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Sentence Structure

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 alternatives, select choice A.  

Read the sentence to yourself, listening for errors.  Evaluate the underlined portion using The Big 8 Grammar Rules.

Althea Gibson, the first African American tennis player to be recognized as a world champion, beginning to play amateur tennis in the 1940s.

This sentence may look really long, but you only have to worry about a part of it.  Look at the section enclosed by commas (the…champion).  This whole phrase is known as an appositive phrase and it simply gives information about the subject of the sentence.  Since the part of the sentence that is underlined is outside the two commas, you can ignore everything inside the commas.  Now the sentence is much shorter:

Althea Gibson beginning to play amateur tennis in the 1940s.

This sentence is a fragment; it sounds as if something else should follow it.  In order to make the sentence a complete sentence, you must change the verb tense.  Think of a way that you could improve the underlined portion without looking at the answer choices.  The correct words might just come to mind. Then look down at your answer choices.

(A) beginning to play
(B) began playing
(C) and she began playing
(D) she began to play
(E) she had begun playing

Do not read (A) because you already know it is wrong.  Only one answer choice begins with the word “began.”  Did you predict the word "began?"  Do not get caught up in worrying about whether it is more correct to write “playing” or “to play” because you can see that all of the options except one add the unnecessary pronoun “she.”  The correct answer must be both concise and clear.

The correct answer is (B).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 87% of the responses were correct.

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