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Subject-Verb Agreement

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 entire sentence to yourself, listening for errors.  Then go back and quickly check each underlined portion against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.

Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño, who spent much of his life in Mexico and Spain, first achieved international recognition with his novel The Savage Detectives, a story of writers in early 1970s Mexico City who embark on a road trip into the Sonora Desert in search of a vanished poet. No error.

(A) The subject of this sentence is a person, so you must use “who” rather than “that” to describe him.  There is no confusion about who the “who” refers to.  The verb “spent” is also in past tense, which is the correct tense for writing about a person’s past.  There is no error here.

(B) This underlined portion comes after a relative clause, the part of the sentence between two commas.  Ignore that clause and make sure that the sentence still flows naturally.  Now the sentence reads:  Roberto Bolano first achieved international recognition with his novel.  The word “first” modifies “achieved” and is placed as close to it as possible.  The word “achieved” is in past tense because this accomplishment must have occurred in the past in order for it to be written about in this sentence.  There is no error here.

(C) This underlined portion tests your knowledge of idioms.  When a storBottom of Formy is about something, it is correct to say “a story about” or “a story of.”  The two options are interchangeable.  There is no error here.

(D)  The words “in search of” convey the same meaning as the words “to search for” without repeating the “to” from “into.”  There is no error here.

(E)  Having examined each underlined portion of the sentence, you can be sure that this answer is the right choice.  Remember, you are looking for errors, not possible ways to change or revise the sentence.  This sentence has no error.

The correct answer is (E).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 52% of the responses were correct.

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