ACT English : Conventional and Idiomatic Usage Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store varsity tutors amazon store varsity tutors ibooks store

Example Questions

← Previous 1 3 4 5 6 7

Example Question #1 : Conventional And Idiomatic Usage Errors

In today's society, (1) they have a popular TV series that (2) follows the life of 4-5 (3) young teenage girls who are trying to raise their child while being a teenager at the same time (4). The television series shows hardships, but they (5) focus more on the relationships of these girls rather than how much their baby’s diaper is changed or how often the baby spits up all over them. They always have a happy ending, giving teen girls these days hope that it (6) will do the same for them. The show focuses of (7) a different group of teen moms each season, but all being held back by having a child at a young age. Some are alone, some have significant others, and some even decided to give (8) their baby up for adoption, but not one of their lives are perfect nor easy (9). Some teenagers enjoy watching the show just to watch the babies grow, but others watch it because they think it’s popular, they think it will make them popular as well (10). The show is based upon these girl’s (11) lives and it doesn’t always seem to have to do with their children it has to do with them being teenagers (12).

Choose from the following four options the answer that best corrects the underlined mistake preceding the question number.  If there is no mistake or the original text is the best option, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

focuses about

focuses on 

focus on

Correct answer:

focuses on 

Explanation:

The correct preposition for the verb "to focus" is generally "on."

Example Question #4 : Other Usage Errors

Many people watch football however (1) some do not. With (2) those who do not watch this sport (3) football is an incomprehensible pastime. Non football (4) fans cannot understand what is so exciting about watching two packs of grown men running away or toward each other, while (5) clinging for dear life to a piece of pigskin. It also makes from little to no sense (6) why those whom (7) play the sport gets (8) paid the exorbitant amounts that they do, even though he is (9) in effect doing the same thing that high school and college students do on a daily bases (10). But as the French would say, "Chacun à son goût" (11) though its (12) highly doubtful that most football fans (or even people who are not fans) would know what that means.

Choose from the following four options the answer that best corrects the underlined mistake preceding the question number. If there is no mistake or the original text is the best option, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

For

At

To

Correct answer:

To

Explanation:

The preposition "to" would be the most appropriate choice, because a reworking of the sentence gives us "Football is an incomprehensible pastime to those who do not watch this sport."

Example Question #5 : Other Usage Errors

Adapted from The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James (1902)

In the matter of religions, it is particularly easy distinguishing the too orders of question. Every religious phenomenon has its history and its derivation from natural antecedents. What is nowadays called the higher criticism of the Bible are only a study of the Bible from this existential point of view, neglected to much by the earlier church. Under just what biographic conditions did the sacred writers bring forth their various contributions to the holy volume? What had they exactly in their several individual minds, when they delivered their utterances? These are manifestly questions of historical fact, and one does not see how the answer to it can decide offhand the still further question: of what use should such a volume, with its manner of coming into existence so defined, be to us as a guide to life and a revelation? To answer this other question we must have already in our mind some sort of a general theory as to what the peculiarities in a thing should be which give it value for purposes of revelation; and this theory itself would be what I just called a spiritual judgment. Combining it with our existential judgment, we might indeed deduce another spiritual judgment as to the Bibles’ worth. Thus, if our theory of revelation-value were to affirm that any book, to possess it, must have been composed automatically or not by the free caprice of the writer, or that it must exhibit no scientific and historic errors and express no local or personal passions, the Bible would probably fare ill at our hands. But if, on the other hand, our theory should allow that a book may well be a revelation in spite of errors and passions and deliberate human composition, if only it be a true record of the inner experiences of great-souled persons wrestling with the crises of his fate, than the verdict would be much favorable. You see that the existential facts by itself are insufficient for determining the value; and the best adepts of the higher criticism accordingly never confound the existential with the spiritual problem. With the same conclusions of fact before them, some take one view, and some another, of the Bible's value as a revelation, according as their spiritual judgment as to the foundation of values differ.

Which of the following is the clearest form of the underlined selection, "to possess it"?

Possible Answers:

in order to possess it

toward possessing it

NO CHANGE

giving possession of it

Correct answer:

in order to possess it

Explanation:

To make things clearer, let us first realize that "it" refers back to "value" from the last sentence. Based on this, consider the sentence as written: "If our theory . . . were to affirm that any book, to possess value, . . ." The sense of this (particularly evident upon reading the remainder of the sentence), is, "in order to possess value." It would be clearest to spell this out.

Example Question #6 : Other Usage Errors

Adapted from The Apology by Plato (trans. Jowett)

This inquisition has led to my having many enemies of the worst and most dangerous kind and has given occasion also to many false statements against me. And I am called wise, for my hearers always imagine that I myself possess the wisdom which I find lacking in others. However, O men of Athens, the truth is that god only is wise. By his answer he intends to show that the wisdom of men is worth little or nothing. He is not speaking of Socrates, he is only using my name by way of illustration. It is as though he said, “He, O men, is the wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing.” And so, I go about the world, obedient to the god, searching and making enquiry into the wisdom of any one, whether citizen or stranger, who appears to be wise. If he is not wise, then I show him that he is not wise. My occupation quite absorbs me, and I have no time to give either to any public matter of interest or to any concern of my own. Indeed I am in utter poverty by reason of my devotion to the god.

There is another thing. Young men of the richer classes, who have not much to do, come about me of their own accord. They like to hear my examinations of others and often imitate me, and then proceed to examine others. They quickly discover that there is plenty of people, who think that they know something but really know little or nothing. Then, those who are examined by them instead of being angry with themselves become angry with me. 

“This confounded Socrates,” they say, “this villainous misleader of youth!” And then, if somebody asks them, “What evil does he practice or teach?” they do not know and cannot tell. However, in order that they may not appear to be at a loss, they repeat the ready-made charges which are used against all philosophers: the teaching things up in the clouds and under the earth, having no gods, and making wrong things appear to be right. 

They do not like to confess that their pretence of knowledge has been detected (which is the truth). And as they are numerous and ambitious and energetic, they have filled your ears with they’re loud and inveterate calumnies.

And this, O men of Athens, is the truth and the whole truth. I have concealed nothing; I have dissembled nothing. And yet, I know that my plainness of speech makes them hate me. Still, what is their hatred but a proof that I am speaking the truth? From this have arisen the crowds’ prejudice against me. This is the reason of it, as you will find out either in this or in any future enquiry.

Which of the following words would be a clearer replacement for the underlined "about"?

Possible Answers:

around

explaining

concerning

describing

Correct answer:

around

Explanation:

The best way to interpret "about" in this sentence is to notice its relationship with the verb "come." The compound expression "come about" can mean to happen. (e.g. It came about that I found six dollars under my bed.)  However, it also can mean to come around. The prepositional phrase "about me" means this, as is indicated by the general context, which describes the rich young men as coming to the speaker.

Example Question #2 : Conventional And Idiomatic Usage Errors

Choose the answer that best corrects the underlined portion of the sentence. If the underlined portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

It’s a general rule that the temperatures in spring differ with the temperatures in winter, though there are some exceptions.

Possible Answers:

by

as

from

without

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

from

Explanation:

This is an idiomatic usage of a preposition. There is not necessarily a rule for the correct usage here, other than what is commonly accepted in the English language. It helps to read the sentence aloud in order to identify which options sound incorrect.

Example Question #1 : Conventional And Idiomatic Usage Errors

Choose the answer that best corrects the underlined portion of the sentence. If the underlined portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

The failing grade I received on my last test was the result of not studying enough.

Possible Answers:

result for

result to

result which

NO CHANGE

result by

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

"Of" is the correct preposition here. 

Example Question #2 : Conventional And Idiomatic Usage Errors

One of the most popular programs of all those featured on the Internet (1) is a video clip show.  The format of the show is simple, each (2) week the host, a short but attractive New York native named John Jackson introduces (3) a set of three video clips from all over the Internet.  These clips shows (4) people hurting themselves in accidents, getting into crazy situations, interacting stupidly with animals, and et cetera. (5) Jackson introduces each clip comically and often comments on the action with animations where (6) he makes fun of the people in the videos.  While the videos are often funny, there is definitely an element of schadenfreude involved in watching these clips.  Schadenfreude is a German word for "the pleasure one takes at seeing the suffering of others".  (7) Jacksons (8) show are (9) not far removed from popular TV programs like (10) The U.S. Laughs at You there is also a version of which (11) on the Internet.  It is an open question whether laughing at these videos is a harmless activity or it causes harm to us. (12)

Choose from the following four options the answer that best corrects the underlined mistake preceding the question number.  If there is no mistake or the original text is the best option, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

You, of which there is also a version

You, which also has a version

You, which there is also a version of

Correct answer:

You, of which there is also a version

Explanation:

The phrase "of which there is also a version" avoids ending the phrase in a preposition.

Example Question #3 : Conventional And Idiomatic Usage Errors

Many people watch football however (1) some do not. With (2) those who do not watch this sport (3) football is an incomprehensible pastime. Non football (4) fans cannot understand what is so exciting about watching two packs of grown men running away or toward each other, while (5) clinging for dear life to a piece of pigskin. It also makes from little to no sense (6) why those whom (7) play the sport gets (8) paid the exorbitant amounts that they do, even though he is (9) in effect doing the same thing that high school and college students do on a daily bases (10). But as the French would say, "Chacun à son goût" (11) though its (12) highly doubtful that most football fans (or even people who are not fans) would know what that means.

Choose from the following four options the answer that best corrects the underlined mistake preceding the question number. If there is no mistake or the original text is the best option, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

little or no sense

little to no sense

little, to no sense

Correct answer:

little to no sense

Explanation:

The phrase "little to no sense" is not a range, so the word "from" is not needed.

Example Question #3 : Conventional And Idiomatic Usage Errors

The student the hand of whom was up (1) gave the wrong answer.  She was asked what was a substantive adjective (2), and she answered that a substantive adjective is one that describe (3) a The student the hand of whom was up (1) gave the wrong answer. She was asked what was a substantive adjective (2), and she answered that a substantive adjective is one that describe (3) a substance. "No!" (4) the teacher barked. "A substantive adjective takes the place of a noun in a sentence, as when someone talks about the rich and the poor (5). Did you learn nothing in this class?" He then asked what a superlative adjective was, to which she replied (6) that a superlative adjective was one that took the place of a noun in a sentence. "But thats (7) what I just said," the teacher screamed! (8) The student had said (9) that she had heard him, therefore (10) she answered his question. "You answered my question previously, (11)" he bellowed, "not the last one!" "Ah, you mean the latest one," the student replied, the moment at which (12) the teacher turned to the wall and started beating his head against it.

Choose from the following four options the answer that best corrects the underlined mistake preceding the question number. If there is no mistake or the original text is the best option, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

"the rich and the poor"

'the rich and the poor'

the "rich" and the "poor"

Correct answer:

'the rich and the poor'

Explanation:

Since the teacher is talking about this phrase as a phrase, it should be set off in quotation marks, and since it already appears in a quotation, the phrase should be set off in single quotation marks.

Example Question #5 : Conventional And Idiomatic Usage Errors

Adapted from Sozein ta Phainomena: An Essay Concerning Physical Theory from Plato to Galileo by Pierre Duhem (translated by Matthew Minerd)

What are physical theories’ value? What relation does it have with metaphysical explication? These are questions that are greatly stirred and raised in our days. However, as with other questions, they are in no manner completely new. It is a question that has been posed in all ages. As long as there has been a science of nature, they have been posed. Granted, the form that they assume changes somewhat from one age to another, for they borrow their various appearance from the scientific vocabularies of their times. Nevertheless, one need only dismiss this outer vestment in order to recognize that they remain essentially identical to each other.

The science of nature offers us up until the 17th century at least, very few parties that managed to create theories expressed in a mathematical language. . . . If we leave aside several exceptions, an historical investigation places before our eyes strong evidence of a type science that would indeed be a prediction of modern mathematical physics. This science is astronomy. That is, where we would say, “Physical theory,” the Greek, Muslim, Medieval, and early Renaissance sages would say, “Astronomy.” However, for these earlier thinkers, the other parts of the study of nature did not attain a similar degree of perfection. That is, they did not express the laws of experience in a mathematical manner similar to that found in astronomy. In addition, during this time, the study of the material realities generally were not separated from what we would call today, “metaphysics.”

Thus, you can see why the question that concerns us takes two related, though different forms. Today, we ask, “What are the relations between metaphysics and physical theory?” However, in past days; indeed, for nearly two thousand years; it was formulated instead as, “What are the relations between physics and astronomy?”

What is the meaning of the underlined expression “places before our eyes”?

Possible Answers:

provides

discusses

senses

enlightens

Correct answer:

provides

Explanation:

The idiom "to place before one's eyes" means something akin to to make present to awareness like making something invisible to be visible. Among the brief options provided, only "provides" best fills this usage. The general idea is that historical investigations bring evidence forward in order that it might be evaluated according to Duhem's thesis.

← Previous 1 3 4 5 6 7
Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors

Incompatible Browser

Please upgrade or download one of the following browsers to use Instant Tutoring: