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SAT Writing: Identifying Sentence Errors

Identifying Sentence Errors

Read the sentence and select the portion of the sentence that contains an error.  If there is no error, select E.

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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. 

A. "Neither" must always be paired with "nor."  This choice is not an error, so eliminate it.  

B. Anytime you see a verb underlined, check to make sure that it agrees with its subject.  Nouns used with either/or or neither/not are called "compound pairs."  In compound pairs, the subject always agrees with the second subject in the pair.  The verb "know" agrees with "I," so this is not an error.  Eliminate this choice.

C. When you see "which" underlined, you should ask yourself whether it should be "that" instead.  The word "which" must always be preceded by a comma, and since the comma in this sentence cannot be eliminated, "which" must be correct. Eliminate this choice.

D. This choice tests parallelism.  Both verbs ("making" and "giving") must match with each other.  They do match, so this choice is not an error.  Eliminate this choice. 

E.  There is no error in the sentence, so E is correct. 

The correct answer is E.

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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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SAT Writing: Improving Sentences

Improving Sentences

Select the choice that results in the best sentence – the sentence that follows the requirements of standard written English and communicates effectively.

I laid out the presents that I had purchased so far and mentally tallied the amount of gifts I still needed to buy.

A. I laid out the presents that I had purchased so far and mentally tallied the amount
B. I lay out the presents that I had purchased so far, while mentally tallying the number
C. Laying out the presents that I had purchased so far, I mentally tallied the amount
D. Laying out the presents that I had purchased so far and mentally tallying the number
E.  I laid out the presents that I had purchased so far and mentally tallied the number

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 grammar concepts.

The concept tested here is idioms.  Two frequently tested idioms appear in this question, “lay/lie,” and “amount/number.”  Figure out which combination you are looking for before you look down at the choices.  

Lay/lie
“Lay” means “to place” and is used with objects.  “Lie” means “to rest” and is used for people.  The person in the sentence is laying out presents, so the writer must choose “lay.”  Unfortunately, it is a little more complicated than that because the sentence is in the past tense.  The past tense of “lay” is “laid,” and the past tense of “lie” is “lay.”  Thus, you are looking for “laid,” NOT “lay.”  Confused?  For more clarification on lay/lie click here.  

Amount/number
“Amount” is used for non-countable terms (money, happiness, food, etc.), and “number” is used for countable items (dollars, hours, meals, etc.).  Presents can be counted, so the writer should use “number.”

Now that you know you what words you are looking for, get rid of choices that use “lay” (past tense of lie) or “amount.”  That eliminates choices A, B, and C.  Look at your remaining choices.  

D.  Choice D is a sentence fragment.  Who is completing these actions?  Eliminate choice D.  

E.  Choice E uses the correct idioms (“I laid out the presents,” “[I] mentally tallied the number of gifts”).  Choice E is the correct answer.  


The correct answer is choice E.

This is a hard-level problem.

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SAT Writing: Improving Sentences

Improving Sentences

Select the choice that results in the best sentence – the sentence that follows the requirements of standard written English and communicates effectively.

Since that restaurant requires for customers to pay in cash, we will have to stop by the ATM beforehand.

A. Since that restaurant requires for customers to pay in cash
B. Since that restaurant requires that customers should pay in cash
C. That restaurant has a requirement that customers pay in cash
D. When you go to that restaurant it is required for customers to pay in cash and therefore
E. Since that restaurant requires customers to pay in cash

Knowsys Method

Read the entire sentence carefully, listening for errors.  Then focus on the underlined part.  Evaluate it by checking it against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  If you find an error, use that error to quickly eliminate any answer choices that do not fix the problem you found.

If you noticed that the underlined portion sounds “off,” then you have a good ear for idioms.  A restaurant does not “require for customers to pay in cash”, a restaurant “requires that customers pay in cash,” or it “requires customers to pay in cash.”  We need to find a choice that uses one of these idiomatically correct phrases.  

A.  Choice A is the same as the original sentence, which contains an error.  Eliminate this choice.

B.  This choice would work, except that it includes an unneeded word, “should.”  Eliminate this choice.

C.  There are two problems with this choice.  First, the wording of the phrase “has a requirement that customers pay in cash” is awkward and unnecessarily wordy.  Second, this choice creates a comma splice because it turns the sentence into two independent clauses joined by a comma alone.  Eliminate this choice.

D.  This choice is wordy, which you should always avoid.  Additionally, this choice results in an incorrectly punctuated sentence.  There needs to one comma after “restaurant” and another after “cash.”  Eliminate this choice.

E.  This choice uses an idiomatically correct expression, “requires customers to pay in cash,” and it does not introduce any new errors.  This must be the correct answer.  

The correct answer is (E).

This is an easy level question.

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SAT Writing: Improving Sentences

Improving Sentences

Select the choice that results in the best sentence – the sentence that follows the requirements of standard written English and communicates effectively.

The phone which had been dropped into the pool, never worked properly.

A.      phone which had been dropped into the pool,

B.      phone, which had been dropped into the pool,

C.      phone, that had been dropped into the pool,

D.      phone that had been dropped into the pool,

E.       phone had been dropped into the pool,

 


The Knowsys Method

Read the entire sentence carefully, listening for errors.  Then focus on the underlined part.  Evaluate it by checking it against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  If you find an error, use that error to quickly eliminate any answer choices that do not fix the problem you found.

The grammar rule that is tested here is idioms!  When do you use the word “that” and when do you use the word “which"?  The word “that” is for phrases that are vital to a sentence.  The word “which" is for phrases that can be omitted.  This author chose to use the word "which," but it is not used correctly.  Remember your Knowsys tip:  Always put a comma before the word “which."  Make that correction and then look down at your answer choices.

A.       The first choice is always the same as the original!  Selecting it is the same as selecting “no change." This choice cannot be correct because you found an error.  Eliminate it.

B.      This answer choice matches your prediction exactly!  Quickly check the other choices.

C.      This answer choice adds a comma, but it is in front of the word “that."  You do not need a comma in front of the word “that;"  you need a comma in front of the word “which."  Eliminate this choice.

D.      This answer choice changes “which" to “that," but it still fails to use the correct punctuation.  Remember that commas often help set off nonessential information.  In the correct choice, the comma signals that a nonessential phrase is coming, this information is confirmed with the word “which," and then another comma signals the end of the nonessential information.  If the phrase starts with the word “that," then no commas are needed in this sentence because all of the information is essential.  This choice has a comma error.  Eliminate it.

E.       This answer choice eliminates the word “which" altogether, which creates a structural problem in the sentence.  Now the information that the phone had been dropped seems to be the main point of the sentence.  The words “never worked properly" seem to modify or describe the pool rather than the phone.  This choice is awkward and incorrect for multiple reasons.  Eliminate it.

The correct answer is (B).

 

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