Blog

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!

Subject Verb Agreement

Link of the Day

If you have been following the news about the meteor that hit Russia, here are some more details about the event.  This article will help you make human connections through your current event by showing how people reacted to a sudden event.  Some searched for explanations, some volunteered for clean-up, and some strove to profit from the event.  Motivation is a reoccurring theme in SAT essay prompts, and these responses could be used to support a variety of opinions about human nature and activities.

Writing: Identifying Sentence Errors

The following sentence contains either a single error or no error at all. If the sentence contains an error, select the one underlined part that must be changed to make the sentence correct. If the sentence contains no error, select choice E. 

Read the sentence to yourself, listening for errors.  Quickly check each underlined portion against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Identify and mark any error that you find, but be sure to look at all the choices before selecting your answer.

Besides conserving forest resources, recycling produces fewer pollutants than does the conventional pulping and bleaching processes that are normally used to create paper. No error

(A)  Any time you see a verb with an “–ing” ending, check to make sure that the word is in the proper form.  Here you have an introductory phrase followed by a comma.  The “ing” format helps to indicate that this phrase is supplemental, that it modifies the coming independent clause.  There is no error here.

(B)  The word “than” indicates a comparison.  You already know that the sentence will contain a comparison because of the word “fewer.”  Now check the verb “does.”  Normally a verb comes after the subject, so you might be tempted to link “recycling” and “does.”  However, this portion of the comparison is actually focused on “the conventional pulping and bleaching processes” and what they do to create paper.  Notice that “processes” is plural, so you need the word “do” instead of the word “does.”  This is inverted subject-verb error and is often tested on the SAT. Mark this error and quickly check the other choices.

(C)  The words “that” and “which” both provide additional information, but the word “which” must be preceded by a comma.  There is no comma before the underlined portion, so “that” is correct.  There is no error here.

(D)  Processes are used to do something.  No other form of “create” will work in this underlined portion.  There is no error here.

(E)  This cannot be the answer because you already identified an error.

The correct answer is (B).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 73% of the responses were correct.

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

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!

Subject Verb Agreement

Link of the Day

You probably already heard about the meteor that landed in Russia.  Take a moment to review the relevant facts here.  Then think about how you can use an event that everyone is already talking about as an excellent current event example on the SAT essay.  Think about broad themes that relate to this topic, such as technology, preparation and planning, fear, organized responses, sudden change, and many more.

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.  Focus on the first error that you find to quickly eliminate wrong answer choices.

Since William the Conqueror in 1066, every British sovereign has been crowned in Westminster Abbey except Edward V and Edward VIII, neither of them were crowned.

The underlined portion of this sentence contains the word “neither,” a word that should prompt you to check subject and verb agreement.  There are two people involved in this sentence, but is the subject plural?  This sentence is saying that neither one king nor the other king was crowned in the aforementioned place.  Notice the verb “were”!  You cannot have the plural verb “were” in this sentence; you must use “was.”  Look down at your answer choices.

(A) neither of them were
(B) neither were
(C) neither of whom was
(D) with neither being
(E) with neither who had been

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

(B)  This answer choice does not fix the subject and verb agreement error that you found.  Eliminate it.

(C)  This one fixes the first error that you found.  Before you assume that it is correct, notice that it also changes the pronoun “them” to “whom.”  Check to make sure the “whom” is okay.  You are talking about a person using a singular verb, so the plural pronoun “them” was already suspect.  Your Knowsys book spends a lot of time on choosing between “who” and “whom,” but one of the rules that you learn is that you must always use “whom” after a preposition.  The word “of” is a preposition, so “whom” is correct.  Quickly check the other answer choices.

(D)  You should always avoid choices using the word “being” because it implies an ongoing action.  The two crownings that did not happen were in the past.  Eliminate this answer choice.

(E) This choice is unnecessarily complex and wordy.  Like the choice before it, it incorrectly uses the word “with,” which generally means “accompanied by” or “characterized by,” neither of which makes sense in this context.


On sat.collegeboard.org, 53% of the responses were correct.

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

Subject Verb Agreement

Writing: Identifying Sentence Errors

The following sentence contains either a single error or no error at all. If the sentence contains an error, select the one underlined part that must be changed to make the sentence correct. If the sentence contains no error, select choice E. 

Read the entire original sentence to yourself, listening for errors.  Quickly check the underlined portions of the sentence against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Identify and mark any error you find, but look at all of the choices before selecting your answer.

An abundant supply of milk from dairy farms nearby make the Bern region of Switzerland a leading producer of condensed milk and milk chocolate. No error

(A)  The word “an” is the correct article to use when the following word begins with a vowel.  There is no error here.

(B) The word “from” is the idiomatically correct preposition to explain the origin of something.  There is no error here.

(C) This is the first verb in the sentence.  Whenever a verb is underlined, check to make sure that it matches the subject.  Remember, the subject of the sentence cannot be part of a prepositional phrase such as “of milk” or “from dairy farms nearby.”  That leaves only one noun: “supply.”  Would you say “an abundant supply make?”  No!  “An abundant supply makes” is correct.  Mark this error and quickly check the remaining answer choices.

(D)  Check the article first.  “A” is correct because the sentence is talking about one specific place as a producer.  The word “leading” is a modifier that tells you that this place doesn’t just produce things, it produces them well and is among the best places to do so.  The modifier “leading” is as close as possible to the word it modifies, “producer,” so there is no error here.

(E) This choice cannot be correct because you already identified an error.

The correct answer is (C).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 57% of the responses were correct.

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

Subject Verb Agreement

Writing: Identifying Sentence Errors

The following sentence contains either a single error or no error at all. If the sentence contains an error, select the one underlined part that must be changed to make the sentence correct. If the sentence contains no error, select choice E. 

Always read the entire sentence to yourself so that you understand its structure and meaning.  Listen for errors as you read the sentence, and then evaluate each underlined portion using the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Identify any error that you find and mark it, but be sure to quickly check all of your choices.

Aside from Shakespeare, perhaps no writer in English have engaged the public’s imagination more thoroughly than Charles Dickens.  No error

(A)  This is an idiomatic phrase that means the same thing as “apart from” or “except for.”  The word “from” is the correct preposition to follow “aside.”  There is no error here.

(B)  The word “perhaps” adds a degree of uncertainty to the sentence.  Of course you could eliminate it, but that would change the meaning of the sentence.  There is no error here.

(C)  When you have a verb underlined, always check that it matches the subject.  Here the subject is separated from the verb by the prepositional phrase “in English.”  Ignore that phrase.  Would you say “no writer have engaged?”  No!  You must use the singular verb “has” instead of the plural verb “have” because “writer” is singular.  Mark this error and move on.

(D)  The word “more” is used when only two things or people are being compared.  Here a nonexistent, hypothetical writer (singular) is compared to Charles Dickens, so “more” is correct.  The word “thoroughly” is a modifier.  It ends in “-ly,” as adverbs should, and is placed as close as possible to the word it modifies.  The word “than” is used for comparisons; the word “then” is related to time and used for sequences.  There is no error here.

(E)  This cannot be the correct answer because you have already identified an error.

The correct answer is (C).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 81% of the responses were correct.

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

Subject Verb Agreement

Link of the Day

Are you confused as to why you have to read things by old dead guys in school?  Here is an article that lets you know how reading quality literature can directly benefit you, even if you do not want to be a writer.  This research will work as a current event example for the SAT if your topic involves the mind or feelings, but it should also motivate you to prepare five literary examples before you take the SAT!

Writing: Identifying Sentence Errors

The following sentence contains either a single error or no error at all. If the sentence contains an error, select the one underlined part that must be changed to make the sentence correct. If the sentence contains no error, select choice E. 

Read the entire sentence to yourself and then ask, “Are there any problems?”  Quickly check each of the underlined portions against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  When you think you have found an error, mark it and move on.  Make sure that you identify a grammatical error and not just another way to say the same thing.

Although the number of books written in African languages are growing, many African writers find a larger audience for works written in Portuguese or English. No error

(A) Does it make sense to talk about the number of books “written” in a particular language?  Yes!  Also, the word “in” is the idiomatically correct preposition to introduce what language a book is written “in.”  There is no error here.

(B) When you see a verb, check to see whether it agrees with the subject.  The subject is not “languages.”  The subject is “the number of books.”  The word “books” is plural, which is meant to distract you, from realizing that this particular construction is meant to be singular.  You would never say “the number are growing;” you would say “the number is growing.”  Remember, if you have a construction that talks about “a number” of things, you will always need a plural verb.  If you are talking about “the number of things,” you will always need a singular verb.  The article is important!  Mark this error and quickly look over the other answer choices.

(C) Check to make sure verb agrees with its subject: "writers find."  It does.  This verb is also in present tense, which makes sense in context. There is no error here.

(D)  Idiomatically, the preposition “for” works in this context.  The word “works” can also be used as a noun when you are talking about the works that someone has started or finished.  There is no error here.

(E) This cannot be the correct answer because you already found and marked an error.

The correct answer is (B).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 43% of the responses were correct.

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

Subject Verb Agreement

Writing: Identifying Sentence Errors

The following sentence contains either a single error or no error at all. If the sentence contains an error, select the one underlined part that must be changed to make the sentence correct. If the sentence contains no error, select choice E. 

Read the entire sentence to yourself, listening for errors.  Then quickly check each of the underlined portions against the Big 8 Grammar Rules. 

The Sundance Film Festival, which is located in Park City, Utah, and was founded by actor and director Robert Redford, have introduced audiences to some of the most acclaimed and popular independent films of the last thirty years. No error.

(A)  This underlined portion tests whether you know the difference between “which” and “that.”  The word “which” must come after a comma because the following information is not essential to the sentence.  The word “that” needs no comma because the following information is vital to the sentence.  This sentence requires the word “which.”  Also, notice that the festival is singular so the verb “is” is correct.  There is no error here.

(B)   Whenever you see a tense change, make sure that it is necessary.  This sentence changes from “is located” to “was founded.”  It does not make sense to say “is founded” because a festival can only be founded once; it is not an ongoing process but an event that happened in the past.  The change is correct.  There is no error here.

(C)  This underlined portion says “have introduced.”  Whenever you have a verb separated from its subject, be especially careful to make sure that the subject and verb match.  You already noted that the film festival is singular, so would it make sense to write, “the festival have introduced?”  No.  You need the word “has.”  Mark this error and quickly look at your other choices.

(D)  The word “most” modifies the word “acclaimed” and is placed as close as possible to the word it modifies.  Notice that the word “most” is appropriate rather than the word “more” because this sentence is comparing all of the films of the last thirty years.  One thing is “more acclaimed” than another if you are comparing only two things.  There is no error here.

(E)  This cannot be the answer because you already found an error.

The correct answer is (C).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 67% of the responses were correct.

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

Subject Verb Agreement

Identifying Sentence Errors

The following sentence contains either a single error or no error at all. If the sentence contains an error, select the one underlined part that must be changed to make the sentence correct. If the sentence contains no error, select choice E. 

Read the original sentence to yourself, listening for errors.  Then check the individual blanks against the Big 8 Grammar Rules. 

The origin of amusement parks lie in ancient and medieval religious festivals and trade fairs, where merchants, entertainers, and food sellers gathered in order to take advantage of the large crowds. No error

(A)  Underlines the subject of the sentence so you must check to see whether the subject agrees with the verb.  In this case the subject and verb are separated by a prepositional phrase, “of amusement parks.”  (If you thought that “amusement parks” was the subject, remember that the object of a preposition can never be the subject of a sentence.)  Ignore the prepositional phrase and the sentence reads “The origin lie.”  This should read “The origin lies.” Mark this error and quickly check the other blanks.

(B) The word “where” is used to describe locations, so this blank has no error.

(C) The word “gathered” is in the past tense, which is correct because the festivals in the sentence are “ancient and medieval” rather than current.

(D) “In order to” is an idiomatically correct phrase to describe the purpose of an activity.

(E) This option cannot be correct because you have already marked an error.


The correct answer is (A).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 37% of the responses were correct.

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

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.  

As you read the sentence, listen for errors.  Evaluate the underlined portion using the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Once you look down at the answer choices, focus on the first error to eliminate wrong answer choices quickly.

In Costa Rica, coffee, from the highlands, and bananas, produced mainly in the Caribbean lowlands, as the most important crops, they account for nearly half the total value of all exports.

This sentence may be hard to follow because it has a lot of commas, but identify the simple subject.  This sentence is about coffee and bananas.  Once you have the simple subject, look for the verb that matches that subject.  You will not find one.  There are verbs in this sentence, but they are in the wrong format to match the subject.  The verb “account” matches the pronoun “they” instead of matching “coffee and bananas.”  In order to fix this, you must add a plural verb as close to your subject as possible.  The sentence describes what coffee and bananas are (important crops), so change the word “as” to “are.”

You have improved the sentence now, but always remember that there might be more than one error in improving sentence questions.   Read the whole sentence with your change and you will see that you still have a problem with sentence structure.  You have two complete sentences with separate subjects and verbs that are only separated by a comma: a comma splice.  An easy way to fix this would be to make the second independent clause dependant.  All you would have to do is eliminate the unnecessary pronoun “they” and change the word “account” to “accounting.”

(A) as the most important crops, they account
(B) as the most important crops, which account
(C) are the most important crops, accounting
(D) are the most important of their crops by accounting
(E) have been the most important crops, which accounts

Even if you did not immediately spot the changes that should be made to this sentence, you can be strategic in how you eliminate answer choices.  You do not need to read choice (A) because you know it contains the original phrasing.  Furthermore, both choice (A) and (B) begin with “as.”  Instead of getting distracted or confused by the rest of their words that follow “as,” eliminate these choices right away.  You know that they will not fix the first problem that you found in the original sentence: the missing verb.  Look at (C). Remember that the Knowsys method tells you to lean towards answers that are concise.  This is the shortest answer, so check quickly to see whether it makes sense when you place it in the blank.  It does!  Quickly look at (D).  Coffee and bananas did not become important “by” accounting for a lot of the exports, so the logic in this choice is skewed.  (E) adds a lot of words and the word “which” does not make sense in context.

The correct answer is (C).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 71% of the responses were correct.

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

Subject Verb Agreement

Identifying Sentence Errors

The following sentence contains either a single error or no error at all. If the sentence contains an error, select the one underlined part that must be changed to make the sentence correct. If the sentence contains no error, select choice E. 

Read the sentence to yourself, listening for errors.  The best way to identify errors is to check each underlined portion against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Identify and mark the error that you find in the sentence, and then quickly check the other choices.

Audio recordings, and the equipment (A) used to make and play them, (B) comes in (C) many forms, (D) including records, CDs, and analog and digital tape recorders. (E) No error

(A) contains more than one word, so you need to think about the role each word plays in the sentence.  “Used” is correct because it follows “equipment,” which can be used.  It is also idiomatically correct to use a “to” and a verb after “used.”  (B) underlines  a verb separated from the subject.  Look back to find the simple subject of the sentence and you will find that it is plural.   You cannot say “audio recordings comes” because the verb does not match the subject in number.  Instead you must say “audio recordings come.”  Mark this error, but quickly check the rest of the sentence. (C) includes the word “many,” so you should immediately think of the difference between “many” and “much.”  “Much” is used with things that you cannot count while “many” is used for thing that you can count.  You can count the different forms available (6 records or 23 CDs), so the word “many” is correct. (D) uses a word that ends in –ing, so you should check to make sure that the –ing is correct. No other form of the word “including” makes sense in this sentence.  (E) is wrong because you already identified one error.

The correct answer is (B).

On sat.collegeboard.org, 62% of the responses were correct.

For more help, visit www.myknowsys.com!

Subject Verb Agreement

Link of the Day

Flashcards are one of the most important tools you have when you are studying for the SAT (or almost any test for that matter). You will need to commit math formulas, idioms, and vocabulary words to memory before test day. There are lots of different websites were you can create, review, print and even share digital flashcards.  One of the best is flashcardexchange.com.

6/16 Identifying Sentence Errors

The following sentence contains either a single error or no error at all. If that sentence contains an error, select the one underlined part that must be changed to make the sentence correct. If the sentence contains no error, select choice E.

For Identifying Sentence Errors questions, always read the sentence and focus on anything that sounds strange or wrong. Determine wether that part of the sentence is actually incorrect, then identify the part of the sentence that, if changed, would correct the error. Double-check that the other sections of the sentence are correct as they are, and finally, mark the correct answer on your answer sheet.

In order to prepare for the speech he was given to all of the parents and teachers at the school, George practiced speaking in front of a group of his friendsNo error

In this sentence, B should stand out right away. As the sentence stands right now, the verb "given" is in the wrong form. If you only read the sentence up to B it almost looks like it could be correct. You have "In order to prepare for the speech he was given . . ." and that doesn't seem like a mistake. However, if you continue reading, the sentence becomes "In order to prepare for the speech he was given to the parents and teachers . . . " Now it should be obvious there is something wrong. Clearly, the speech "George" is preparing for is a speech he "was giving . . . " or "would be giving. . . "  Once you have identified the error, you are finished with the problem. Remember that you should always try to predict how you would fix the sentence, it will help you to be confident that the underlined portion that you choose is really an error.

The correct answer choice is (B).

Want more help with grammar? Visit myknowsys.com!