GMAT Grammar Weekly: FANBOYS

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blog-fanboysJoin us every other week for a commonly-tested grammar factoid that will improve both your accuracy and your confidence on GMAT Sentence Correction. 📖📝

Do you ever find yourself going on and on? And on? And on? Sentences can do the same. Sometimes  it works, but often it doesn’t. Let’s talk about when a GMAT sentence is a run-on (grammatically incorrect) and when it’s just very long (but grammatically correct).

A run-on sentence is any sentence that smushes two independent clauses together. Let’s take two simple clauses as an example.

Clause 1: Sara is wearing a purple shirt. Clause 2: She is wearing pink pants.

Both are independent clauses (meaning they can stand alone as their own sentence), but bring them together and trouble ensues:

Sara is wearing a purple shirt, she is wearing pink pants.

It’s not only a fashion faux pas, but also a grammatical one. So, how to fix it? FANBOYS to the rescue! Any of these seven simple conjunctions will turn a run-on sentence into a compound, and correct, sentence.

F             For

            And

N             Nor

B             But

O             Or

Y             Yet

S              So

Try it: Sara is wearing a purple shirt, yet she is wearing pink pants. Now we’re talking!

Now you know what FANBOYS are, but it’s time to talk GMAT. GMAT sentences are often incredibly complex, so we have to break down the complexity. Let’s practice on a much more complicated sentence:

After watching the documentary, Joe and Aaron, who had been friends since elementary school, stayed up most of the night talking about the pros and cons of the country’s leadership, which had been the subject of much criticism throughout the movie, they decided that many of the conclusions the documentary made were fallacious.

Take a moment to break this very long sentence down to it’s core. Find the main subject and verb (more on how to do this in the Sentence Correction Strategy Guide if you need more help). Start by eliminating all the modifiers:

After watching the documentary, Joe and Aaron, who had been friends since elementary school, stayed up most of the night talking about the pros and cons of the country’s leadership, which had been the subject of much criticism throughout the movie, they decided that many of the conclusions the documentary made were fallacious.

Already, we have a much simpler sentence. Keep breaking it down until you see the main subject-verb: “Joe and Aaron stayed up.” But we have a problem. The last clause is “They decided.” Both of those clauses are independent, so we should look for one of the FANBOYS.  Go ahead and look, but you won’t find. We’ve come across the fatal error of this sentence. Insert one of the FANBOYS, and you’ve got a sentence:

After watching the documentary, Joe and Aaron, who had been friends since elementary school, stayed up most of the night talking about the pros and cons of the country’s leadership, which had been the subject of much criticism throughout the movie, AND they decided that many of the conclusions the documentary made were fallacious.

So Grammar tip of the week in a nutshell: FANBOYS are used to turn run-on sentences into compound sentences. 📝


Emily Madan Manhattan Prep GMAT Instructor

Emily Madan is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Philadelphia. Having scored in the 99th percentile of the GMAT (770) and LSAT (177), Emily is committed to helping others achieve their full potential. In the classroom, she loves bringing concepts to life and her greatest thrill is that moment when a complex topic suddenly becomes clear. Check out Emily’s upcoming GMAT courses here. Your first class is always free!

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