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Subject Verb Agreement

Writing: 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 entire original sentence to yourself, listening for errors.  Then evaluate the underlined portion of the sentence using the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Often there will be more than one error, but you should focus on the first error that you find to quickly eliminate wrong answer choices.

All of the ingredients for Pablo’s secret chocolate chip cookie recipe, which included the special dark chocolate, was available in his mother’s pantry.

When you have a sentence with a lot of punctuation, it is a good idea to check subject and verb agreement.  What is the simple subject of this sentence?  The subject is not the recipe (which is part of a prepositional phrase), but “all of the ingredients.”  The sentence is really about all of the ingredients, which are for the recipe and include chocolate and are in the pantry.  Now that you have identified the subject, find the verb.  In this case, the verb is separated from the subject by both a prepositional phrase (for Pablo's ... recipe) and a relative clause (which ... chocolate).  The word “was” is your verb.  Put the two together.  You would never say “all of the ingredients was;” you would say “all of the ingredients were.”  Once you have identified one error, you can quickly eliminate any answer choices that do not fix the error that you found.  Look down at the answer choices.

(A) which included the special dark chocolate, was
(B) which included the special dark chocolate, they were
(C) including the special dark chocolate that was
(D) including the special dark chocolate, being
(E) including the special dark chocolate, were

(A)  Eliminate this choice without reading it because it matches the original sentence.

(B)  This answer choice fixes the error that you found, but it adds an unnecessary pronoun: they.  Eliminate this choice.

(C)  This choice associates the main verb of the sentence with the chocolate rather than all of the ingredients, creating a sentence fragment.  There is no main verb for your subject.  Eliminate this choice.

(D)  Your Knowsys book tells you to avoid the word “being” whenever possible because it suggests ongoing action that is more appropriate for a play-by-play than most written works.  Eliminate this choice.

(E) This choice fixes the error that you found.  Notice that it also eliminates the word “which” and changes “included” to “including.”  This change clarifies the meaning of the sentence.  Read the original sentence and notice that the relative pronoun “which” could refer to all of the ingredients or the recipe.  This ambiguity is eliminated in this answer choice because the present participle “including” clearly shows that chocolate was one of all of the ingredients that were located in the pantry. 

The correct answer is (E).


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

For more help with SAT writing, visit www.myknowsys.com!