ACT English : Modifier-Word Modified Number Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1033 : Correcting Grammatical Errors

It was about halfway through his last set of conferences that Mr. Man realizes (1) he did not (2) much like his current set of students.  Unlike his students in the past, none of them seemed to care about their (3) grades, (4) none of them was able to tell a dangling modifier from a participle, (4) and, apart from a few, (4) they didn't know (5) how to start a paper.  He would never tell any of them this, of course, (6) they might get offended, and if there was one thing that Mr. Man learned (7) about teaching, its (8) that in order to keep one's job, you couldn't offend your students (9).  As yet another student whined about not understanding Mr. Mans (10) perfectly clearly written assignments, he sighed inwardly (and possibly outwardly as well), (11) and waited for the last (12) one to finish so that he could get to the next one, finish his conferences, and get back to daydreaming about being anything but a teacher.

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:

his or her

they're

NO CHANGE

his

Correct answer:

his or her

Explanation:

Since we do not know the gender of all of the students, we must use "his or her" to agree with the singular "none."

Example Question #1034 : Correcting Grammatical 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:

they

he's

NO CHANGE

they are

Correct answer:

they are

Explanation:

The pronoun must be plural to agree with "those," and the verb "are" must be included to complete the sentence logically.

Example Question #1374 : Act English

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.

What is the best form of the underlined, "crises of his fate"?

Possible Answers:

crisis of his fate

crises of their fate

crises under their fate

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

crises of their fate

Explanation:

As written, the sentence improperly uses "his" as the possessive modifier refering to the crises that are experienced by "great-souled persons." "His" shifts from the plural ("persons") to a singular. This is improper form. Therefore, this possessive adjective needs to be changed to "their." Note, however, that the form, "crises under their fate," really does not use the preposition "under" correctly.

Example Question #1375 : Act English

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?”

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:

they borrow their various appearances from the scientific vocabularies

NO CHANGE

they borrow their various appears from the scientific vocabularies

they have borrowed their various appearance from the scientific vocabularies

they borrow their various appearance from the scientific vocabulary

Correct answer:

they borrow their various appearances from the scientific vocabularies

Explanation:

The major problem with the selected text is the agreement between "appearance" and "they" / "their." The author is referring to the multiple sciences as a plural—not as a gathered group. Therefore, he is talking about multiple appearances (of the questions). To fix this, make "appearance" plural—"appearances."

Example Question #1376 : Act English

When the patent on Alexander Graham Bell’s revolutionary invention, the telephone, expired in 1894 thousands of new firms entered the telecommunication industry. Among them were a collection of profitable companies that merged to form what would later become known as The Bell System. The Bell System had amassed such weight in the industry that in 1933, when Congress passed a law declaring phone service a public utility, the Bell System quickly transformed into a monopoly. Lawmakers enthusiastic supported a series of provisions intended to stimulate competition. Appointed as the nation’s sole provider of telecommunication services, widespread criticism about the Bell System began to surface

The Federal Communications Act has so far been highly effective and the industry has grown tremendously as a result. In fact, for the past three years, the profitability of the largest three telecommunication companies has been greater than the largest three automotive companies. The number of calls provided by the top three companies range from five billion to six billion per day. Today, virtually everyone has made a phone call over the course of their lives. Most people do not know, however, that payment for swaths of electromagnetic wavelengths have become commonplace.

One explanation for such high call volume and large profits is that calls are becoming much less expensive for companies to provide, regardless for many large fixed expenses such as communication towers, base stations, and paying for utility poles. Over the last century, telephones had become an important part of modern society. In fact, the cost of delivering one telephone call today is about a thousandth of the cost in the 1950s. The increasing affordability and abundance of phone calls mark the progress made since the time of Alexander Graham Bell and the Bell System.

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:

their life

their lives

NO CHANGE

our lives

his or her life

Correct answer:

his or her life

Explanation:

The original text says that ". . . everyone has made a phone call over the course of their lives." This statement, however, is ungrammatical because "everyone" is singular and "their" is plural. 

We need to match the singular noun phrase "everyone" with a pronoun or a list of pronouns that are singular as well. The only answer choice that contains singular pronouns are "his or her life." (Don't be confused by the "or"—the agreement on "his" and "her" are both singular, and so is the agreement on "his or her"); therefore, the correct way to express the sentence is "Today, virtually everyone has made a phone call over the course of his or her life." All of the other answer choices are incorrect because they contain an error in singular/plural agreement.

Example Question #1377 : Act English

As the class entered the museum, Ms. Johnson noticed that two of her students had fallen behind the group. After all of the tickets had been secured, she approached the two girls, saying: “what on Earth is causing you to go so slow?” The taller girl, whose name was Ashley, was the first to respond:

“Veronica and I were just discussing something very private. Nobody can hear what her and I are discussing.”

“Well, Ashley, I think that our tour guide, Dr. Mitchell, will be offended by your behavior. You and Veronica should find separate places in the group and you should pay attention to him and me.”

The two girls reluctantly joined the rest of the class. Ms. Johnson looked to see if another student was out of their place, but everything seemed to be in order. The tour guide, Dr. Mitchell, introduced himself to the class: 

“Hello everyone! My name is Dr. Mitchell. I’m so glad that you have all come to the Museum of Natural History today; I think you’ll really enjoy our exhibits, which have been curated with the utmost care. The museum has three distinct types of exhibitions. Permanent exhibitions, temporary exhibitions, and space shows. The permanent exhibition and the space show is always available for viewing, but the temporary exhibition changes seasonally.“

Having finished his introduction, the permanent exhibition was the first thing that Dr. Mitchell showed to the class.

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

another student was out of his or her place

another student was out of his or her places

another student was out of their places

Correct answer:

another student was out of his or her place

Explanation:

This question is a matter of correcting subject-verb agreement. In this case, the subject is a single "student," so the possesive pronoun "their," which refers to more than one person, cannot be correct. The correct answer uses a singular possessive pronoun, either "his or her," "his," or "her." The answer that included the phrase "his or her places" was also incorrect, because if we are referring to a single student, he or she cannot have more than one place.

Example Question #1378 : Act English

Adapted from The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1774; trans. Boylan 1854)

That the life of man is but a dream, many a man has surmised heretofore. I, too, am everywhere pursued by this feeling. When I consider the narrow limits within which our active and inquiring faculties are confined, I am silent. Likewise, when I see how all our energies are wasted in providing for mere necessities, which again has no further end than to prolong a wretched existence, I find myself to be silenced. Indeed, discovering that all our satisfaction concerning certain subjects of investigation ends in nothing better than a passive resignation, while we amuse ourselves painting our prison-walls with bright figures and brilliant landscapes—when I consider all this Wilhelm—I am silent. I examine my own being, and find there a world, but a world rather of imagination and dim desires, than of distinctness and living power. Then, everything swims before my senses, and I smile and dream while pursuing my way through the world.

All learned professors and doctors are agreed that children do not comprehend the cause of their desires; however, nobody is willing to acknowledge that the grown-ups should wander about this earth like children, without knowing whence they come or whither they go, influenced as little by fixed motives but, instead, guided like them by biscuits, sugar-plums, and the rod.

I know what you will say in reply. Indeed, I am ready to admit that they are happiest, who, like children, amuse themselves with their playthings, dress and undress their dolls.  They are happiest, who attentively watch the cupboard, where mamma has locked up her sweet things, and, when at last they get a delicious morsel, eat it greedily, and exclaim, "More!" These are certainly happy beings; but others also are objects of envy, who dignify their paltry employments (and sometimes even their passions) with pompous titles, representing them to mankind as gigantic achievements performed for their welfare and glory. However, the man who humbly acknowledges the vanity of all this, who observes with what pleasure the thriving citizen converts his little garden into a paradise, and how patiently even the poor man pursues his weary way under his burden, and how all wish equally to behold the light of the sun a little longer—yes, such a man is at peace, and creates his own world within himself. Indeed, he is also happy precisely because he is a man. And then, however limited his sphere, he still preserves in his bosom the sweet feeling of liberty and knows that he can quit his prison whenever he likes.

What is the best form of the bolded "their"?

Possible Answers:

its

it's

his

their

Correct answer:

its

Explanation:

The word "their" is refering back to mankind. The arrogant people being discussed represent their achievements as being for the welfare of mankind. By using "their," the author seems to indicate that he means "the members of mankind." However, as the sentence is structured, it is only referring to mankind as a corporate whole—a single subject. To see this, imagine using the word "mankind" as the subject of a sentence, such as, "Mankind is advancing in many ways, but perhaps not all."

Example Question #1 : Modifier Word Modified Agreement Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices repeats the underlined portion as it is written.

The belief in evil spirits remains quite widespread in many different part of the world.

Possible Answers:

many differentiated part of the world.

many different part of a world.

many different parts of the world.

many different part of the world.

many different part of the world.

Correct answer:

many different parts of the world.

Explanation:

The error in the underlined portion of the sentence is its use of the singular form "part" after the adjectives "many different." As both adjectives indicate the plurality of the noun they describe, the singular noun "part" needs to be a plural noun to correct the error. "Many different parts of the world" is the correct answer choice because it is the only one in which this error is corrected.

Example Question #6 : Modifier Word Modified Agreement Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English.

Unlike the plants at this local greenhouse, which has been around for thirty years, that at the chain store are wilted and dying.

Possible Answers:

those at the chain store are wilted and dying.

that at the chain store is wilted and dying.

that at the chain store are wilted and dying.

them at the chain store are wilted and dying.

them at the chain store is wilted and dying.

Correct answer:

those at the chain store are wilted and dying.

Explanation:

Because "the plants" is a plural subject, the corresponding pronoun must be a plural subject pronoun. "Those" is the word that matches.

Example Question #98 : Correcting Agreement Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

Peter believed that, despite all of the differing opinion on the subject, his theory about particle physics would be proven correct one day.

Possible Answers:

despite all of the differing subject on the opinion

despite all of the opinion differing on the subject

despite all of the differing opinions on the subject

despite all of the differing opinion on the subject

despite all of differing the opinion on the subject

Correct answer:

despite all of the differing opinions on the subject

Explanation:

The phrase "all of" indicates that the noun it is modifying in the sentence should be plural. Therefore, "opinion" should be "opinions," and the correct phrase is "despite all of the differing opinions on the subject."

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