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Modifiers

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American artist Willem de Kooning was born in 1904 in the Netherlands. He was famous for blending elements of Cubism, Surrealism, and Expressionism. Although his paintings often seem to express anger and strong emotion, he is considered to have been one of the most technically skilled artists of the New York School. Learn more about de Kooning here and see some of his paintings here.

 

6/19 Improving Sentences

Part or all of the following sentence is underlined; beneath the sentence are five ways of phrasing the underlined material. Select the option that produces the best sentence. If you think the original phrasing produces a better sentence than any of the other alternatives, select choice A.

 

When you are working on an "Improving Sentences" problem, it is always a good idea to carefully read the sentence as it is and look for an error. If possible, always try to predict a way to fix the sentence. Even though your prediction may not match the correct answer (there are often several different ways to fix an error), it will help you to identify the key grammatical principles that are being tested.

 

Combining both figurative and abstract elements in his paintings, such painters as Franze Kline and Richard Deibenkorn were greatly influenced by American artist Willem de Kooning, a key figure in the post-war Abstract Expressionist movement.


 

You probably notice that as the sentence stands, it's a little difficult to read. Take a moment to carefully reread the sentence and analyze what it is actually saying. You should now notice that the sentence is trying to tell you that a painter named "Willem de Kooning" is famous for "Combining both figurative and abstract elements in his paintings." Since he was a "key figure in the post-war Abstract Expressionist movement", he influenced other painters ("Franze Kline and Richard Diebenkorn"). Right now, however, that isn't clear. The modifier "combining both figurative and abstract elements in his paintings," is followed by "such painters as Franze Kline . . ." Notice that as it stands, the sentence appears to be saying that it was "such painters as Franze Kline . . ." who combined figurative and abstract elements. Remember that, as a rule, modifiers should be placed as close as possible to the thing that they modify. In other words, you can predict that the correct answer will look more like this. "Combining both figurative and . . . , Willem de Kooning greatly influenced . . . " Now look at the answer choices:

 

(A) such painters as Franze Kline and Richard Diebenkorn were greatly influenced by American artist Willem de Kooning, a key figure in the post war Abstract Expressionist movement

(B) a key figure in the post-war Abstract Expresionist movement who greatly influenced such painters as Franze Kline and Richard Diebenkorn was American artist Willem de Kooning

(C) American artist Willem de Kooning became a key figure in the post-war Abstract Expressionist movement and greatly influenced such painters as Franze Kline and Richard Diebenkorn

(D) Willem de Kooning, an American artist who became a key figure in the post-war Abstract Expressionist movement and greatly influenced such painters as Franze Kline and Richard Diebenkorn

(E) and a key figure in the post-war Abstract Expressionist movement, Willem de Kooning greatly influenced such painters as Franze Kline and Richard Diebenkorn as an American artist

 

As always, you do not need to read or evaluate (A) because it is identical to the original sentence. (B) still has the same problem: the modifier is placed too far away from the thing that it modifies. (C) matches our prediction well. Now the modifier is followed immediately by "American artist Willem de Kooning." (D) also has the modified element in the correct location. However, if you read it carefully, you will notice that if you substitute (D) into the sentence, you do not have a complete sentence. (E) again has the modifier placed too far away from the thing it modifies. 

 

The correct answer choice is (C)

 

On sat.collegeboard.com 66% of the responses were correct.

 

For more help with grammar, visit www.myknowsys.com.