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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!

Parallelism

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.  Then check each underlined portion of the sentence against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Identify and mark any error that you find, but be sure to quickly check the remaining answer choices before selecting your answer.

Used in place of buttons, hooks and eyes, or laces, the zipper consists of two rows of plastic or metal teeth and bound to the edges of two strips of fabric. No error

(A) The phrase “in place of” just means “instead of.” It is idiomatically correct, so there is no error here.

(B) Buttons, hooks and eyes (which is basically a "combo set"), and laces are all ways to attach two pieces of fabric.  Usually, only one of these different things will be used on a garment at a time; I have never seen a coat that closed with a couple buttons, then a hook, and then laces.  For this reason the “or” is correct.  The zipper replaces whichever one of these things is used on the garment in question.  There is no error here.

(C) Check to make sure that the word “consists” matches the subject.  You would not say “the zipper consist of,” so “consists” is the right form of the verb.  If you check your Knowsys idioms chart, you will also notice that “of” is the idiomatically correct preposition to follow “consists.”  There is no error here.

(D)  Something strange happens to the meaning of the sentence at this point.  You cannot say “the zipper consists of one thing and bound another thing.” That would not be parallel structure.  You could say “the zipper consists of one thing and binds another thing.”  However, you cannot use the phrase “binds to” (you would need “binds it to”), and the “to” is not a part of the sentence that you can change.  Look at the meaning of the sentence.  The zipper is not what is bound to the edges of the fabric; instead, it is the metal teeth.  You could eliminate the word “and” to fix the problem, or you could change the underlined portion to read “that are.”

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

The correct answer is (D).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 63% of the responses were correct.

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

Parallelism

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 the underlined portions of the sentence against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Mark any error that you find.

From its modest beginnings as a series of brief vignettes to its establishment as the longest-running prime-time animated series on television, The Simpsons transformed the way both the audiences and television programmers view the animated sitcom. No error

(A) The word “as” can be used to introduce how something once was or how something once was thought to be.  That is the way this sentence uses “as,” so there is no error here.

(B) Start by checking that the correct “its” is used.  “Its” is possessive and matches the previous “its” that is not underlined, so it must be correct.  Notice that the sentence uses the idiomatic phrase “from x to y.”  Whenever you see this format, you should check to make sure that the words that replace the variables x and y are parallel.  “Its modest beginnings as…” matches the format of “its establishment as…,” so there is no error here.

(C) Whenever a verb is underlined, check to make sure that it matches the subject and that it is in the correct tense.  The show transformed (past tense) the way people view (present tense) the show.  The change in tense is okay here because the change had to take place in the past in order for you to see an effect of the change in the present.  There is no error here.

(D) When you see the word “both,” you should immediately look for the idiomatic format “both x and y.”  An “and” follows this “both,” but the x and y are not parallel.  Only one has an article: “the.”  “The audiences” does not match “television programmers” in format.  Eliminate the extra article, "the."

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

The correct answer is (D).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 47% of the responses were correct.

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

Pronouns

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 using the Big 8 Grammar Rules.

About 35 percent of the world’s orange juice is produced by Florida, comparing it with nearly 50 percent produced by Brazil, the world’s largest orange producer.

There are two things that you should immediately notice about the underlined portion of the sentence.  The first is that one of the underlined words ends in “-ing,” but does not have any reason to do so.  The second is that you have an unassociated “it.”  The “it” is intended to refer to the percent of juice, but “it” seems to refer to Florida within the context of the sentence.  Your Knowsys book specifically tells you to watch for both of these things and avoid them.  Look down at your answer choices.

(A) comparing it with
(B) but
(C) whereas
(D) although
(E) compared with

(A) You already found two problems with the original sentence.  This choice always matches the original sentence, so eliminate it without reading it.

(B) The word “but” sets up a contrast; however, the original sentence sets up a comparison.  This answer changes the meaning of the original sentence.  In addition, if you read the whole sentence, you will notice that the portion after the comma is missing the verb “is.”  The verb “is” would be necessary for parallelism because you have “is produced” and then only “produced.”  When there is a comma before the word “but,” a complete sentence with subject and verb should follow.  Eliminate this choice for any of these reasons.

(C) This answer choice has the same parallelism and sentence structure problem as the previous choice.  Eliminate this choice.

(D) The word “although” sets up a contrast rather than a comparison.  It also has the same parallelism and sentence structure problem as the previous two choices.  Eliminate this choice.

(E) This choice eliminates both of the problems that you found in the original sentence and produces a sentence that is clear in meaning.  It does not have the parallelism or sentence structure problem that other choices had because those words, when preceded with a comma, are meant to link complete sentences, but “compared with” does not indicate that a complete sentence is coming.

The correct answer is (E).


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

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

Parallelism

Link of the Day

One of the most interesting aspects of living in today’s world is having an abundance of information at the tip of your fingertips.  A released SAT essay prompt asks, “Has today’s abundance of information only made it more difficult to understand the world around us?”  Before answering, read this current event about information storage.  You could use this article to answer yes – we have difficulty storing all the information and accessing it, or no – we are getting better and better at storing information.  There is no right answer.  However, using specific details from this article will make you sound a lot more intellectual than if you just answer with an “I think” statement.  Using facts to back up your opinion is crucial.  Identify other themes in this article that you could relate to other SAT prompts if you want to use this as one of your five prepared current events.

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 focus on the underlined portion and evaluate it using the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Use the first error that you find to quickly eliminate any choices that do not fix that error.

For both his shorter and longer works of fiction, Gabriel García Márquez achieves the rare feat of being accessible to the common reader while satisfying the most demanding of sophisticated critics.

As soon as you see the word “both,” you should think of your idiom chart.  The word “both” is used in the structure “both x and y.”  This sentence has an “and,” but are the x and y parallel?  Remember that when two things are linked they must have the same grammatical form.  In this case you have “his shorter” followed by “longer.”  If you have a possessive for one element, you must have a possessive for the second.  Focus on this error and look down at your answer choices.

(A) For both his shorter and longer
(B) For both his shorter, and in his longer,
(C) In both his shorter and his longer
(D) Both in his shorter and his longer
(E) Both his shorter and longer

(A) You already found a problem with the original sentence.  The first choice always matches the original sentence, so you can eliminate it without reading it.

(B) This choice adds a possessive to both elements, but it also adds the preposition “in,” which means that the structure is still not parallel.  The extra comma that has been added is unnecessary and introduces an error rather than making the sentence more clear.

(C) This sentence is parallel: “his shorter” and “his longer.”  Notice that the preposition “for” has been changed to the preposition “in.”  Does this clarify the meaning of the sentence?  Yes!  In the original sentence, it seems that Márquez is doing something “for” his books (is he concerned about their understanding?), when the focus is supposed to be on what he is doing for readers and critics “in” his books.  Keep this choice and quickly look at the remaining choices.

(D)  This sentence links “in his shorter” and “his longer.”  These two elements are not parallel because only one has the preposition “in.”

(E) This answer choice is again not parallel; however, notice that there is a bigger problem.  Read the entire sentence, and it should be clear to you that without any preposition in the underlined portion this sentence has a major structure error. 

The correct answer is (C).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 66% of the responses were correct.

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

Parallelism

Link of the Day

Pina Bausch is the subject of today’s SAT question.  If you enjoy dance or other forms of performance, you may want to consider using Pina Bausch as one of your historical figures for your SAT essay.  She would relate to any questions about creativity, originality, planning, highly accomplished people, and reasons for change.  Check out some information about this choreographer here.

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 can check the meaning and structure of the sentence as a whole.  Listen for errors as you read it.  Then, quickly check each of the underlined portions of the sentence against the Big 8 Grammar Rules. 

The German choreographer Pina Bausch created dances that incorporated everyday human gestures and alternating between highly stylized, precise movements and more flowing, expressive ones. No error.

(A) When a verb is underlined, always check to make sure that it agrees with its subject.  This one does.  You could use “Pina Bausch created dances” as a complete sentence.  There is no error here.

(B) When do you use the word “that” and when do you use the word “which?”  Use the word “that” when the following words are vital to the meaning of the sentence.  The word “which” must have a comma before it, but there is no comma in this portion of the sentence, so the word “that” is correct.  Also, the word “incorporated” is past tense, matching the previous word, “created.”  There is no error here.

(C) This word follows a conjunction, “and,” so check the sentence for parallelism.  Pina Bausch’s dances incorporated one thing and alternating between two others.  Does that make sense?  No.  The word “alternating” must be changed to “alternated” in order to be parallel with the word “incorporated.”  Mark this error and quickly check the remaining choices.

(D) When you see a modifier that makes a comparison, such as the word “more,” make sure that the correct number of things are being compared.  In this case there are two things involved, precise movements and more flowing movements, so you need the word more rather than the word most.  The modifier more is also placed as close as possible to the word it modifies, “flowing,” just as it should be.  There is no error here.

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

The correct answer is (C).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 69% of the responses were correct.

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

Parallelism

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.  After you have read the whole sentence, quickly check the underlined portions of the sentence against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  When you think you have found an error, mark it.  Quickly check to see whether there is an error in any of the remaining answer choices before moving to the next question.

As a Supreme Court justice, Thurgood Marshall was known for his quest to end racial discrimination, his opposition to the death penalty, and he supported free speech and civil liberties. No error

(A) Think about the function of the word “as” in this sentence.  It is part of an introductory phrase and lets you know the context of the sentence.   You are not concerned with Thurgood Marshall as a private citizen; you are only interested in Thurgood Marshall “as” a Supreme Court justice.  The “as” represents an essential part of the information that you are given in this sentence, and it does not need to be changed in any way.

(B)  You have probably heard from your English teachers that you should avoid the passive voice.  Although “was known for” is in passive voice, it is not an error.  If you changed “was known for” to an active verb, you would change the meaning of the sentence from emphasizing Thurgood Marshall’s reputation to emphasizing his actions.  The “was” is singular and matches “Thurgood Marshall,” while “for” is the idiomatically correct preposition to use after “known,” so there is no error in this portion of the sentence.

(C) When you reach a series of things that are listed, check the parts of the list that are not underlined so that you know how each part of the list must be presented to be parallel.  The first element in this list is “his quest,” and the second element is “his opposition.”  These two things are listed in the same format.  You also know that the correct preposition to follow “opposition” is the word “to.” Expressing that someone is opposed “to” something is idiomatically correct.  There is no error here.

(D) After the “and,” you know that you have the final element in the list.  However, this time you have a problem when you check parallelism.  The first item is “his quest,” the second item is “his opposition,” and the third item is “he supported.”  In order for this list to be parallel, the third item should be “his support of free speech and civil liberties.”

(E) This answer cannot be correct because you found an error involving parallelism.

The correct answer is (D).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 69% of the responses were correct.

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

Comparisons

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.  Evaluate the underlined portion using the Big 8 Grammar Rules.   When you find an error, focus on what you need to fix that error so that you can quickly eliminate answer choices that do not address the error.

Modern discus throwers use much the same technique of ancient Greece.

This sentence should sound strange to you the first time you read it.  “Modern discus throwers” are being compared to “ancient Greece.”  You cannot compare people to a location!  Cover up the end of the sentence and fill in the blank.  You might predict the words “as the people of ancient Greece once used.”  In order to make the comparison more clear, you used the word “as.”  A quick note on using the words “like” and “as” to compare: “as” is used when the following phrase includes a verb, while “like” is used when the following phrase only has nouns or pronouns.  Parallelism dictates that the last phrase of this particular comparison must include a verb because the first part of the comparison includes the verb “use.”  Look down at your options to see which ones begin with “as.”
(A) of ancient Greece
(B) of ancient Greeks
(C) as ancient Greeks did
(D) as they did in ancient Greece
(E) like ancient Greeks

There are two choices that begin with “as.”  (C) looks very similar to your prediction.  It includes the word “as” and the verb “did.”  (D) introduces a new problem: all pronouns need an antecedent and there is no antecedent for the word “they.”  You should be able to select your answer choice now.

Just for practice, here are the problems with the other choices:  (A) is the same as the original sentence.  (B) is a distraction if you read the sentence too quickly and did not realize that there is a comparison.  The key words “much the same” let you know that this is a comparison.  The sentence “Modern discus throwers use the technique of ancient Greeks” would be correct, but you cannot change part of the sentence that is not underlined.  (E)  lacks parallelism because there is no verb and you know it will be incorrect because it uses the word “like.”

The correct answer is (C).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 45% of the responses were correct.

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

Parallelism

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. 

Your best method of attacking identifying sentence error questions is to read the original sentence to yourself, listening for anything that sounds odd.  If you do not immediately spot an error, check each underlined portion of the sentence against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Always remember that there might not be an error in the sentence.

When people gave up the hunter-gatherer way of life and began to cultivate the soil and grow their food, they often became less mobile, built more substantial residences, and they developed more effective means of storage. No error

(A) underlines the word “when.”  If this word is at the beginning of a clause, it creates a dependent clause.  Your sentence structure rules inform you that a dependent clause must be supported by an independent clause.  If you take out the dependent clause (When…food), the rest of the sentence is able to stand alone.  There is no error.  (B) includes the word “became.”  The first thing that you should do when you see a verb is to check that it matches the subject as well as the tense of any previous verbs.  The phrase “people became” is fine, and the word “became” is consistent with the verb “gave up.” The word “less” is also the correct modifier for the word “mobile” because only two things are being compared (hunter-gathers and farmers).  (C) begins the last part of a list of three things.  Any list that you are given must be in parallel format, so check this rule first by examining the format of each listed thing.  The list says that the people “became..,” “built…” and “they…”  (verb, verb, pronoun).  This portion of the list is not in parallel format because it includes an unnecessary pronoun.  Delete the word “they,” and this portion of the list will also begin with a verb (developed).  Mark this error and quickly check (D).  (D) is correct because “more” is used to compare two things (hunter-gathers and farmers) rather than the word “most.” The word “means” is fine because it can be defined as a method (a means to an end), even though this word has many meanings.  (E) cannot be correct because you already identified an error.

The correct answer is (C).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 56% of the responses were correct.

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

Parallelism

Link of the Day

Elevators have been in use since the 3rd century B.C. However, it wasn't until the mid 1800's that elevators came into common use. Before then they had been used mainly in industrial settings for moving materials. In 1853 though, Elisha Otis invented a safety brake system that would stop an elevator from falling if the support cables broke. His braking system is still used today. You can read more about the history of elevators here.

6/10 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. 


The introduction of elevators in hotels meant that previously undesirable rooms on the top floors, away from the bustle and noise of the street, became sought after and more expensive than the lower floorsNo error

Always read the sentence first to get a general feel for how it sounds. If something seems strange or wrong, start with the part of the sentence that caught your attention. Check that segment against what you know of standard English grammar. If nothing stands out to you, check all four underlined sections. When you find one that breaks the rules, mark it.

Does anything sound odd? If not, don't worry, just check each answer choice individually. You may notice that the sentence seems fairly long and complicated. That's a good sign that the test makers are trying to hide something and trick you. Remember that often the underlined portion will look alright on it own if you don't take the whole sentence into account.


(A) doesn't really have anything wrong with it. It is worth noting that the subject of our sentence is "The introduction of elevators" though. You can now check for subject verb agreement (in this case there is no subject verb agreement error).

(B) is also error free. "Previously" is an adverb modifying "undesirable" (which is an adjective modifying "rooms"). Both words are being used properly.

(C) may seem strange at first. Note that "away from the bustle of the noise of the street" is in-between two commas because it is a non-restrictive element. Even though it may look a little out of the ordinary, there is no error here either.

(D) seems to be fine as well however, you should notice that it is part of a comparison (because it is preceded by the word "than"). If you look back in the sentence to see what "the lower floors" are being compared to, you will see that the sentence is comparing "undesirable rooms on the top floors . . . " to ". . . the lower floors." Since that comparison doesn't make sense, (D) is the error.

The correct answer choice is (D).

On sat.collegeboard.com 34% of the responses were correct.

For more help with grammar, visit www.myknowsys.com!


Subject Verb Agreement

Link of the Day

Listening to audiobooks can be a great way to multitask while you are doing something else (such as mowing the lawn or sitting in the bus on the way to school). If you are interested in listening to some audiobooks (which, by the way, is a great way to improve your vocabulary and find some "excellent examples" for your essay) you can download a huge variety of different audio books here for free. 

6/7 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.  

On Improving Sentences questions, always remember to read the sentence and make a prediction about what changes would correct any errors you find. This prediction will help you eliminate wrong answers and quickly zero in on the correct choice.

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


Since the first underlined word you see is a verb, you should start off by identifying the subject and the verb in this sentence. In this case, the subject is "listening." The verb is "sharpen." If you have trouble seeing that "listening" is the verb, try thinking about what is performing the action. What is it that is "sharpenen[s]?" It must be the "listening" that is performing the action so the subject of the sentence is "listening.At this point you should notice that the verb sounds wrong. You wouldn't say "listening sharpen", you would say "listening sharpens." The test makers are trying to trick you by separating the subject and the verb . You may look at it and think that "storybooks sharpen" sounds correct. The problem is that it is not the "storybooks" that "sharpen children's awareness . . . " It is "Listening" that "sharpens children's awareness . . . " Now that you have a prediction, it's time to take a look at the answer choices below.

(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

As you can see, answer choice (B) matches your prediction exactly. Note that "children" is possessive because it is the "children's awareness and appreciation" that is sharpened by listening. (A) is clearly wrong because it is simply what was originally in the underlined portion. (C) is incorrect because "listening are what sharpens . . ." is clearly not grammatically correct (once again, the problem is subject-verb agreement). (D) is incorrect because of the parallel structure in the non-underlined portion of the sentence. (D) would read "Listening . . . sharpens the awareness of children and appreciation for sounds of spoken language." (E) is incorrect because it changes the meaning of the sentence (even if answer choice (A) is incorrect, the implied meaning of the sentence is still correct and must be preserved in the correct answer choice).

The correct answer choice is (B).

On sat.collegeboard.com 57% of the responses were correct.

For more help with grammar, visit www.myknowsys.com!












Idioms

Link of the Day

This "Brief History of The Simpsons" includes an introductory list of the characters and a few ways the show has interacted with the world outside TV. Information like that found in this article can turn a mediocre example (e.g., "In one episode of The Simpsons...") into an excellent one (e.g. a discussion of Marge Simpson's correspondence with First Lady Barbara Bush in late 1990). 

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 sentence first to get a general feel for how it sounds. If something seems strange or wrong, start with the part of the sentence that caught your attention. Check that segment against what you know of standard English grammar. If nothing stands out to you, check all four underlined sections. When you find one that breaks the rules, mark it.

From its modest beginnings as a series of brief vignettes to its establishment as the longest-running prime-time animated series on television, The Simpsons transformed the way both the audiences and television programmers view the animated sitcom. No error
Does anything sound odd? If not, don't worry, just check each answer choice individually.



A) "as" is used in this sentence as a preposition to introduce a modifying phrase, "as a series of brief vignettes." These two prepositional phrases modify the word "beginnings." "As" is used correctly.

B) "its establishment as" contains three words: a pronoun, a noun, and the versatile word "as," which again functions as a preposition here. This maintains the parallelism required by the idiom "from X to Y," in which the words replacing X and those replacing Y must have matching syntax. The pronoun, "its," is a source of difficulty for many students because of its homophone friend, "it's." The easiest way to tell whether "its" or "it's" is correct is to try to replace the word with "it is." If "it is" makes sense, then the contraction is correct; otherwise, you need "its." In this case, "From its (it is?) modest beginnings to it is establishment" clearly does not make sense. "Its," no apostrophe, is needed in both cases. Rule out choice B.

C) "transformed" is the main verb of this sentence. Since it is past-tense, subject-verb agreement questions are a non issue. But is the past-tense usage correct? Obviously, the cultural effects of The Simpsons have already taken effect, so the "transformation" is in the past. C is used correctly, so eliminate it.

D) "both the" introduces an idiomatic expression, "both X and Y." As with "from X to Y," the words that fill in for X and Y must be parallel. The word "the" is the first word that fills in for X. Look immediately after "and" to find the Y words: "television programmers." The word "the" is missing! Without correct parallelism, this idiom is incorrect. The answer is D.


On sat.collegeboard.org, 47% of responses were correct.


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Idioms

Link of the Day

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is one of the most famous and most well-loved authors in the Spanish-speaking world. His autobiography broke records in 2001 as the best-selling book ever. He is known for writing in the genre of magic realism, seamlessly blending the fantastical and the everyday. One of my favorite short stories of his is A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, in which a decrepit old man with wings tumbles out of the sky after a storm and is put on display by the farmers who find him. Soon the farmers begin to charge for admittance and make a handsome profit off the strange old man. Villagers come to debate whether he is an angel or just a strange old sailor who smells like fish. Read and decide for yourself!

4/26 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 sounds better than any of the alternatives, select choice A.

First, read the sentence to see what sounds strange or wrong. Use that as your prediction and look among the answer choices for something that fixes the problem you found.

For both his shorter and longer works of fiction, Gabriel Garcia Marquez achieves the rare feat of being accessible to the common reader while satisfying the most demanding of sophisticated critics.

The biggest problem here is the word "both." Whenever you see the construction "both X and Y," remember that all the words between "both" and "and" need to be duplicated or paralleled after the word "and." The original sentence said "both his shorter and longer works," using "longer" as the parallel word for "shorter" but ignoring "his." Look for an answer choice that uses "both" correctly.


A) For both his shorter and longer

B) For both his shorter, and in his longer,

C) In both his shorter and his longer

D) Both in his shorter and his longer

E) Both his shorter and longer

Choice B adds the word "in" and some unnecessary punctuation. Eliminate it. Choice C places "in" before "both" and correctly replicates the words between "both" and "and." C might be the correct answer, but check the others first. Choice D duplicates the word "his" but ignores "in," so you can eliminate it as well. Choice E drops the word "his" after the "and," so it is not correct either. The answer is C, which has the added benefit of using the more appropriate pronoun "in" to discuss what Marquez accomplishes within his writing. Here is the corrected sentence:

In both his shorter and his longer works of fiction, Gabriel Garcia Marquez achieves the rare feat of being accessible to the common reader while satisfying the most demanding of sophisticated critics.


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


For more help with grammar, visit www.myknowsys.com!