ACT English : How to use independent clauses

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

Example Questions

Example Question #1 : How To Use Independent Clauses

          While the course appeared hard from the outset, when his report card arrived in the mail, Charlie had discovered(1) that all of his studying had paid off.  He had successfully passed Chemistry: his father(2) would be proud.  His father, a world-renowned (3) chemist was (4) doubtful that Charlie would pass the class but Charlie was sure (5) that he could do it.  He had spent all of the fall semester studying the Periodic table, memorizing different measurements and learning the parts of an atom.

            The semester from hell culminated in the (6) final exam.  [7] The day of the big test, his stomach was a tight knot of nerves. (8)He tried to tell his mother that he was feeling ill but she knew that he was lying.1 He shook as he tried to put on his shoes and socks.He woke up with his fingers tightly gripping the bedspread.3 Sitting on the bus, he could feel himself sweating through his light sweater.4 (9) When Charlie finally arrived at school, he walked into his Chemistry class just as his teacher was passing out the test.  “You may now begin,” she said.

            [10] With the report card now clenched in his hands in victory, Charlie knew that he could tackle anything to which he put his mind. 

 

Make any necessary changes to the underlined phrase (#2) from the passage above:

Possible Answers:

Chemistry; his father

Chemistry his father was

Chemistry, his father

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

Chemistry; his father

Explanation:

The two independent clauses are related but independent so they need to be connected by a semicolon.  A period would also work in this situation but is not one of the given answers. 

 

 

 

Example Question #2 : How To Use Independent Clauses

Adapted from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1843)

The ghost on hearing this set up another cry and clanked its chain so hideously in the dead silence of the night that the police has been justified in indicting it for a nuisance.

"Oh! captive, bound, and double-ironed," cried the phantom, "not to know that ages of incessant labor, by immortal creatures, for, this earth must pass into eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is all developed! Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness! Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunities misused! Yet such was I. Oh, such was I."

"But you were always a good man of business, Jacob" faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

"Business!" cried the Ghost wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"

Which of the following is the best form for the underlined section?

Possible Answers:

creatures: for this earth

creatures, for this earth

creatures for this earth

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

creatures, for this earth

Explanation:

This sentence is somewhat awkward because of its conversational manner and the way that the "ghost" is shouting things out. However, look at the content following the "for." This portion is an independent clause that could stand on its own. Thus, a single comma is needed before the "for." Nothing else is necessary, and a colon is completely nonsensical.

Example Question #3 : How To Use Independent Clauses

Adapted from "The Weakness, Unrest, and Defects of Man," from The Thoughts of Blaise Pascal (ed. 1901)

We care nothing for the present. We anticipate the future as too slow in coming, as if we could make it move faster; or we call back the past, to stop its rapid flight. So imprudent are we that we wander through the times in which we have no part, unthinking of that which alone is ours; so frivolous are we that we dream of the days which are not and pass by without reflection those which alone exist. For the days of the present generally gives us pain; we conceal it from our sight because it afflicts us, and if it be pleasant, we regret to see it vanish away. We endeavor to sustain the present by the future, and think of arranging things not in our power, for a time at which we have no certainty of arriving.

If we examine our thoughts, we shall find them always occupied with the past or the future. We scarcely think of the present, and if we do so, it is only that we may borrow light from it to direct the future. The present is never our end; the past and the present are our means, the future alone is our end. Thus we never live, but hope to live, and while we always lay ourselves out to be happy, it is inevitable that we can never be so.

Which of the following is the best form of the underlined selection, “faster; or we”?

Possible Answers:

faster, or

faster or we

faster; or we

faster, or we

Correct answer:

faster, or

Explanation:

There are two things to note in this question. First, note the subordinate clause, "as if we could make it move faster." This will need to be set off from the main clause or clauses appropriately. Likewise, note that the independent clause after the semicolon has the same subject as the one before the semicolon. If we set off the aforementioned subordinate clause with a comma, we can eliminate the "we" in the second independent clause. This will leave the sentence as having a compound predicate: "We anticipate the future . . . and call back the past . . ."

Example Question #4 : How To Use Independent Clauses

Adapted from “The Fisherman and His Wife" in German Fairy Tales and Popular Stories by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm (trans. Taylor, ed. 1864)

The next morning, when Dame Ilsabill had awoke, it was broad daylight, and she jogged her husband, the fisherman, with her elbow, and said, "Get up husband and bestir yourself, for we must be king of all the land."

"Wife, wife," said the man, “why should we wish to be king? I will not be king."

"Then I will," said she.

"But, wife," said the fisherman, "how can you be king? The fish cannot make you a king."

“Husband," said she, "say no more about it; instead, go and try! I will be king." So the man went away quite sorrowful to think that his wife should want to be king. This time, the sea looked a dark gray color, and was overspread with curling waves and ridges of foam as he cried out, “O man of the sea! Hearken to me! My wife Ilsabill will have her own will, and hath sent me to beg a boon of thee!"

"Well, what would she have now," said the fish?

"Alas!" said the poor man, 'my wife wants to be king."

"Go home," said the fish, “for she is king already."

Then, the fisherman had went home. As he came close to the palace he saw a troop of soldiers, and heard the sound of drums and trumpets. When he went in, he saw his wife sitting on a high throne of gold and diamonds, with a golden crown upon her head. On each side of she stood six fair maidens, each a head taller than the other. 

Which is the best form of the underlined selection?

Possible Answers:

king," so, 

king." Next, 

king." Therefore, 

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

king." Therefore, 

Explanation:

Since "so" is better used as an explicit conjunction (at least in the usage here), it would be better to clarify the relationship between the two sentences by introducing the latter with the meaning implied by the "so." The idea is that that the man's later actions were a consequence of his wife's words. However, this action is somewhat independent from his wife's remarks. It is not akin to saying: "She said these things so that he would leave . . ." To make this clear, it is best to leave these in two separate sentences, replacing "so" with "therefore." It was for that reason that the husband chose to leave. This keeps the thoughts separate and remedies the somewhat ambiguous use of "so."

Example Question #5 : How To Use Independent Clauses

Adapted from “The Fear of the Past” in What’s Wrong with the World by G.K. Chesterton (1910)

The last few decades have marked by a special cultivation of the romance of the future. We seem to have made up our minds to misunderstand what has happened; and we turn, with a sort of relief, to stating what will happen—which is (apparently) more easy. The modern man no longer presents the memoirs of his great grandfather; but is engaged in writing a detailed and authoritative biography of his great-grandson. Instead of trembling before the specters of the dead, we shudder abject under the shadow of the babe unborn. This spirit is apparent everywhere, even to the creation of a form of futurist romance. Sir Walter Scott stands at the dawn of the nineteenth century for the novel of the past; Mr. H. G. Wells stands at the beginning of the twentieth century for the novel of the future. The old story, we know, was supposed to begin: "Late on a winter's evening two horsemen might have been seen . . ." The new story has to begin: "Late on a winter's evening two aviators will be seen . . ." The movement is not without its elements of charm; theres something spirited, if eccentric, in the sight of so many people fighting over again the fights that have not yet happened; of people still aglow with the memory of tomorrow morning. A man in advance of the age is a familiar phrase enough. An age in advance of the age is really rather odd.

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

Possible Answers:

great grandfather; instead, he is engaged in 

great grandfather but is engaged in 

NO CHANGE

great grandfather while he is engaged in

great grandfather; but, is engaged in 

Correct answer:

great grandfather; instead, he is engaged in 

Explanation:

The issue with the selection as written is its use of the semicolon. After the semicolon, the author uses a sentence fragment. Clearly, he wishes to express the contrast between the two assertions made in this sentence. Still, the grammar is a bit distracting for this reason. Now, technically, you could make the predicate of the first sentence compound merely by removing the semicolon. To some degree, this is acceptable. However, since the author wants to draw attention to the distinction, you should either (1) remove the semicolon and add something like "instead" after "but" or (2) make the second clause wholly independent (as is done in the correct answer provided).

Example Question #6 : How To Use Independent Clauses

Adapted from The Autobiography of John Adams (ed. 1856)

Here I will interrupt the narration for a moment to observe that, from all I have read of the history of Greece and Rome, England and France, and all I have observed at home and abroad, articulate eloquence in public assemblies is not the surest road to fame or preferment, at least, unless it be used with caution, very rarely, and with great reserve. The examples of Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson are enough to show that silence and reserve in public, are more efficacious than argumentation or oratory. A public speaker who inserts himself, or is urged by others, into the conduct of affairs, by daily exertions to justify his measures, and answer the objections of opponents, makes himself too familiar with the public and unavoidably makes himself enemies. Few persons can bear to be outdone in reasoning or declamation or wit or sarcasm or repartee or satire, and all these things that are very apt to grow out of public debate. In this way, in a course of years, a nation becomes full of a man’s enemies, or at least, of such as have been galled in some controversy and take a secret pleasure in assisting to humble and mortify him. So much for this digression. We will now return to our memoirs.

Where does the independent clause begin in the underlined sentence?

Possible Answers:

All I have observed . . .

Articulate eloquence in public assemblies . . .

Here I will interrupt . . .

From all I have read . . .

Unless it be used with . . .

Correct answer:

Here I will interrupt . . .

Explanation:

The easiest way to find the independent clause is by eliminating any subordinate clauses.  This will give you:

"Here I will interrupt the narration for a moment to observe that . . . eloquence in public assemblies is not the surest road to fame or preferment."

Thus, the beginning of the sentence is indeed the beginning of the main clause, though it does seem rather hidden among all the other verbiage!

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors