Sentence Correction Question - Modifiers

A sentence correction sample question that focuses on the priniciple of modifiers.
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The FDIC wants to find out by the end of the year whether all of a bank’s many operations can be boiled down to a single measure of overall risk which they can be charged for  based on the threat it poses to the global financial system - in theory, deterring future crashes.

A. which they can be charged for

B. which it can be charged for

C. and to charge for it

D. and to charge each institution

E, and to charge them

You are tested on:
  • Pronoun reference
  • Dangling modifiers

Pronoun reference

When using a pronoun, its antecedent must be clear.  In the phrase, which they can be charged for, what is the antecedent of the pronoun they? The FDICThe bank?  The many operations?  Changing the pronoun from they to it (B: which it can be charged for) or moving the pronoun from the subject position to object position (E: to charge them) does not solve the problem.  Only answer choice D replaces the pronoun with a clear antecedent: and to charge each institution.

Dangling modifiers

A modifier is an expression that limits or describes another element.  A modifier can consist of a single word, a phrase, or a subordinate clause.
Single word modifier: The green buses run on diesel.
Phrase (lacks a subject-verb combination): The flight arrives at ten thirty PM.
Subordinate clause (contains a subject-verb combination but is not a complete sentence): The flight, which is coming in from Norway, arrives at ten thirty PM.

 It must be clear to the reader what thing or idea is being modified, or described, in the sentence.  The modified term must be supplied; otherwise, the sentence has a dangling modifier.
Dangling modifier: Planning to arrive at the cocktail party fashionably late, the other fledgling star got all of the attention.  (The modified term is missing: Who was planning to arrive fashionably late?)
In addition, the modifier and the modified term must be close together, so that the reader will immediately grasp their connection.  Otherwise, a nearby noun or nounlike element may be mistaken for the modified term.  This is called a misplaced modifier.
Misplaced modifier: Marinated in white wine and thyme, the shallow pan could barely contain the chicken. (The modifier clearly modifies the chicken, not the shallow pan.  Therefore, it should be placed in proximity to the modifying term to avoid confusion.)

The sentence above reads: The FDIC wants to find out by the end of the year whether all of a bank’s many operations can be boiled down to a single measure of overall risk which they can be charged for….What can they be charged for?  The many operations? The single measure? The overall risk

The only answer choice in which the object is clear is D: and to charge each institution.  Each bank will be charged.  Each bank will be charged based on the threat it poses….The two problems outlined above have been solved: the reader knows who will be charged and what they will be charged for.

Therefore, D is the correct answer.

Sentence correction questions by topic

Here are some sample questions classified by popular topics. You are invited to examine these topics separately:

1.  Subjects and verbs - coherence and agreement 
2.  Tenses
3.  Punctuation
4.  Pronoun agreement and reference
5.  Parallelism
6.  Prepositions
7.  Idioms and prepositions in idioms

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