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SAT Grammar: Improving Sentences

Improving Sentences

No sooner had I lain my head down on my pillow and closed my eyes but my phone rang shrilly, shocking me out of my restful state.

A.  lain my head down on my pillow and closed my eyes but my phone rang shrilly, shocking
B.  lain my head down on my pillow and closed my eyes than my phone rang shrilly then shocked
C.  laid my head down on my pillow and closed my eyes but my phone rang shrilly, shocking
D.  laid my head down on my pillow and closed my eyes than my phone rang shrilly and was shocking
E.  laid my head down on my pillow and closed my eyes than my phone rang shrilly, shocking

Knowsys Method

Read the sentence carefully, listening for errors. If you do not find the error immediately, then check the underlined portion against the Big 8. 

This question tests your understanding of idioms, words or expressions that are always said the same way.  Idioms sometimes sound peculiar, but they are grammatically correct.  Two idioms appear in this question.  

1. "no sooner had x than y"

as in: "No sooner had I walked out the door " or "No sooner had John sat down for dinner than the doorbell rang." 

2. lay versus lie

Lay takes an object and means "to place." The past tenses of lay are: laid/had laid.

Lie does not take an object and means "to rest." The past tenses of lie are: lay/had lain.

So, the correct version of this sentence should say "no sooner had I LAID my head down . . . THAN my phone rang . . . " You might be wondering why the correct word is "laid" (past perfect tense of lay) when the person in the sentence is trying to rest.  "My head" is an object, so the word must be "laid" (past perfect tense of lay), not "lain" (past perfect tense of lie).   

Choices A and B do not work because they begin with "lain."  Eliminate these choices.

Choice C says "no sooner had I laid my head down . . . BUT my phone rang."  Eliminate this choice.

Choice D gets both idioms correct but changes "shocking" to "and was shocking," which is inconsistent with the verb tense established in the sentence.  Eliminate this choice.

Choice E gets both idioms correct and does not make any unnecessary changes. 

The correct answer is E.

This is a medium level problem.

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