ACT English : Interrupting Phrase Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Interrupting Phrase Errors

Adapted from The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890)

As they entered, they saw Dorian Gray who was seated at the piano his back to them, turning over the pages of a volume of Schumann's "Forest Scenes." "You must lend me these, Basil," he cried. "I want to learn them. They are perfectly charming." "That entirely depends on how you sit to-day, Dorian."

"Oh, I am tired of sitting, and I don't want a life-sized portrait of myself," answered the lad, swinging round on the music-stool in a willful, petulant manner. When he caught sight of Lord Henry, a faint blush colored his cheeks for a moment, and he started up. "I beg your pardon, Basil. I did’nt know you had any one with you."

"This is Lord Henry Wotton, Dorian, an old Oxford friend of mine. I have just been telling him what a capital sitter you were, and now you have spoiled everything."

"You have not spoiled my pleasure in meeting you, Mr. Gray," said Lord Henry, stepping forward and extended his hand. "My aunt has often spoken to me about you. You are one of her favorites, and, I am afraid, one of her victims also."

"I am in Lady Agatha's black books at present," answered Dorian with a funny look of penitence. "I promised to go to a club in Whitechapel with her last Tuesday, and I really forgot all about it. We were to have played a duet together: three duets, I believe. I don't know what she will say to me. I am far too frightened to call."

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:

at the piano his back being to them

at the piano his backing to them

at the piano with his back to them

NO CHANGE

at the piano and his back to them

Correct answer:

at the piano with his back to them

Explanation:

There are at least two potential options for this sentence, though one of them is not provided. You could write, "at the piano, his back to them." This would make "his back to them" a descriptive subordinate clause. However, given the number of commas already needed in this sentence, this form is likely confusing. Therefore, the correct answer provided is "at the piano with his back to them." The preposition "with" is being used in the sense of in the state of having (his back to them).

Example Question #2 : Interrupting Phrase Errors

My childhood was fairly idyllic. I grew up in southern suburbia, we could play outside nearly year round. We almost played outside every day. Our days were filled with bike rides, jumping on the trampoline, playing in the sprinklers, and also imagination games. Countless afternoons were spent in the side yard of our home, where our imaginations were the limit to our fun. One of our favorite games was “Lost Children.” Oddly enough, the parents in the game were always deceased or fighting in a foreign war. The source of this game likely stemmed from the books we read.

My mother’s old, rusty, orange wheelbarrow was perpetually propped up against the fence, to serve as the base for our makeshift range. The metal braces beneath the wheelbarrow bin provided the perfect resting place for a pair of burners, hastily sketched on a flat board. Old paint buckets became a sink and a stained picnic table was scrubbed to a relative state of cleanliness. Our visitors, who were often kings and queens, were served heaping helpings of mud and grass pie, possibly adorned with a side helping of flowers. Household chores were far more fun to do in our imaginary world, and we would eagerly sweep and dust our humble home. Even covered in leaves, we loved our outdoor kitchen.  

Other days, we would scamper around the neighborhood park, sometimes venturing into the woods to go exploring. One time we borrowed my little sister’s wagon and flew down the sides of the ditch. Although we had a grand time my mother was not pleased when she had to replace the broken axle. On adventurous days, we would pretend to be statues on the entrance sign to our neighborhood. But, the most perfect afternoons were spent biking up to the local corner store. With spending money burning a hole in our pockets, we would peruse the convenience store shelves, and after carefully picking our selections, we would pedal home. Our plastic shopping bags hung from the handlebars, rustling in the wind.

The bite of crisp fall evenings would barely phase our childlike fantasies. But, to our dismay, twilight would inevitably seep into our childhood world. Mother would call us in for dinner and a bath, if needed. Tired, beds were welcomed. I would often fall asleep to the gentle rhythm of my mother’s voice.

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

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

Our visitors, who were often kings and queens

Our visitors who were often kings and queens

Our visitors who were often kings and queens,

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

"Our visitors, who were often kings and queens," is the best choice because “who were often kings and queens” is a parenthetical element and can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence.

Example Question #3 : Interrupting Phrase Errors

Known as Prohibition the political fight in the United States to ban the sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol took a long time. The official ratification of the 18th Amendment, which banned alcohol, took place in January of 1919, after Nebraska became the 36th state to have its legislature ratify the amendment. The Amendment had first been passed of the United States Senate in 1917, and needed vigorous political action taken by its supporters just to get the necessary 36 states to ratify it. Its official enactment on January 1, 1920 was met with equal amounts of relief and joy by it’s proponents.

Most of them had been fighting to ban alcohol for decades. The American Temperance Society was founding in 1826. Frances Willard had been running the Women’s Christian Temperance Union for decades by the time a national debate was taking place on Prohibition. Carrie Nation had banded together women in the Midwest since the turn of the century to destroy bars and saloons with her trademark hatchet. The Anti-Saloon league organized thousands of everyday Americans to vote against any politician that did not support Prohibition. A burgeoning movement had grown into a legitimate groundswell, by the late 1910s.

After the ratification of the 18th Amendment, few of these supporters thought that it would be the abject failure it turned out to be. Most Americans did not want the absolute ban of all sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol. The most enterprising Americans found many illicit ways to profit from alcohol’s new illegal status. Americans looking for alcohol were seldom out of options, as every corner had either a speakeasy or a bootlegger selling imported or homemade liquor. Criminal organizations grew in strength thanks to profits from illegal booze, and federal agents were hopelessly outmanned of mobsters and thugs. On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution repealed the 18th Amendment, eliminating the Prohibition of alcohol and turning back the work of all of the Prohibition activists.

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

Possible Answers:

Known as Prohibition—the political fight—

Knowing as Prohibition the political fight

Being known today as Prohibition the political fight

NO CHANGE

Known as Prohibition, the political fight

Correct answer:

Known as Prohibition, the political fight

Explanation:

The phrase "Known as Prohibition" is an introductory phrase, one that adds information to a sentence but remains outside the sentence's main structure. Any introductory phrase must be set apart from the rest of the sentence by a comma. The only answer choice that correctly deploys a comma in such a manner is "Known as Prohibition, the political fight."

Example Question #4 : Interrupting Phrase Errors

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

Our friends who were often busy with sports didn't have a lot of time to spend with us.

Possible Answers:

Our friends- who were often busy with sports didn't have a lot of time to spend with us.

NO CHANGE

Our friends; who were often busy with sports didn't have a lot of time to spend with us.

Our friends, who were often busy with sports, didn't have a lot of time to spend with us.

Correct answer:

Our friends, who were often busy with sports, didn't have a lot of time to spend with us.

Explanation:

"Who were often busy with sports" should be set apart with commas because it is a non-essential part of the sentence, meaning it can be removed from the sentence and the sentence would still make sense. Without that part of the sentence, the sentence would read "Our friends didn't have a lot of time to spend with us" and would still make perfect sence.

Example Question #1 : Interrupting Phrase Errors

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

Janet being a mother of five has a very strong sense of patience.

Possible Answers:

Janet being a mother of five; has a very strong sense of patience.

Janet: being a mother of five: has a very strong sense of patience.

NO CHANGE

Janet, being a mother of five, has a very strong sense of patience.

Correct answer:

Janet, being a mother of five, has a very strong sense of patience.

Explanation:

Interrupting phrases are separated by commas. It does not matter where they come in a sentence. In this case, "being a mother of five" acts as such a contextualizing interrupting phrase.

Example Question #146 : Language Usage And Grammar

Coupons

Are you trying to stick to a budget? Using coupons for [61] purchases, also known as “couponing” is a great way to save money on groceries. [62] Coupons are a little piece of paper that can give you a discount on what you buy. You will be amazed at the [63] great bargains and amazing savings you can get!

It’s easy to get started. [64] When you open up your daily newspaper, one might find a glossy insert full of coupons. [65] Some of the coupons will be for things you don’t buy, some will be for things you buy all the time. Go through the coupons and [66] chop out the ones you can use.

The key to successful couponing is getting multiple copies of coupon circulars. Ask [67] your friends, your neighbors, and family if they have any extras. Some coupon users even go through the recycling at their office to find more coupons! [68] Completely devoted, these circulars help coupon users to get even more savings.

Couponing might sound like hard work, but for [69] many people, it’s also a hobby. Not only does it help them save hundreds of dollars per year, [70] but instead it gives them a fun challenge every time they do their shopping.

Is there perhaps a greater value to a life lived without constant counting, penny-pinching, and miserliness? [71] But of what value are such savings? [72] At the end of the day; money is a construct, invented by the elite for the sole purpose of controlling the populace. [73] If we accept this fundamental truth, it behooves one to question the monetary structures that control our lives. Indeed, from this perspective, the very practice of couponing might seem a venial distraction from the valuable human endeavor of personal philosophical consideration. [74]

The papers we pore over should be in our books; the pennies we save should be in the currency of our happiness; [75] the budget we have made should have been a budget of our contentment.

A sort of couponing of the soul might ultimately be the solution.

Choose the answer that best corrects section [61].

Possible Answers:

purchases; also known as "couponing," is

purchases, also known as "couponing." Is

purchases, also known as "couponing," is

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

purchases, also known as "couponing," is

Explanation:

This question asks you to correct an interrupting phrase error. An interrupting phrase is a phrase that provides extra information, but can be removed without changing the sentence. These phrases should be surrounded on either side by commas. In the original text, the second comma after "couponing" is missing. 

Example Question #6 : Interrupting Phrase Errors

“The Dark Ages?” by Matthew Minerd (2016)

There are two different ways to consider the so-called “Dark Ages.” On the one hand, you can think of the period directly after the fall of the Roman Empire, when civilization began to collapse throughout the Western Empire. On the other hand, you can consider the period that followed this initial collapse of society. It is a gross simplification too use the adjective dark to describe the civilization of either of these periods.

As regards the first period it is quite a simplification to consider this period to be a single historical moment. It is not as though the civilization switched off like a lightbulb. At one moment light and then, at the next, dark. Instead, the decline of civilization occurred over a period of numerous decades and was, in fact, already occurring for many years before the so-called period of darkness. Thus, the decline of civilization was not a rapid collapse into barbarism, but instead, was a slow alteration of the cultural milieu of a portion of Europe. Indeed, the Eastern Roman Empire retained much of it’s cultural status during these years of decline!

More importantly, the period following the slow collapse of the Western Empire was much less “dark” than almost every popular telling states. Indeed, even during the period of decline, the seeds for cultural restoration was being sown. A key element of this cultural revival were the formation of monastic communities throughout the countryside of what we now know as Europe. Although these were not the only positive force during these centuries, the monasteries had played an important role in preserving and advancing the cause of culture through at least the thirteenth century and arguably until the Renaissance.

How should the underlined and bolded selection be changed?

Possible Answers:

It is not as though the civilization switched off like a lightbulb; at one moment light and then, at the next, dark.

It is not as though the civilization switched off like a lightbulb—at one moment light and then, at the next, dark.

NO CHANGE

It is not, as though, the civilization switched off like a lightbulb.  At one moment light and then, at the next, dark.

It is not as though the civilization switched off like a lightbulb; at one moment light, and then, at the next, dark.

Correct answer:

It is not as though the civilization switched off like a lightbulb—at one moment light and then, at the next, dark.

Explanation:

As written, the expression, "At one moment light and then, at the next, dark," is only a sentence fragment. Therefore, you need to integrate it into the first sentence in this selection in some way. Among the options provided, the only one that does this appropriately is the one that places a long dash after the first sentence. This makes the fragment into a kind of interrupting expression at the end of the main thought. A semicolon is not proper, for then you would need two fully formed sentences.

Example Question #7 : Interrupting Phrase Errors

As a child the only thing I wanted to be was a race car driver. My mothers family all lived in central Indiana, and I went to the Indianapolis 500 every year growing up. Between the colors on the cars the speed of the race and the enthusiasm of the crowd, nothing in the world seemed more exciting to a child. I would lay awake at night thinking about getting behind the wheel of my own race car. My bedroom walls were adorned with posters of the all great racers from all over the world.

When I was a teenager, I had the opportunity to race go karts on small tracks against other kids my age. Very quickly I realized I am the terrible driver. Any bumping with another driver was too much for me to handle, and I could not take the turns quick enough to keep pace with the best drivers. None of this diminished my love of racing, however, because just being at the track was such a thrill. The noise, the speed, and rushing were all more exciting from the pits than from the grandstand. If I could never be in the driver’s seat, then I would place myself behind the scenes.

With this new focus, I began studying mechanical engineering and automotive design. I might not have been able to drive a race car; but now I could design a car, build a car, and engineer it to win a race. The drivers still get all the credit for the championships, but everyone knows they would never win without the people like myself.

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

Possible Answers:

As a child, the only thing

NO CHANGE

As a child only thing

As a child that only thing

Correct answer:

As a child, the only thing

Explanation:

The phrase "As a child" is an introductory clause, one that conditions the action of the sentence but remains outside its main structure. Any introductory clause must be set apart from the main body of the sentence by a comma. "As a child, the only thing" is the only answer choice that appropriately uses a comma to separate the clause from the main body of the sentence.

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