ACT English : Other Pronoun Usage Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Other Pronoun 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."

While they are both great pastry chefs, Eric's chocolate chip cookies are definitely better than Henry

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

Henry's

that by Henry

Henrys'

Henrys

Correct answer:

Henry's

Explanation:

It is incorrect to compare Eric's cookies to Henry; they are two different things. You can only compare Eric's cookies and Henry's cookies, and the most efficient way to do so is by saying "Henry's."

Example Question #2 : Other Pronoun Usage Errors

From an adaptation of a Letter from Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, On the Occasion of the Death of the Latter's Wife Abigail (1818)

The public papers my dear friend, have announced the fatal event of which your letter of October the 20th had given me ominous foreboding. Tried myself in the school of affliction, by the loss of every form of connection which can rive the human heart, I know well and feel what you have lost, what you have suffered, are suffering, and have yet to endure. The same trials have taught me that for ills so immeasurable, time and silence are the only medicine. I will not, therefore, by useless condolences, open afresh the sluices of your grief, nor, although mingling sincerely my tears with yours, will I say a word more where words are vain, but that it is of some comfort to us both, that the term is not very distant at which we are to deposit our sorrows and suffering bodies in the same soil and to ascend in essence to an ecstatic meeting with the friends we have loved and lost, and whom we shall still love and never lose again. God bless you and support you under your heavy affliction.

Which is the best form of the underlined “your” at the end of the passage?

Possible Answers:

your

yours

your's

you're

Correct answer:

your

Explanation:

The word "your" is here being used a simple possessive adjective, answering the question, "Whose affliction?" The affliction in question is Mr. Adams' affliction. Since he is being addressed in the second person, the appropriate form is "your." The form "you're" is the contracted form of "you are." The form "yours" is used as a pronoun, as in the predicate nominative, "The shirt is yours."

Example Question #3 : Other Pronoun Usage Errors

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 underlined portion of the passage. If the underlined portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

greater than these of

greater than that of

NO CHANGE

greater than those of

Correct answer:

greater than that of

Explanation:

The original text contains a faulty comparison. We cannot compare the profitability of one company to another whole company; instead, we must compare the profitability of one company to the profitability of another company. Since "profitability" is a singular noun phrase, we need an answer choice that substitutes"profitability" for a singular noun phrase such as "that". The correct way to express the sentence is "In fact, for the past three years, the profitability of the largest three telecommunication companies has been greater than that of the largest three automotive companies."

The answer choice "NO CHANGE" is incorrect because the text contains a faulty comparison. The answer choices "greater than those of" and "greater than these of" are incorrect because they use plural noun phrases in the comparison, rather than singular noun phrases to match the singular noun phrase "profitability."

Example Question #4 : Other Pronoun Usage Errors

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has become wide recognized as one of the most brilliant and influential musicians of all time. At only thirteen years old, he skillfully played several instruments and wrote in a variety of musical genres. Over the past century, his orchestral music, along with his many operas, have delighted audiences around the world. Mozart wrote his music for wealthy patrons and aristocrats, yet even the commoners of the time enjoyed his music. The music of Mozart is richer and more textured than his contemporary, Joseph Haydn.  

The Austro-Turkish War, which began in 1787, prompted the redirection of much of Austria’s resources from arts and music to the military. As a result, Mozart faced financial difficulties. In 1788, he discontinued his public concerts and his income declined. In 1790, hoping to improve his financial situation and circumstances, Mozart toured Berlin and several other cities in Germany. The tours were unsuccessful, however, and did not improve his financial problems.

Scholars have proposed several hypotheses regarding the cause of Mozart’s death, such as influenza, smallpox and meningitisTheir is little physical evidence, however, to support these claims. Mozart's funeral belied the elaborate ornamentation of his music: the ceremony was basic and reserved. In the period following his death, Mozart’s popularity increased significantly. Concert halls throughout Europe featured his music, and composers sought to imitate his style. Modern audiences praise Mozart’s music for its liveliness, expressiveness, and the fact that it is sophisticated.

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

that of his contemporary

those of his contemporary

that of his contemporary's

Correct answer:

that of his contemporary

Explanation:

The author is trying to compare Mozart's music to Haydn's music. The original text incorrectly compares Mozart's music to Haydn, the person.

Instead, we need to compare music to music. To do so, we should write "Mozart's music is richer and more textured than that of his contemporary, Joseph Haydn." 

We use the phrase "that of" because music is a singular noun, a fact that rules out the answer choice "those of," which is in plural.

While "that of his contemporary's" correctly uses the phrase "that of," it is incorrect because it adds an unnecessary 's to the word "contemporary."

Example Question #5 : Other Pronoun Usage Errors

Communist rule in Poland ended in 1989 and the following year proved disastrous for the Polish economy. Prices rapidly ballooned while incomes dropped. Attempting to find a solution, the Balcerowicz Plan was implemented by Polish officials. The plan liberalized the economy by abolishing price controls, exposing markets to international competition, and it discontinued most industrial subsidiesIn the time of the years following these efforts, economic growth has increased steady

After years of negotiations and economic and political reforms, Poland became a member of The European Union on May 1, 2004. Soon after, Polish officials voted in favor for laws that would eventually mend the unemployment problem in Poland significantly. In fact, the unemployment rate improved for the first time in five years immediately following Poland's membership. The involvement of Poland in the Eastern Bloc is currently greater than the Czech Republic. The passage of two policies regarding energy credits from foreign countries provide evidence of the emergence of Poland in the global economy.

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:

those of the Czech Republic

that of the Czech Republic's

that of the Czech Republic

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

that of the Czech Republic

Explanation:

The original text contains a faulty comparison of two items: 1) the involvement of Germany and 2) the entire Czech Republic. We cannot compare involvement to countries, but only countries to countries and involvements to involvements.

In this case, we need to compare the involvement of Germany to the involvement of The Czech Republic. The only answer choice that does so is "that of The Czech Republic."

Example Question #5 : Other Pronoun Usage Errors

Margaret Mitchell the writer was having a horrible day. She just completed her latest novel when the tornado sirens went off. Fast, she rushed down into the basement, barricaded the door, and she sat in a corner of the dank dusty room to wait for the storm to pass. The winds howled noisy and increased in intensity until it sounded like the tornado was right above her. Suddenly, a gigantic bang echoed throughout the basement and Margaret dropped to the floor in terror. Then just as suddenly the noise vanished. Margaret got up and dusted her off before moving hesitantly toward the basement door. She opened it, and found the house above her was completely gone. Despite the horror of the site, she sighed and muttered, "Oh, well." A neighbor came running up to her and said, "Margaret! Thank goodness your alive! But what happened to your house, and what about your new book?" Margaret gave a rueful smile and replied, "Oh, that's Gone With The Wind."

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

yore

you're

you's

Correct answer:

you're

Explanation:

The word "you're" (a contraction of "you are") is appropriate here since the possessive pronoun "your" is not being used in this context.

Example Question #3 : Other Pronoun Usage Errors

The cat made it clear to Jeremy whom was the boss around the house. The only time it showed him any affection was when it was time for the cat to be fed, the moment at which it would rub up against his legs and purr loudly enough to be heard. But as soon as the food hit the cat dish, it would run to the dish, gorging itself, and then ignore him the rest of the day. If he attempts to pet the cat at any other time, it will hiss and spit at him trying to bite him. Playing with the cat was even worst because it would wait until Jeremy was dangling something over it's face and then leap up to sink its fangs into his' hand. Eventually he would give up trying to be affectionate toward the cat and simply interacted with it every morning at feeding time. It was safer that way.

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

his

its

Jeremys

Correct answer:

his

Explanation:

The hand in question belongs to Jeremy, so the possessive pronoun "his," which does not take an apostrophe, is required.

Example Question #7 : Other Pronoun Usage Errors

Today, most Americans are familiar with the idea of purchasing music and movies online. While a number of these users continue to download these media files illegally, the overall public conscience had changed regarding this matter. Early in the history of digital media, most were far less certain about the legality and illegality of downloading such files. Today, matters are quite different, not only because of several important lawsuits but, indeed, because of the overall growth of relative inexpensive means of purchasing such digital content. This change of conscience has been accompanied by a simultaneously change in culture regarding online file-sharing. In the early days of illegal file-sharing, users would regularly host servers that were overtly and publically visible to users and potential enforcement personnel. Today, however, people utilize a number of carefully planned modes of obfuscation. Using encryption, indirection, and other means the contemporary illegal file-sharer shows clear awareness of the fact that their activity is illegal.

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:

awareness of the fact that they're activity are illegal

NO CHANGE

awareness of the fact that their activity are illegal

awareness of the fact that they're activity is illegal

awareness of the fact that there activity is illegal

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

There is no problem with this selection. Do not alter "their" to any of the other forms. This is the correct adjectival, possessive form.

Example Question #4 : Other Pronoun Usage Errors

The old man was extremely reclusive, never allowing them to see him.

Possible Answers:

never allowed them to see him.

not allowing them to see him.

never allowing people to see him.

never allowing them to be seeing him.

never allowing them to see him.

Correct answer:

never allowing people to see him.

Explanation:

The use of the pronoun "them" in this sentence is confusing, as it is unclear who "them" is referring. "Them" needs to be changed to something more concrete. Only one answer choice, "never allowing people to see him," does this, which makes it the correct answer choice.

Example Question #2 : Correcting Word Usage Errors

John and Michael both made good points, but in the end, I had to side with him.

Possible Answers:

John and Michael both made good points, but in the end, I had to side with John.

(No changes to original.)

John and Michael both made good points, but in the end, the one with whom I had to side.

John and Michael both made good points, but in the end, I had to side with he.

John and Michael both made good points, but in the end, the one I had to side with.

Correct answer:

John and Michael both made good points, but in the end, I had to side with John.

Explanation:

It is unclear if the “him” refers to John or Michael. The correct answer makes it clear with whom I side.

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