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Verb Tense

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What is the largest structure made by living beings?  The answer is the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia.  Billions of tiny organisms have created a structure that can be seen from space.  Unfortunately, a study published yesterday shows that half of the Great Barrier Reef has disappeared since 1985.  Read this article and think about how you can relate this current event to common themes found in SAT writing prompts.

10/2 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. 

Read the original sentence to yourself, listening for errors.  Then quickly check the underlined portions against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Identify and mark any error that you find, and quickly check the remaining choices.

Although Mrs. Griffin has not previously been very enthusiastic about preparing her students for the annual piano competition, she put in extra time this year to ensure that her star pupil would win first prize. No error.

As you read this sentence carefully, did you notice something that a lot of the blanks have in common?  There are a lot of underlined verbs!  If you notice something like that, make sure you have identified the tense of the main verb before you wade through a number of verbs that might be incorrect.  In this sentence, notice that “she put” is not underlined.  This subject and verb must be correct, and the word “put” indicates that the sentence is in the past tense.

(A)  Think about the fact that your main verb is past tense, and then look to see whether this phrase makes sense in context.  “Has not… been” is present perfect, but immediately after the underlined portion, you are reminded that the sentence is in past tense by the word “previously.”  Rather than present perfect, you need the past perfect phrase “had not… been.”

(B)  The underlined “for” tests your knowledge of prepositional idioms.  After “preparing” it is idiomatically correct to use the preposition “for.”

(C) The underlined portion, “to ensure,” is an infinitive.  Infinitives do not need to match the tense of the main verb.  It is okay to write “She wanted to do that,” “She wants to do that,” or “She will want to do that.”  The verb after “to” remains the same in all three of these tenses.  The underlined portion is correct.

(D) The underlined phrase “would win” is correct.  It lets you know that the competition, as well as the hard work that Mrs. Griffin did, occurred in the past.

(E) This answer cannot be correct because you have already found an error.

The correct answer is (A).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 53% of the responses were correct.

For more help with SAT writing, visit 
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