How to solve sentence correction problem

After this lesson, you learn about

  1. How to solve sentence correction problems 
  2. Different types of errors in the sentence
  3. Some tricks to solve the problem

 

Sentence correction problems are one of the important and scoring section you can find in any competitive exam. To solve this question candidates are not only required to understand the grammar rules but also the usage of words.

To solve this type of question you can use the following tips:

Read the sentence

Read the entire sentence. Pay attention to its meaning.  In most of the time, you may find the issue at a first glance.  Pay attention to any disagreement from common grammar rules.

Understand the problem type

Next, you need to detect the type of error in the sentence.

Errors could be any of the following types:

1. The problem with Subject-Verb Agreement.

Is the verb of the sentence in accordance with the subject of the sentence? The most important rule here is to understand that the verb in the sentence should match number and person of the main subject.

If the subject is singular then the verb should be singular.

Example:
 A girl are playing the piano. (Wrong)
 A girl is playing with the piano.    (Right)

Kishore Kumar were the legendary singer of Indian cinema. (Wrong)
Kishore Kumar was the legendary singer of Indian cinema. (Right)

Nancy like to study biology. (Wrong)
Nancy likes to study biology. (Right)

If the subject is plural then the verb should also be plural.

Example:
 
The girls is playing the piano.  (Wrong)
  The girls are playing the piano.  (Right)

The players is getting ready for the game. (Wrong)
 The players are getting ready for the game. (Right)
 
Rakesh, Sohan and Dinesh works in an American company. (Wrong)
Rakesh, Sohan and Dinesh work in an American company. (Right)

Rakesh, Sohan or Dinesh work in an American company. (Wrong)
 Rakesh, Sohan or Dinesh works in an American company.(Right)

2. The problem with parallelism in a sentence structure

The parallelism is the balance between two or more words, phrases, or clauses which are grammatically the same; or similar in meaning, construction or sound. It ensures the clarity of a sentence, maintains the flow of the ideas that a sentence wants to convey and give a consistent feeling of a sentence.

Therefore, if you find inconsistency between words or clauses, you have parallelism type error.

Examples:

"The stars are to twinkle and shine."

This is a wrong sentence structure. Why? Because in this sentence there are two 
words "twinkle" and "shine" which are adjoined with the conjunction "and". 
One is in infinitive form while other is not. This gives an inconsistent look to
the sentence and disregards the rules of parallelism which says when two words are
joined by a coordinate conjunction both the words should be parallel in structure.

 So, the correct sentence would be:

"The stars are to twinkle and to shine "

Another example:

"The author not only wants fame but also money."

In this sentence, the construction is around "not only....but also" correlative 
conjunction. Notice that in the above sentence after "not only" there is a verb 
"wants" which is inconsistent with a noun "money"  which came after "but also".

To make it parallel and hence consistent, either use a noun after both the phrase
"not only" and "but also" or use a verb.

"The author not only wants fame but also wants money." 
 "The author wants not only fame but also money."

3. Problem with tautology

Tautology is the unnecessary repetition of words which have the same meaning. In the writing style, this is also referred as “redundancy” error.

Many people argue that  it is the literary device and you can find it in many poems or verses. But grammatically it is termed as a common error. So, you must consider it while answering.

Examples:
 "In the very beginning, the man was the beast."

Begin, itself means from the start. Use of very is redundant here.

Hence, the correct sentence would be-
 "In the beginning, the man was the beast."

"I am talking exactly the same thing."

Something is either the same or it isn't. So, the use of exactly is redundant here.

Hence, the correct sentence would be-
 "I am talking the same thing."

"I also like it too.".

You either use also or too,  the meaning would be the same. So, use one of them in your sentence, instead.

"I like it too" or "I also like it."

4. Problematic pronoun

A pronoun is a word which comes in place of a noun in a sentence. You may find an error in a sentence related to poor usage of a pronoun.

Examples

"Someone has left their bag."

In this sentence, "their" (plural) is referring to "someone" (singular) which is
incorrect. The pronoun should follow the gender and number to its noun or antecedent.  Hence the sentence should be-

"Someone has left his bag"

"The person to who I am sending this card is my mom’s sister."

In this sentence who is wrongly used as an object of the sentence. "Who" is either used as a subject or a subordinate clause. Here the correct pronoun should be "whom".

"The person to whom I am sending this card is my mom’s sister."

You can learn more about  pronoun here and here.

5. Problems with modifier

A common error in a sentence is the misplaced modifier. A modifier is a word which modifies another word and it should be next to the word it modifies.

Examples:

"Walking back from the school, my bag was lost."
 

In this sentence, it seems that the bag was walking along with the subject, which is incorrect. The correct sentence would be-

"Walking back from the school, I lost my bag."

"A fine athlete and student, the coach honored the captain of the tennis team."

In this sentence, it looks like the coach is a fine athlete and student, but it refers to the captain of the tennis team. Hence, it is incorrect. The correct sentence would be-

"The coach honored the captain of the tennis team, a fine athlete and a student."

You  may learn more about modifier in this article.

6. Problem with comparison

In a sentence, when comparing two things or persons we use comparative degree and for more than two things or persons we use a superlative degree. You may find errors related to the comparison when this basic rule is not followed.

Example:

"Between Sonam and Priyanka, Sonam is the most beautiful."

The correct form of the above sentence would be-

"Between Sonam and Priyanka, Sonam is more beautiful."

Another rule is- You must compare two similar things.

Consider this example:
 "The coffee in this shop is better than the shop on the main street."
 
It is illogical to compare coffee with the shop. So, it is an incorrect sentence. 

The correct sentence should be-
"The coffee in this shop is better than that of the shop on the main street." or
"The coffee in this shop is better than the coffee in the shop on the main street."

Be sure to know how to compare two or more things.

You can learn about the common errors with comparison and how to correct them in this well-written lesson.

 7. Problem with verbs

Verb could also be the main source of error in many sentences. This problem could arise due to:

a. Not following the Subject-Verb agreement

Example

"That man live in New Delhi." should be corrected to 

"That man lives in New Delhi."

b. Incorrect usage of tense

Use time cues, such as today/yesterday/tomorrow, on, as, in, before, after, during, next or specific time of the event (2012, 1960, etc.) to eliminate tense related errors. Remember, if the event occurred in the past then the tense of the verb should be in the past.

Example

"Yesterday, it will be raining.".
 Yesterday refers to the past hence the correct sentence would be-
 "Yesterday, it was raining."

"I join the new club next month."

Here the time cue "next month" tells us that the event of joining will happen after this present month, hence in the future. 

Therefore we will use future auxiliary to indicate the future event as below:

"I will join the new club next month."

c. Wrong usage of modal verb

Example
 "I should better to go."

 to in the above sentence is wrongly used. It should be-
 "I should better go."

See the Modal Verb Tutorial to learn more about them.

d. Wrong word choice

Example
 "The company insures that they will act on this complaint soon."

In this sentence "insure", (which means "t o protect") is wrongly used in place of "ensure" (which means to guarantee).

This could be one of the difficult errors to detect in a sentence correction question if  you know a limited number of vocabulary.

e. Incorrect usage of the auxiliary in a hypothetical sentence that is contrary to the fact, a wish or an uncertainty.

Example
 "If I was in the town, I would go to the supermarket."
 "I wish, I was the king."

In both the above sentences, we use the "were"  with the subject. 

Hence, the correct form should be-
 "If I were in the town, I would go to the supermarket."
 "I wish, I were the king."

To learn more about the problem with verbs read this article.

8. Idiomatic errors

Of all the errors discussed above, an idiomatic error is the most difficult and particularly tricky to spot. Because this kind of error occurs even in a grammatically sound sentence and there is no specific rule to solve it. You have to rely on your general knowledge of English and your familiarity with different idiomatic expressions.

Essentially, an idiom is of two types: figurative idiom, which has the meaning other than its literal meaning. e.g. “A drop in the ocean”, “Hats off”, or “Pull your socks”.

The second type of idiom is a prepositional idiom or phrasal verb in which a verb is associated with a preposition depending on the context of the sentence. For instance, you use “look out for snakes” when you need to be vigilant for snakes.  You “look after your children”, when you take care  of them.

Because with each preposition+verb combo, the meaning of a sentence changes. You must be watchful for which preposition to use with the given verb in that particular context.

Example

"The students agreed in the best way to solve the math problem."
 The above sentence is wrong because you don't agree in something, but you agree on something. 

Hence the correct sentence would be-
"The students agreed on the best way to solve the math problem. "

Learn more tips to solve the idiomatic error in this article.

You can also read A list of common English idioms to enhance your vocabulary.

9. Problem with the wrong usage of words

If a word used in the sentence is inappropriate to the context, vague, confusing, incorrect, or misspelled, you have the problem with word choice.

Examples:

"Accept him, all are coming to the party."
 
In this sentence "accept him" doesn't make sense. The correct word should be "except", which means barring him all are coming to the party.

Some words are similar in sound but have a different meaning. For instance, lay or lie.

Some words have similar meaning but is used in different  context. For instance “a few   persons” but “less popular”.

The trick is to distinguish between words and to  know its correct usage in the given sentence.

Learn more at 100 common usage problem of words

Further reading you may use:

  1. How to solve any sentence correction problem Part 1 and Part 2