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Modifiers and Verbs

8/3 Identifying Sentence Errors

The following sentence contains either a single error or no error at all. If the sentence contains an error, select the one underlined part that must be changed to make the sentence correct. If the sentence contains no error, select choice E.

Searching a sentence for a grammatical error may seem like a daunting task because there are so many rules in the English language.  However, if you remember the Knowsys method, you need not be intimidated.  Read the sentence carefully and evaluate each underlined portion using the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  For each blank, ask yourself whether there are any problems.

The results of the study indicate that the new drug is both safer and more effective than was previously assumed.   No error

(A) includes a verb.  The third question from The Big 8 Grammar Rules asks, “Do the subject and verb agree?”  In this sentence the subject is separated from the verb by the prepositional phrase “of the study.”  Ignore this phrase and put the subject and verb together: “results indicate.”  The subject and verb match. 

(B) includes the word “both.”  The function of the word “both” is to emphasize that there are two separate conclusions that can be made based on the results of the study.  “Both” can be completely removed from the sentence and the sentence will still be grammatically correct, but including this emphasis is the author’s choice and not a grammatical error.  The word “both” also indicates that you must check for parallelism between the two following words that are linked by the conjunction  “and” (the sixth rule from The Big 8). The words “safer” and “more effective” both use the same comparative form, so all of the words in portion (B) are acceptable.

(C) draws your attention to the verb “was,” which may look like an error because usually verbs should be in a consistent tense throughout the sentence and because the author has already used “is.” However, the past tense is necessary here because the author is setting up a comparison between present ideas about the drug and past ideas about the drug.

(D) underlines “assumed.” What was assumed? The level of safety and effectiveness of the drug was assumed.  “Assumed” is in the correct tense.

(E) must be correct because there are no errors in the sentence.  Sometimes students get so caught up in finding an error that they forget that “no error” is also a choice.  Do not be afraid to choose “no error;” it is correct about 20% of the time.

The correct answer is (E).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 40% of responses were correct. 


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