Past Perfect without Past Tense on GMAT Sentence Correction Questions

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomRecall the golden rule of past perfect tense – The Past Perfect expresses the idea that something occurred before another action in the past. It can also show that something happened before a specific time in the past. We often ignore the “something happened before a specific time in the past” part of the tense.

For example, look at this sentence:

Robin had never cooked pasta before last night.

Here, we use past perfect “had cooked” without another verb in the past tense – why? Because we use past perfect to show that something happened before a specific time in the past i.e. before last night.

Similarly, sometimes in GMAT too, you may see past perfect where it seems reasonable but you may not find a verb in past tense. It could be because an action happened before a specific time in the past or there is an implied action in the past.

There is a reason why we brought up this point – check out the sentence given below:

According to some economists, the gains in the stock market reflect growing confidence that the economy will avoid the recession that many had feared earlier in the year and instead come in for a ‘soft landing’.

The sentence is similar to a correct sentence given in Official Guide. Note the use of “had feared” – many people question the use of past perfect here.

The reason past perfect is correct here is this:

People had feared recession earlier this year. But in the recent past, confidence is growing (so they do not fear recession anymore). The state of earlier this year has been over in the recent past. Now, the stock market is showing gains. This shows that people have been feeling more confident. So people “had feared recession” earlier in the year but some time in the year, the fear vanished and now it is reflecting in the form of gains on stock market. In such cases, our use of common sense is more important than the mere retention of grammar rules. Another thing that helps in such situations is that all other options would have a major fault. Let’s show you the actual OG question:

 

Question: According to some analysts, the gains in the stock market reflect growing confidence that the economy will avoid the recession that many had feared earlier in the year and instead come in for a “soft landing,” followed by a gradual increase in business activity.

(A) that the economy will avoid the recession that many had feared earlier in the year and instead come

(B) in the economy to avoid the recession, what many feared earlier in the year, rather to come

(C) in the economy’s ability to avoid the recession, something earlier in the year many had feared, and instead to come

(D) in the economy to avoid the recession many were fearing earlier in the year, and rather to come

(E) that the economy will avoid the recession that was feared earlier this year by many, with it instead coming

 

Let’s look at the errors in the other options:

(B) in the economy to avoid the recession, what many feared earlier in the year, rather to come You cannot use “what” in place of “which”. Also, the use of “confidence in A to avoid” is not correct. It should be “confidence that A will avoid”.

(C) in the economy’s ability to avoid the recession, something earlier in the year many had feared, and instead to come The placement of “earlier in the year” is incorrect here. It should come after “had feared”.

(D) in the economy to avoid the recession many were fearing earlier in the year, and rather to come Again, the use of “confidence in A to avoid” is not correct. It should be “confidence that A will avoid”.

(E) that the economy will avoid the recession that was feared earlier this year by many, with it instead coming “With it instead coming” doesn’t make any sense so this option isn’t correct either. So we see that all other options have fatal flaws.

Hence, in this case, option (A) is our best bet even though the use of past perfect isn’t the way we usually see it.

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!