SAT WRITING WORKBOOK

PART V

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THE HEART OF THE TEST: MULTIPLE-CHOICE QUESTIONS

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PROBLEMS IN SENTENCE STRUCTURE

Sentence Fragments

Broadly speaking, a sentence is a group of words that begins with a capital letter and ends with an end mark of punctuation. It also conveys a more or less complete thought and is grammatically whole, which means that it has a subject and a verb.

Partial sentences, sentence fragments, often look remarkably like complete sentences but are not because of one or more grammatical defects.

The bicycle that Martha often borrowed.

This non-sentence seems to have all the characteristics of a complete sentence. It starts with a capital letter and ends with a period. It conveys a complete thought (Martha often borrowed the bicycle is a complete thought), and it appears to contain a subject and a verb. What makes it a fragment, though, is that the subject bicycle and verb borrowed don’t fit together. As an inanimate object, a bicycle can’t borrow or, for that matter, do much of anything else on its own. It was Martha who did the borrowing, but the noun Martha cannot be the subject of the sentence because it is part of the subordinate clause, that Martha borrowed. Therefore, bicycle needs a verb of its own.

The bicycle that Martha often borrowed was stolen.

With the addition of was stolen, the sentence is now complete.

Sentence fragments usually occur when writers fail to distinguish between dependent and independent clauses, when they confuse phrases and clauses, or when they attempt to use verbals as verbs. To determine whether a sentence is complete, uncover its bare bones. That is, deconstruct the sentence by eliminating dependent clauses, phrases, and verbals. If what remains does not have a subject and a verb, it’s probably a fragment.

To identify the subject of long sentences may take some doing, but the “bare bones” strategy usually works. Using this approach, you’ll strip away everything in a sentence but its subject and verb, a task that may be easier said than done. It’s not very formidable, though, if you remember that the grammatical subject can never be in (1) a prepositional phrase, (2) a dependent clause, or (3) a phrase that interrupts the flow of the sentence.

Frankly, identifying the bare bones of a sentence is often a more complex process than that suggested in the following examples. Sometimes the bare bones are buried deep within long and complicated sentences. But by carefully peeling away sentence parts that cannot contain the subject or verb, you’ll eventually find them.

To find the “bare bones” of a sentence:

Step 1: Look for prepositional phrases, such as up the wall, around the corner, to the beach, over the counter, and cross them out. For example, if you were to eliminate all the prepositional phrases in these sentences, only the subject and the verb—the “bare bones”—will remain.

Complete sentence:

In the middle of the night, Pricilla slept.

Bare bones:

Pricilla slept

Complete sentence:

Several of the sentences are in the book.

Bare bones:

Several are

Complete sentence:

One of Frida’s friends is in need of help.

Bare bones:

One is

Step 2: Locate all the dependent clauses—those parts of sentences containing a noun and a verb but don’t qualify as complete sentences because they begin with words and phrases like although, as, as though, because, before, even though, if, in spite of, regardless of, since, so that, unless, whenever, whether, and while. Another group of dependent clauses are statements (not questions) that start with when, where, which, who, and what.

After deleting the dependent clauses in the following sentences, only the main clause will remain. That’s where to find the bare bones of each sentence.

Complete sentence:

Because she missed the bus, Marnie wept.

Bare bones:

Marnie wept

Complete sentence:

While Willie waited for the bus, he studied vocabulary.

Bare bones:

he studied

Complete sentence:

Andy helps out whenever he has the time.

Bare bones:

Andy helps out

Step 3: Look for and delete interrupters—those parts of sentences that impede the smooth flow of the main idea. Interrupters may be just one word, such as however and nevertheless, or dozens. They’re often set off by commas.

Complete sentence:

Ellen, regardless of the look on her face, rejoiced.

Bare bones:

Ellen rejoiced

Complete sentence:

The boat, a sleek white catamaran, sank.

Bare bones:

boat sank

Complete sentence:

Marty, who got ticketed for doing 60 in a 30 MPH zone, paid the fine.

Bare bones:

Marty paid

Sample Questions Containing Sentence Fragments

1.   During the night, the stars that came out like diamonds on black velvet.

(A)   stars that came

(B)   stars coming

(C)   stars, which are coming

(D)   stars came

(E)   stars, which came

Start your analysis of this sentence by deleting all the prepositional phrases, namely During the night, like diamonds and on black velvet. Now delete any dependent clauses; there is only one: that came out. The only words left are the stars, clearly not a complete sentence.

Choice A, therefore, is wrong because it is a sentence fragment.

Choice B is wrong because the –ing form of a verb may not be the main verb of a sentence unless it is accompanied by a helping verb, as in is singing, has been raining, will be arriving.

Choices C and E are also wrong because which, like that, introduces a dependent clause.

By the process of elimination, then, choice D is the best answer. Stars is the subject of the sentence, and came is the verb.

2.   A belief among superstitious people that birthmarks are caused by influences on the mother before the child is born.

(A)   A belief among superstitious people that

(B)   Superstitious people believe that

(C)   Superstitious people believing that

(D)   Among superstitious people the belief that

(E)   Among beliefs of superstitious people are that

Analyze the sentence with the same technique used in question 1—by deleting all prepositional phrases and dependent clauses. Then search the remaining words for a subject and a verb.

Choice A has a grammatical subject, belief, but the construction is a fragment because it lacks a main verb. Although are caused and is born are verbs, neither can be the main verb because they are in the dependent clause, that birthmarks….

Choice B contains both a subject, people, and a verb, believe. It is a complete sentence and is the best answer.

Choice C contains a subject, people, but no verb. The –ing form of a verb may not be the main verb of a sentence unless it is accompanied by a helping verb, as in is singing, has been raining, will be arriving.

Choice D has neither a subject nor a verb because the construction is made up only of phrases and a dependent clause.

Choice E has a verb, are, but no subject because all the nouns are either in prepositional phrases or in the dependent clause.

Run-on Sentences

A run-on sentence consists of two independent clauses separated by neither a conjunction (and, but, or, nor, yet, or so) nor an appropriate mark of punctuation, as in:

Birthstones are supposed to bring good luck mine has never brought me any.

A conjunction or a mark of punctuation is needed between luck and mine.

Birthstones are supposed to bring good luck, but mine has never brought me any.

Adding but solves the problem. A comma has also been added because sentences made up of two or more independent clauses joined by a conjunction usually require a comma. Another possibility is writing two separate sentences:

Birthstones are supposed to bring good luck. Mine has never brought me any.

Separating the sentences with a semicolon is also an acceptable alternative. In effect, the semicolon functions like a period. Note, however, that the initial letter of the second sentence is not capitalized:

Birthstones are supposed to bring good luck; mine has never brought me any.

Sample Questions Containing a Run-on Sentence

The campers hated the taste of powdered milk they drank water instead.

(A)   milk they drank

(B)   milk; preferring to drink

(C)   milk drinking

(D)   milk, so they drank

(E)   milk so they drank

Choice A is a run-on. A period or a semicolon is needed between milk and they.

Choice B is not a good alternative because a semicolon functions like a period, and the second clause is now a sentence fragment.

Choice C needs a comma and is awkwardly worded.

Choices D has a conjunction so, preceded by a comma. It is the best answer.

Choice E lacks the comma required before the conjunction so.

Semicolon Errors

Misuse of a semicolon is a common error in sentence-improvement questions. Remember that a semicolon is a substitute for a period, not for a comma. Correctly used, a semicolon must lie between two independent clauses.

Incorrect:   On the test Lucy got a 90; which raised her final average.

The clause which raised her final average is not an independent clause.

Correct:   On the test Lucy got a 90; this grade raised her final average.

Sample Questions Containing a Semicolon Error

Mending a fracture takes from four weeks to a year; depending on the size of the bone, the location, and the age of the person.

(A)   year; depending

(B)   year; all depending

(C)   year depending

(D)   year, it depends

(E)   year, depending

Choices A and B consist of an independent clause and a sentence fragment—in this case a participial phrase—improperly separated by a semicolon.

Choice C needs a comma to be correct.

Choice D is a comma splice (see discussion that follows).

Choice E properly uses a comma to separate the two parts. The first part is an independent clause, the second a participial phrase.

Comma Splices

A form of run-on sentence is the comma splice, a construction in which a comma is used between two independent clauses instead of a period or a semicolon.

Sample Questions Containing a Comma Splice

Toni Morrison is one of America’s outstanding authors, she is known for her critical essays, her novels, and her frequent appearances on television.

(A)   authors, she is known

(B)   authors; she is known

(C)   authors famous

(D)   authors since known

(E)   authors being that she is known

Choice A is a comma splice. It uses a comma to join two independent clauses.

Choice B is correct because it uses a semicolon to separate two independent clauses. It is the best answer.

Choice C needs a comma to be correct.

Choices D and E are awkwardly expressed and ungrammatical.

Practice in Writing Correct Sentences

Directions: Some of the following are sentence fragments, others are run-ons, and still others contain comma splices. Use the spaces provided to write complete and correct sentences.

1.   Although Elizabeth is stressed out about the SAT.

 

2.   She asked the teacher for an extension on the assignment, the teacher agreed.

 

3.   My grandmother is eighty-six years old therefore she walks very slowly.

 

4.   Many other examples that I could choose to show who I am, many of them not vivid images of memorable moments, but everyday aspects of my life.

 

5.   I woke up, having slept for the four shortest hours of my life, I force open my eyes and I crawl to the shower then my brain begins to function.

 

6.   For me to believe that the crucial time has arrived when I will leave the protective world of high school and enter the world of college.

 

7.   The large brown garage door creaks open slowly, out into the morning sunshine a rider on a road bike emerges.

 

8.   What are the rules which we all must follow what might happen if we break them.

 

9.   A biologist working in the field of genetic engineering and involved in the controversy surrounding cloning.

 

10.   Using the space below, telling one story about yourself to provide the admissions committee, either directly or indirectly, with an insight into the kind of person you are.

 

Mismatched Sentence Parts

Sentences work best when their components fit together harmoniously and grammatically. Errors occur when two clauses are incompatible, or a sentence begins in the active voice and ends in the passive. A breakdown in logic or clear thinking may also account for an error, as when two ideas expressed in a compound sentence are unrelated. The material that follows explains, first, the specific kinds of errors to watch for and, second, how to make corrections.

FAULTY COORDINATION

In everyday conversation people often use lengthy compound sentences made up of several short sentences joined by and, so, or other conjunctions:

In school on Tuesday the lights went out, and we were in the dark for more than an hour, and the electricity was off, so we couldn’t use the computers, and we heard that a car had hit a utility pole, and the driver was killed, and they let us go home early.

This sentence tells a story without breaking a single rule of usage or grammar. Yet, it is stylistically flawed, not because it’s monotonous but because each idea appears in an independent clause, suggesting that all the ideas are equally important. Clauses of equal rank in a sentence are called coordinate clauses and are usually joined by the conjunctions and, but, or, nor, yet, or so. Faulty coordination occurs (1) when it is illogical or inappropriate to assign equal importance to two or more coordinate clauses, or (2) when the connecting word fails to create a reasonable relationship between the clauses.

Tom was away at summer camp, and his parents decided to split up after twenty years of marriage.

The two coordinate clauses state seemingly unrelated ideas, obviously of unequal importance. In the following sentence, as well as in most other complex sentences, the contents of the independent clause are assumed to contain more important information than the contents of other clauses. In other words, making clauses dependent reduces the significance of the information they contain, thereby changing the effect of the sentence:

While Tom was away at summer camp, his parents decided to split up after twenty years of marriage.

What follows is a sentence in which the conjunction and fails to convey a meaningful relationship between the ideas in the two clauses.

Ms. Sheridan has become the new assistant principal, and she has never been a classroom teacher.

Making the second clause dependent by using although creates a more sensible connection between the ideas:

Ms. Sheridan has become the new assistant principal, although she has never been a classroom teacher.

For the sake of unity and coherence, it is usually better not to shift from one grammatical subject to another between clauses. Maintaining the subject helps readers glide easily from one clause to the next without realigning their focus.

Faulty: The plan will be a great success, or great failure will be the result.

Plan is the subject of the first clause; failure is the subject of the second.

Unified: The plan will be a great success, or it will be a great failure.

The pronoun it keeps the subject in focus from one clause to the next.

Sample Questions Containing Faulty Coordination

1.   Elizabeth hopes to attend Ohio Wesleyan, and she has not yet sent in her application.

(A)   and she has not yet sent in her application

(B)   and she hasn’t sent her application in yet

(C)   but her application hasn’t as yet been sent in by her

(D)   yet the sending of the application has not yet been done

(E)   but she hasn’t yet sent in her application

Choice A is incorrect because the conjunction and fails to express a reasonable relationship between the two coordinate clauses.

Choice B has the same problem as choice A.

Choice C expresses an apt relationship by using the conjunction but, but then it switches subjects and changes from active to passive construction.

Choice D switches subjects and is awkwardly worded.

Choice E conveys the relationship between the clauses and is consistent. It is the best answer.

2.   My weekend job at The GAP will help me as a marketing major, and I am learning about retail selling.

(A)   My weekend job at The GAP will help me as a marketing major, and I am learning about retail selling

(B)   Learning about retail selling, my weekend job at The GAP will help me as a marketing major

(C)   My weekend job at The GAP, where I am learning about retail selling, will help me as a marketing major

(D)   Helping me as a marketing major is learning about retail selling in my weekend job at The GAP

(E)   My weekend job at The GAP will help me as a marketing major; I am learning about retail selling

Choice A is a sentence that gives equal weight to its two clauses even though the content of the first clause is probably more important than the content of the second.

Choice B properly changes the second clause into a phrase, but the change results in a dangling participle.

Choice C properly subordinates the second clause and embeds it in the independent clause. It is the best answer.

Choice D turns two clauses into one, but the subject helping and the predicate nominative learning make an awkwardly worded combination.

Choice E, despite the revision, fails to correct the original problem.

FAULTY SUBORDINATION

By means of subordination, writers are able to convey not only the interrelationship of ideas but also the relative importance of one idea to another. Here, for instance, are two statements:

Joe rushed to school. He ate a tuna sandwich.

The relationship between the two ideas is not altogether transparent, but it can be clarified by subordinating one of the ideas.

While he rushed to school, Joe ate a tuna sandwich.

or

While he ate a tuna sandwich, Joe rushed to school.

In each sentence, the more important idea appears in the main clause instead of in the subordinate clause. The subordinate clause in both sentences begins with while, one of many common subordinating conjunctions. Others include after, although, as if, as though, because, before, if, in order to, since, so that, that, though, unless, until, when, whenever, where, whereas, wherever, and whether. The presence of one of these conjunctions in a sentence-improvement question should alert you to the possibility of faulty subordination. The sentences that follow illustrate typical problems:

While she is a mature young woman, she is afraid of the dark.

The subordinating conjunction while usually refers to time, as in while he was away in Boston. Here, however, while obscures both the meaning of the sentence and the relationship between the two statements.

Although she is a mature young woman, she is afraid of the dark.

A new subordinating conjunction clarifies the meaning.

I read in the paper where the fleet is coming back to Norfolk.

The meaning may be clear, but in this context where is not standard usage.

I read in the paper that the fleet is coming back to Norfolk.

Another problem concerns the placement of emphasis. The conjunction and in the following sentence gives equal emphasis to unequal ideas.

I arrived home from school and I received my acceptance letter from Ohio State.

Stating the more significant event in the main clause places the emphasis where it belongs:

When I arrived home from school, I received my acceptance letter from Ohio State.

Sample Questions Containing Faulty Subordination

1.   Pedro is a new student in the school, and he comes from Portugal.

(A)   Pedro is a new student in the school, and he comes from Portugal

(B)   Pedro, being from Portugal, is a new student in the school

(C)   Pedro, a new student in the school, comes from Portugal

(D)   Pedro, a new student in the school and a native of Portugal

(E)   Pedro is a new student from Portugal in the school

Choice A is grammatically correct, but it would be more effective if one clause were subordinated to the other.

Choice B subordinates a clause, but the use of being oddly suggests that Pedro’s presence in the school is related to his nationality.

Choice C properly subordinates one idea and embeds it in the main clause. It is the best answer.

Choice D is a sentence fragment.

Choice E alters the meaning of the original sentence.

2.   When he suddenly started to grin like an imbecile, I was walking with him in the park.

(A)   When he suddenly started to grin like an imbecile, I was walking with him in the park

(B)   While I walked with him in the park, he suddenly started to grin like an imbecile

(C)   Suddenly starting to grin like an imbecile, he was walking in the park with me

(D)   He grinned suddenly like an imbecile and walked in the park with me

(E)   Walking in the park with me and suddenly grinning like an imbecile

Choice A is incorrect because it places the more important idea in the subordinate clause.

Choice B places the main idea in the main clause. It is the best answer.

Choice C is wrong because it puts the major idea into a phrase.

Choice D is wrong because it changes the meaning of the original sentence.

Choice E is a sentence fragment.

FAULTY PARALLELISM

Faulty parallelism occurs most often when an item in a series is not grammatically parallel to the others, when a sentence is constructed of mixed, or unrelated parts, and when the subject or tense of a verb changes from one part of a sentence to another.

For example, a series of sentence elements—clauses, phrases, verbs, and even nouns joined by and, but, or, nor, or for—should be worded in parallel form. That is to say, their structure should be repeated using the same parts of speech in the same order. Parallel structure creates a sense of rhythm and order. Without parallelism, you get jumbles such as this:

Today a television newscaster must be attractive and a lot of charm.

The word attractive is an adjective modifying newscastercharm is a noun. Revise the sentence by making both words nouns or both words adjectives that modify nouns, as in

Today a television newscaster must have good looks and charm.

or

Today a television newscaster must be attractive and charming.

Another example:

Eighteen-year-olds are too young to sign contracts, but they may have been driving for years.

The first clause states an idea in the present tense. The second clause, however, takes an unexpected and perplexing turn by changing the verb to the past perfect. With the verbs in parallel form the sentence is:

Eighteen-year-olds may drive, but they are too young to sign contracts.

Or written more concisely:

Eighteen-year-olds are permitted to drive but not to sign contracts.

Sample Questions Containing Faulty Parallelism

1.   Students lacking financial resources can still go to college because they can borrow money from banks, hold part-time jobs, and scholarships are available.

(A)   hold part-time jobs, and scholarships are available

(B)   jobs are available, and scholarships are available

(C)   hold part-time jobs, and win scholarships

(D)   holding part-time jobs and winning scholarships

(E)   holding part-time jobs and win scholarships

Choice A contains scholarships are available, a construction that is not parallel to borrow money from banks and hold part-time jobs.

Choice B contains constructions that are not parallel to the structure of borrow money from banks.

Choice C contains phrases parallel in form to borrow money from banks. It is the best answer.

Choices D and E contains phrases that are not parallel to the structure of borrow money from banks.

2.   When buying a piece of clothing, smart consumers consider how much the item costs, how good it looks, and its durability.

(A)   its durability

(B)   if it is durable

(C)   the durability of it

(D)   the ability of the item to last

(E)   how durable it is

The sentence contains three elements that must be in parallel form. Two of the three begin with how, followed by an adverb or adjective and then by a verb. Only choice E follows this pattern; therefore, choice E is the best answer.

Mixed Construction

A variation of faulty parallelism is mixed construction, which occurs when the beginning of a sentence doesn’t fit grammatically or logically with the end. Mixed sentence parts suggest that the writer, in finishing a sentence, ignored how it had begun:

Maggie’s goal is to be a nurse and is hoping to go to nursing school after graduation.

The grammatical subject goal appears to have been forgotten in the second half of the sentence because the verb is hoping lacks an appropriate subject.

Maggie aspires to be a nurse, and she is hoping to go to nursing school after graduation.

With a compound sentence containing two subjects and two verbs, the problem is solved. But subordinating one of the clauses is an even better solution to the problem:

Maggie, who aspires to be a nurse, hopes to go to nursing school after graduation.

Another example:

When Lana came to school with a black eye was a signal that she is an abused child.

The verb was needs a subject.

Lana’s coming to school with a black eye was a signal that she is an abused child.

The problem has been solved by using coming as the grammatical subject.

Sample Questions Containing Mixed Construction

1.   The next morning, after Christie’s car was found abandoned, there was a nationwide search for the missing author had started.

(A) there was a nationwide search for the missing author had started

(B) there was the beginning of a nationwide search for the missing author

(C) a nationwide search for the missing author will have began

(D) there begun a nationwide search for the missing author

(E) a nationwide search for the missing author began

Choice A is wrong because it contains a subject, search, with two verbs of different tenses, was and had started.

Choice B deletes one of the extra verbs in choice A but changes the grammatical subject to beginning, a weak alternative.

Choice C contains an error in verb form—will have began instead of will have begun.

Choice D contains an error in verb form—begun instead of began.

Choice E, a clause that grammatically and logically fits the previous part of the sentence, is the best answer.

2.   The story is about how loyalty to a friend can create a moral crisis, but where it challenges conventional values.

(A)   crisis, but where it challenges conventional values

(B)   crisis, whereas conventional values are challenged

(C)   crisis in which conventional values are challenged

(D)   crisis, and the reason is that their challenge of conventional values

(E)   crisis because in it there are challenged conventional values

Choice A uses the conjunction but, which has no logical meaning in the context of the entire sentence.

Choice B uses whereas, a word that lacks a logical relationship with the rest of the sentence.

Choice C completes the sentence grammatically and logically. It is the best answer.

Choice D is a sentence fragment.

Choice E is an awkwardly worded and almost meaningless construction.

SHIFTS IN GRAMMATICAL SUBJECT

Still another type of faulty parallelism occurs when the grammatical subject of a sentence is changed from one clause to another. For example:

To fix a flat tire, I jack up the car, and then the damaged tire is removed.

The subject of the first clause is I. In the second clause the subject is tire, a shift to the passive voice that weakens the effectiveness of the whole sentence.

To fix a flat tire, I jack up the car and then remove the damaged tire.

When the grammatical subject is maintained, parallelism is restored, and the sentence is active and concise.

Sample Questions Containing a Shift in Grammatical Subject

The board recognizes the school’s troubles and now a giant fund-raising drive was being undertaken by them.

(A)   now a giant fund-raising drive was being undertaken by them

(B)   it had undertaken a giant fund-raising drive now

(C)   has now undertaken a giant fund-raising drive

(D)   now they have taken a giant fund-raising drive

(E)   now, having undertaken a giant fund-raising drive

Choice A switches the grammatical subject from board in the first clause to drive in the second, resulting in a long-winded, passive sentence.

Choice B is wrong because sentence is cast in the present tense but shifts improperly to the past perfect.

Choice C maintains the subject and is concisely worded. It is the best answer.

Choice D contains the plural pronoun they, which fails to agree with its singular antecedent, board.

Choice E is a sentence fragment.

SHIFTS IN VERB TENSE

Sentences lose their effectiveness and sometimes their meaning when an inappropriate shift in the tense of verbs occurs from one part to another, as in

Before it went out of business, the video store puts its flat-screen TVs on sale.

The sentence begins in the past tense, then shifts to the present. When cast in the past tense from start to finish, the sentence reads:

Before it went out of business, the video store put its flat-screen TVs on sale.

The English language offers writers and speakers six basic tenses that convey information about the time when an event or action took place:

Present:

eat pasta every day.

Past:

She ate pasta every day.

Future:

Phil will eat pasta every day.

Present Perfect:

Monica has eaten pasta every day.

Past Perfect:

Enid had eaten pasta every day.

Future Perfect:

They all will have eaten pasta every day.

All verbs also have a progressive form, created by adding –ing, so that you can say things like:

   They are swimming. (Present Progressive)

   Rose was swimming. (Past Progressive)

   The dog will be swimming. (Future Progressive)

   I have been swimming. (Present Perfect)

   Charles had been swimming. (Past Perfect)

   They will have been swimming. (Future Perfect)

Each of these tenses permits you to indicate time sequence very precisely. Someone not attuned to the different meaning that each tense conveys may say something like this:

When her little brother was born, Sarah was toilet trained for six months.

Perhaps the writer’s intent is clear enough, but because precision is important, the sentence should read:

When her little brother was born, Sarah had been toilet trained for six months.

The revised version, using the past perfect verb had been, indicates that the action (Sarah’s toilet training) had taken place prior to her brother’s birth. The original sentence actually says that her brother’s birth and Sarah’s toilet training took place at the same time—a physical impossibility, since potty training usually takes weeks or even months.

Notice also the difference in meaning between these two sentences:

There was a condo where the park was.
There was a condo where the park had been.

The meaning of the first sentence may be clear, but it says that the condo and the park were in the same place at the same time. The revision more accurately conveys the idea that the condo replaced the park.

These are subtle differences, perhaps explaining why the SAT frequently includes questions containing errors in verb tense. Such items help to distinguish between students who use English precisely and those who don’t.

Sample Questions Containing a Shift in Verb Tense

1.   Jay had been working out in the weight room for months before the wrestling coach invites him to try out for the team.

(A)   invites him to try out

(B)   has invited him to try out

(C)   invited him to try out

(D)   had invited him to try out

(E)   inviting him for trying out

Choice A, with a verb in the present tense, is inconsistent with the past perfect tense of the verb had been working.

Choice B uses the present perfect tense instead of the past perfect tense.

Choice C correctly conveys the sequence of events. The use of the past tense (invited ) indicates that Jay’s workouts occurred not only prior to the coach’s invitation but that they were in progress at the time the coach invited Jay to try out.

Choice D uses only the past perfect tense. Therefore, it fails to convey the precise sequence of events, as expressed by choice C.

Choice E uses faulty idiom.

2.   The report said that years ago city planners had envisioned building a facility that turns salt water into fresh water, and financial woes make that impossible.

(A)   water, and financial woes make that impossible

(B)   water, and that is becoming impossible due to financial woes

(C)   water, but that it will have been made impossible by financial woes

(D)   water, but financial woes made that impossible

(E)   water, however, financial woes had made it impossible

Choices A and B contain coordinate clauses with an illogical sequence of verb tenses. Present financial woes are unrelated to plans made years in the past.

Choice C contains the pronoun it that fails to refer to specific antecedent.

Choice D uses an appropriate and logical sequence of verb tenses. It is the best answer.

Choice E contains a comma splice between water and however.

SHIFTS FROM ACTIVE TO PASSIVE CONSTRUCTION

Use active rather than passive construction except when: (1) the person or thing performing the action is unknown or insignificant, or (2) the sentence is meant to emphasize that the subject has been acted upon. For instance, in the following passive sentence, the action (scoring touchdowns) is given greater emphasis than the performer of the action (the team):

Three touchdowns were scored by the team.

Stated actively, the sentence emphasizes who performed the action:

The team scored three touchdowns.

On the SAT, sentences that shift from active to passive, and sometimes vice-versa, often need revision, as in:

After Dan worked all day in the hot sun, a shower was taken to cool off.

A shift from active to passive construction has occurred between the subordinate clause and the main clause.

After Dan worked all day in the hot sun, he took a shower to cool off.

Now both clauses are active; in addition, the grammatical subject has been maintained between the clauses.

Throughout the sentence-improvement sections of the SAT, stay alert for passive sentences. Consider them faulty unless you see a clear necessity for constructing them in the passive voice.

Sample Questions Containing a Shift
from Active to Passive Construction

1.   For the Thanksgiving weekend, Julie went to Richmond; however, for Christmas a trip to Syracuse was made by her.

(A)   Richmond; however, for Christmas a trip to Syracuse was made by her

(B)   Richmond, however, for Christmas a trip to Syracuse was made by her

(C)   Richmond but for Christmas a trip to Syracuse was made by her

(D)   Richmond, but however, she took a trip to Syracuse for Christmas

(E)   Richmond, but for Christmas she went to Syracuse

Choice A switches from active to passive construction for no logical reason.

Choice B is like A, but it also contains a comma splice between Richmond and however.

Choice C switches from active to passive construction for no logical reason.

Choice D maintains active construction but includes the redundancy but however.

Choice E is consistently active and is free of other errors. It is the best answer.

2.   Because the factory owners and their employees worked together to improve efficiency, a big profit was earned.

(A)   a big profit was earned

(B)   the result were earning a big profit

(C)   the factory owners had earned big profits

(D)   earning big profits were the result

(E)   resulting in a big profit

Choice A is a passive construction that appropriately emphasizes the result of an action rather than who performed it. It is the best answer.

Choice B is active but the plural verb were fails to agree with the singular subject result.

Choice C is active but contains an improper shift in verb tense.

Choice D is passive and contains a singular subject with a plural verb.

Choice E is a sentence fragment.

Misplaced Modifiers

For clarity, modifiers should be placed as close as possible to the word or words they are meant to modify. When they are far apart, sentences like this may result:

The fellow in the blue SUV with the long hair must be on his way to the concert.

The prepositional phrase with the long hair is meant to modify fellow, but it modifies SUV instead. With the misplaced phrase in its proper place, the sentence reads:

The fellow with the long hair in the blue SUV must be on his way to the concert.

For still further clarity, be sure that the word being modified is included in the sentence. Otherwise, you may have a dangling modifier on your hands, as in:

Rushing to open the door, the rug slipped and sent Kyle sprawling.

According to this sentence, the rug slipped as it rushed to open the door—not a likely scenario. To fix this so-called dangling modifier, the object being modified (in this case, the person rushing to the door) must be included in the main clause.

Rushing to open the door, Kyle slipped on the rug and went sprawling.

The grammatical subject, Kyle, is now properly modified by the participle, Rushing to open the door.

TIP images

Dangling Modifiers

The term dangling modifier refers to a clause or phrase that appears to modify a word in a sentence but doesn’t. For example:

Dangling:   Climbing the ladder, Pete’s head knocked over the paint can.

At first, this sentence may not strike you as bizarre. But look again, and you’ll notice that it says Pete’s head climbed a ladder.

Revised:   Climbing the ladder, Pete knocked over the paint can with his head.

Adding the noun Pete eliminates the dangling modifier.

Sample Questions Containing Misplaced
and Dangling Modifiers

1.   The plaque was presented to the actor that was engraved with gold letters

(A)   The plaque was presented to the actor that was engraved with gold letters

(B)   The plaque that was presented to the actor engraved with gold letters

(C)   The plaque was presented to the actor who was engraved with gold letters

(D)   The plaque, engraved with gold letters, and presented to the actor

(E)   The plaque presented to the actor was engraved with gold letters

Choice A is wrong because the clause that was engraved with gold letters modifies actor instead of plaque.

Choice B contains the same misplaced modifier as choice A and is also a sentence fragment.

Choice C is a variation of choice A.

Choice D is a sentence fragment.

Choice E has its modifiers in the right place and is a complete sentence. It is the best answer.

2.   Driving to Litchfield, the freezing rain made the road slippery and hazardous.

(A)   Driving to Litchfield

(B)   While we drove to Litchfield

(C)   En route to Litchfield

(D)   To drive to Litchfield

(E)   We drove to Litchfield and

Choice A contains a dangling modifier. The phrase Driving to Litchfield modifies rain instead of the person who did the driving.

Choice B contains we, the subject who performed the action. It is the best answer.

Choice C contains the same dangling modifier as choice A.

Choice D makes no sense grammatically or logically.

Choice E is a sentence consisting of coordinate clauses that would be more effectively expressed if one clause were subordinated to the other.