In the seventh century B.C., the Roman alphabet was adapted


In the seventh century B.C., the Roman alphabet was adapted from the Etruscan alphabet, which in turn had been adapted in the previous century from a western Greek alphabet, which itself had been adapted earlier in the same century from the Phoenician alphabet.

Option A
Option B
Option C
Option D
Option E

(This question is from Official Guide. Therefore, because of copyrights, the complete question cannot be copied here. The question can be accessed at GMAT Club)


Sentence Analysis

The sentence presents a hierarchy of sorts in which one alphabet was adapted from another, and that another was adapted from some other alphabet. The sentence essentially says:

  1. Roman alphabet was adapted from Etruscan alphabet.
  2. Etruscan alphabet was from a western Greek alphabet.
  3. The western Greek alphabet was from the Phoenician alphabet.

The sentence uses simple past for the first idea and then past perfect for the next two ideas. This construction makes sense since the latter two ideas happened before the first idea. Also, the use of the same tense — past perfect — for both the latter ideas is correct, even though these ideas are in sequence, because there is no tense that depicts an event earlier than an event expressed using ‘past perfect tense’.

While some people may find the use of ‘itself’ doubtful, the use is correct. For example:

  • Ram was beaten by Shyam, who himself had been beaten earlier in the day by Ram’s brother.

The presence of ‘himself’ in the above sentence just reinforces that Shyam has also gone through the same experience as Ram has. Similar is the case with the given sentence.

The given sentence is, therefore, correct.

Option Analysis

(A) Correct.

(B) Incorrect. “adapting itself” indicates that the font adapted itself!! The font was adapted; it did not adapt itself. Right? Also, the use of present participle “adapting” distorts the sequencing of events. Now, it seems that this “adapting” happened at the same time as the one in the preceding clause. The sentence, however, wants to depict a sequence.

(C) Incorrect. “being adapted” indicates a simultaneity of events. However, from the use of “earlier”, we know that this event happened earlier to the event in the preceding clause. Therefore, “being adapted” is incorrect.

(D) Incorrect. This structure is confusing and difficult to comprehend compared to the structure in option A.

(E) Incorrect. The adverb “earlier” is misplaced; it needs to be closest to “in the same century”. Also, the structure lacks clarity compared to option A.

About Chiranjeev Singh

An Alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad and with scores of 780 (2017) and 770 (2013) on GMAT and 99.98%ile on CAT, Chiranjeev is one of the most qualified GMAT tutors in India. Chiranjeev has earlier served as Director of Curriculum at e-GMAT. Chiranjeev has been helping students ace GMAT since 2012. He follows a concept-based methodology to teaching GMAT and is very committed to student success. You may contact him for any private GMAT tutoring needs at He conducts online sessions for students across the world.

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