen a sentence correction question that hinged solely on the proper use of these words, and as sentence correction continues to test more meaning-based questions, idiomatic usage is continuously less emphasized. Still, let’s examine the proper usage of these words.
“Between” is used with two people or things. You may notice the root tw appears in many words meaning “two,” such as twice and twin. Between is also used as part of a two-part idiom: “Between _____ and _____.”
Between Homeland and Breaking Bad, I prefer Breaking Bad.
Do not use the word “to” with “between.”
Incorrect: We took the airplane between Louisiana to Chicago.
“Among” is used for three or more people or things.
Among my choices were vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry.
“Among” can also indicate that someone is part or not part of a group.
He felt like a stranger among friends.
“Like” is used to compare two things. It can be used to mean things are “similar to” something else.
Mary’s bike is just like Cindy’s.
“Like” can also be used to mean “for example.” The first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary calls “like” and “such as” synonyms, but for GMAT purposes, “such as” is usually preferable if offered as an alternative to “like” when examples are being introduced.
“As” is used to link two ideas together.
Just as meditation is a form of relaxation, so yoga can provide stress-relief.
You will use “as” when the ideas you are comparing include a verb. This is because the word “as” can only be used to introduce a clause, not a phrase. (Clauses include a subject and a verb.) Notice that this sentence also includes a two-part idiom: “Just as … so.”
Another expression that uses “as” is the “as … as” idiom: As soon as she got home, she took a nap.
Let’s take a look at a sample question.
Campaign speechwriters are the engine that powers political campaigns, dissecting issues, and not oversimplifying them, as in campaign commercials.
(A) dissecting issues and not oversimplifying them, as in campaign commercials
(B) dissecting issues instead of oversimplifying them, like campaign commercials
(C) dissecting issues rather than oversimplifying them, as campaign commercials do
(D) and dissects the issues but does not oversimplify them, as is done in campaign commercials
(E) and dissects the issues, unlike campaign commercials that oversimplify them
The answer is (C). As written, “as” is modifying a prepositional phrase, “in campaign commercials.” This phrase lacks a verb. Choice C provides the verb “do” and completes the thought.
So what about “amongst”? Thankfully, “amongst” is an archaic form of among sometimes used in Britain but rarely in the U.S. Though technically it can be used interchangeably with “among,” it is generally considered old-fashioned. It would appear only in an antiquated context: He found the king amongst his knights. You do not need to worry about “amongst” on the GMAT.
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