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Subject Verb Agreement

Link of the Day

Does history repeat itself?  Think about what you learned in your history classes about the Cold War in general and the Korean War in particular.  Then read this article about North Korea’s threats against the United States.  Why are these events happening now?  What is the motivation behind the actions of different countries?  How could you use the facts from this article to back up an opinion on a variety of SAT questions involving the themes of motivation, power, the trajectory of history, authority, knowledge, and even creativity?

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 original sentence to yourself, listening for errors.  Then focus on the underlined portion and evaluate it using the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Use the first error that you find to quickly eliminate wrong answer choices.

Listening to good storybooks sharpen children’s awareness and appreciation for the sounds of spoken language.

Check the first underlined word first.  “Sharpen” is a verb, so find the subject of the sentence and make sure the subject and verb agree.  You might be tempted to say that “storybooks sharpen” is correct, but storybooks cannot be the subject of this sentence.  “To good storybooks” is a prepositional phrase, and the subject of the sentence cannot be the object of a prepositional phrase.  Instead, the subject is actually “listening.”  You would not say “listening sharpen awareness;” you would say “listening sharpens awareness.”  You need a singular verb to agree with a singular subject.  Look down at your answer choices.

(A) sharpen children’s awareness
(B) sharpens children’s awareness of
(C) are what sharpens the awareness of children
(D) sharpens the awareness of children
(E) is to sharpen children’s awareness

(A) The first answer choice for this type of question always matches the original sentence, so you can eliminate it right away.

(B) This answer choice fixes the error that you found.  It also adds a preposition, so check to make sure that the word “of” is necessary in this sentence.  Parallelism dictates that you should have the same form of words on either side of an “and.”  In the original sentence, you have “awareness and appreciation for” something.  You would not say “I have an awareness for something;” it is correct to say “I have an awareness of something.”  “Awareness of and appreciation for” a certain thing is both parallel and idiomatically correct.  Keep this answer choice and quickly check the remaining choices.

(C) You already know that the word “listening” is singular, but the verb “are” is plural.  Eliminate this choice because the subject and verb do not match.

(D) This choice is more confused than the previous ones, and there is no parallelism.  Instead of having “awareness of and appreciation for,” which is balanced and correct, you now have “awareness of children and appreciation.”  The appreciation is no longer the children’s, and the meaning of the sentence has subtly shifted.  Eliminate this choice.

(E) This answer choice also changes the meaning of the sentence.  In the original sentence, you learn that listening benefits children in specific ways.  However, in this answer choice listening “is to,” (exists for the purpose of) benefiting children in specific ways, an odd statement to make.  The phrase “is to” is unnecessary.  Eliminate this choice.

The correct answer is (B).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 51% of the responses were correct.

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