SAT Writing: Verb Tense and ACT English: Parallelism

SAT Question of the Day

The SAT question of the day is an Improving Sentences question that tests your knowledge of verb tense.

Start by reading the sentence to yourself and listening for errors.  This sentence tells you that biologists have made progress in mapping the human genome, but they have not discovered the roots of many diseases.   Once you fully understand the sentence, evaluate the underlined portion using the Big 8 Grammar Rules.

The underlined portion is the verb "remained."  Check to see which subject matches this verb.  The subject is "roots," and there is nothing wrong with saying "the roots remained."  However, this word should still sound odd to you.  Look for other verbs in the sentence.  The words "have made" are in the present perfect tense.  The present perfect tense is used to express past actions that have a current consequence.  Even if you do not identify this tense, you can see that these words suggest an ongoing action that stretches from the past to the present.  The past tense verb "remained" is illogical because you would not describe the consequence of an ongoing action in the past tense while describing the action in the present perfect tense.  The sentence tells you that the roots of many diseases are still unknown, so logically this verb must be in the present tense.  Look down at your answer choices. 

(A)  This answer choice matches the original sentence.  The verb tense is incorrect.  Eliminate this choice.

(B)  This answer choice may be tempting because "had remained" seems to match the structure of the words "have made" in the sentence.  Think about it this way:  If you say that the roots of the diseases "had remained" elusive in the past, you are suggesting that they are not elusive in the present.  In other words, we have found the roots of all common diseases.  That completely changes the meaning of the sentence.  Eliminate this choice.  

(C)  This answer choice matches your prediction perfectly: the word "remain" is the present tense version of the past tense "remained."  Quickly check the answer choices that are left. 

(D)  The words "are remaining" are unnecessarily wordy.  Your Knowsys handbook tells you to avoid words ending in "-ing" unless the structure is need for parallelism.  There are no other words ending in "-ing" in this sentence, so you can eliminate this choice. 

(E)  This answer choice changes the verb to the present tense "remains," but there is still a problem with plurality.  You would never say "the roots remains."  Eliminate this choice. 

The correct answer is (C). 

On, 59% of the responses were correct. 

ACT Question of the Day

The ACT question of the day is an English question that tests your knowledge of parallelism.  

Start by reading the entire sentence that contains part 3.  This sentence begins with the pronoun "she."  If you look at the previous sentence, you will see that the subject of the sentence is Bessie Coleman.  Ignore the underlined part 2.  Bessie Coleman is doing three different things in this sentence.  These three things are part of a list: (1) She lined up the nose on the runway's center mark, (2) she gave the engine full throttle, and (3) took off into history.  

This list should not sound right to you.  One of the rules for listing items or actions is that the entire list should be in parallel format.  Notice that you have a subject (the pronoun "she") for two things in your list, but not for the third.  You cannot add a "she" to the third part because your underlined part does not extend to this portion of the sentence.  Your underlined part 3 does, however, include one of the pronouns: "mark, she."  Remove that pronoun, and relabel your list: She (1) lined up the nose on the runway's center mark, (2) gave the engine full throttle, and (3) took off into history.  Now the list of actions is parallel; your sentence still contains a subject, but each part of the list is now a parallel verb phrase.  Look down at your answer choices.

(A)  You found a problem with the original sentence.  Eliminate this choice.

(B)  This choice matches your prediction because it eliminates the pronoun "she."  Quickly check the other choices. 

(C)   This answer choice replaces the second "she" of the sentence with "Coleman."  Although "she" does refer to Coleman, this answer choice makes it seem as if the first "she" refers to someone other than Coleman.  At the same time, it does not address the issue of parallelism because the sentence still only has two parts of a list with a subject, leaving the third part without one.  Eliminate this choice.

(D)   This answer choice changes the meaning of the sentence.  Now it sounds as if the "center mark" gave the engine full throttle, which doesn't make any sense.  Marks just exist, they do not complete actions.  Eliminate this choice.

The correct answer is (B). 

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