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Sentence Structure

Writing: 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 whole sentence to yourself, listening for errors.  Then quickly check each underlined portion of the sentence against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.

Every day, millions of tiny stony bits falling quietly into the atmosphere, burning briefly asmeteors, and leaving behind a vaporized residue that filters slowly to Earth. No error

(A)   When you read the sentence, you should notice that it is a fragment.  Fragments sound as if they should continue because they lack either a subject or a verb.  Start by identifying the main subject in the sentence.  The main subject is “millions of tiny stony bits.”  What is the main verb?  Right now it is in the wrong form: “falling.”   You cannot put the subject and verb together to create a whole sentence: millions of tiny stony bits falling.  Remember that the Knowsys handbook reminds you to check any word ending in –ing to be sure that the –ing is necessary.  Instead of “falling” you need the words “are falling” or simply “fall.”  Mark this error and quickly look at the rest of the underlined portions.

(B)  Anytime the word “as” is underlined, think about whether the word “like” belongs there instead.  These stone bits are not “like” meteors, they are meteors!  The word “as” can be used to show that something is acting in a particular way.  For example, I can act as a guide and my friend can be hired as a tutor.  There is no error here.

(C)  This answer choice requires you to think about idioms.  The phrase “leave behind” is a common English idiom that can mean anything from forgetting something, to passing something on a journey.  In this sentence “leaving behind” actually means leaving a trace of something, which is exactly what those burning rocks do: they leave a trace of vaporized residue.  This idiom is used correctly, so there is no error here.

(D)  This underlined portion contains an adverb; remember those things ending in –ly?  This particular adverb modifies how a vaporized residue filters.  It is also placed as close as possible to the word that it modifying.  There is no error here.

(E)  This choice cannot be the answer because you have already identified an error.

The correct answer is (A).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 74% of the responses were correct.

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