ACT English : Parallel Structure Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Phrase, Clause, And Sentence Errors

Humanities: This passage is adapted from chapter three of Sir John Lubbock’s The Pleasures of Life. The chapter is entitled “A Song of Books” and was written in 1887.

 

Of all the privileges we enjoy in this nineteenth century there is none, perhaps, for which we ought to be more thankful than for the easier access to books.

The debt we owe to books was well expressed and articulated by Richard de Bury, Bishop of Durham, author of Philobiblon, written as long ago as 1344, published in 1473, and the earliest English treatise on the delights of literature: "These,” he says, “are the masters who instruct us without rods and ferules, without hard words and anger, without clothes or money. If you approach them, they are not asleep; if you interrogate them, they conceal nothing; if you mistake them, they never grumble; if you are ignorant, they cannot laugh at you. The library, therefore, of wisdom is more precious than all riches, and nothing that can be wished for is worthy to be compared with it. Whosoever therefore acknowledges himself to be a zealous follower of truth, of happiness, of wisdom, of science, or even of the faith, must of necessity make himself a lover of books.” 

This feeling that books are real friends is constantly present to all who love reading. “I have friends,” said Petrarch, “whose society is extremely agreeable to me; they are of all ages, and of every country. They have distinguished themselves both in the cabinet and in the field, and obtained high honors for their knowledge of the sciences. It is easy to gain access to them, for they are always at my service, and I admit them to my company, and dismiss them from it, whenever I please. They are never troublesome, but immediately answer every question I ask them. Some relate to me the events of past ages, while others reveal to me the secrets of Nature. Some teach me how to live, and others how to die. Some, by their vivacity, drive away my cares and exhilarate my spirits; while others give fortitude to my mind, and teach me the important lesson how to restrain my desires, and to depend wholly on myself. They open to me, in short, the various avenues of all the arts and sciences, and upon their information I may safely rely in all emergencies. In return for all their services, they only ask me to accommodate them with a convenient chamber in some corner of my humble habitation, where they may repose in peace; for these friends are more delighted by the tranquillity of retirement than with the tumults of society.”

“He that loveth a book,” says Isaac Barrow, “will never want a faithful friend, a wholesome counsellor, a cheerful companion, an effectual comforter. By study, by reading, by thinking, one may innocently divert and pleasantly entertain himself, as in all weathers, so in all fortunes.”

"These,” he says, “are the masters who instruct us without rods and ferules, without hard words and anger, without clothes or money.

The word "ferules" in the sentence below most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

paddles

ashes

ladles

sticks

Correct answer:

paddles

Explanation:

While the forms of sticks and rods may be quite similar, the word "ferule" is used in this context to denote something used harshly.

Example Question #1 : Parallel Structure 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:

none knew

none of them knew

they did not know

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

none of them knew

Explanation:

In order to make this clause parallel to the other two clauses, the wording should be changed to "none of them knew."

Example Question #3 : Phrase, Clause, And Sentence 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:

and even some decided to give

and some even decide to give

NO CHANGE

and some have even decided to give

Correct answer:

and some even decide to give

Explanation:

To make the three phrases in this sentence parallel, "some even decide to give" should be in present tense.

Example Question #4 : Phrase, Clause, And Sentence Errors

Adapted from The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (ed. 1896)

Look at a plant in the midst of it's range, why does it not double or quadruple its numbers? We know that it can perfectly well withstand a little more heat or cold, dampness or dryness, for elsewhere it ranges into slightly hotter or colder, damper or drier districts. In this case, we can clearly see that if we wish in imagination to give the plant the power of increasing in number, we should have to give it some advantage over its competitors, or over the animals of the wild that prey on it. On the confines of its geographical range, a change of constitution with respect to climate would clearly be an advantage to our plant; but we have reason to believe that only a few plants or animals range so far, that they are destroyed exclusively by the rigor of the climate. Not until we reach the extreme confines of life, in the Arctic regions or on the borders of an utter desert, will competition cease. The land may be extremely cold or dry, yet there will be competition between some few species, or between the individuals of the same species, for the warmest or dampest spots.

Hence we can see that when a plant or animal is placed in a new country amongst new competitors, the conditions of its life will generally be changed in an essential manner, although the climate may be exactly the same as in its former home. If its average numbers are to increase in its new home, we should have to modify it in a different way to what we should have had to do in its native country; for we should have to give it some advantage over a different set of competitors or enemies.

It is good thus to try in imagination to give to any one species an advantage over another. Probably in no single instance should we know what to do. This ought to convince us of our ignorance on the mutual relations of all organic beings; a conviction as necessary, as it is difficult to acquire. All that we can do is to keep steadily in mind that each organic being is striving to increase in a geometrical ratio; that each at some period of its life, during some season of the year, during each generation or at intervals, has to struggle for life and to suffer great destruction. When we reflect on this struggle, we may console ourselves with the full belief that the war of nature is not incessant, that no fear is felt, that death is generally prompt, and that the vigorous, the healthy, and the happy survive and multiply.

Which is the best form of the underlined expression “heat or cold, dampness or dryness”?

Possible Answers:

heat, cold, dampness, or dryness

heat or cold and dampness and dryness

heat and cold or dampness and dryness

heat or cold, dampness or dryness

Correct answer:

heat or cold, dampness or dryness

Explanation:

For this question, it is necessary to notice the stylistic parallel in the text. In the independent clause after the "for," the author categorizes areas into which the plant "elsewhere ranges": "into slightly hotter or colder, damper or drier districts." Although the style might seem a bit strange, clearly as the text stands, this is how the author means to couple the words. The idea of heat and cold are kept together and are separated by a comma from the couplet of dampness and dryness.

Example Question #5 : Phrase, Clause, And Sentence Errors

Adapted from "Nature" by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1836)

To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars. The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate him and what he touches. One might think the atmosphere was made transparent with this design, to give man, in the heavenly bodies, the perpetual presence of the sublime. Seen in the streets of cities, how great they are! If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.

The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible; but all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence. Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man extort her secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection. Nature never became a toy to a wise spirit. The flowers, the animals, the mountains, reflected the wisdom of his best hour, as much as they had delighted the simplicity of his childhood.

Which of the following would best replace the underlined section "The flowers, the animals, the mountains, reflected"?

Possible Answers:

The flowers, animals, mountains reflected

The flowers, animals, and the mountains reflected

The flowers, the animals, and the mountains reflected

The flowers, the animals, and mountains reflected

Correct answer:

The flowers, the animals, and the mountains reflected

Explanation:

In contemporary English, we would be likely to make the three nouns parallel to each other and add an "and" while deleting the comma between the compound subject and its verb.

Example Question #2 : Parallel Structure Errors

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

My three favorite activities are skateboarding, to swim, and playing golf.

Possible Answers:

skateboard, swimming, and playing golf

skateboard, swim, and play golf

skateboarding, swimming, and playing golf

skateboarding to swim and playing golf

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

skateboarding, swimming, and playing golf

Explanation:

The three activities are in a list, so commas must separate them. Thus, "skateboarding, to swim, and playing golf" is incorrect. Also, to achieve parallel structure, each item on the list must be written in the same form. In this case, because "skateboarding" and "playing golf" are gerunds, or verbs that end in "-ing" acting as nouns. "To swim" is written in the infinite form, though, so "to swim" should be changed to its gerund form, "swimming."

Example Question #3 : Parallel Structure Errors

The Chunnel actually consists of three tunnels: a southern tunnel, a northern tunnel, and a service tunnel in the middle. The southern tunnel carries passengers from France to England, while the northern tunnel carries people from England to France. The service tunnel serves as an escape route in case of emergency and also allows workers to enter the tunnel to perform routine maintenance.

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:

a southern tunnel, a north tunnel, and another tunnel, a service tunnel

NO CHANGE

two tunnels, which are southern and northern, and another tunnel

including a south tunnel, north tunnel, and a tunnel for service

one southern tunnel, a northern tunnel, and a service tunnel

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

The correct choice incorporates parallel structure effectively. In this case, each tunnel is preceded by "a," and the first two both have an "-ern" ending ("southern" and "northern").

Example Question #4 : Parallel Structure Errors

Adapted from “Authority: The Unavoidable” in What’s Wrong with the World by G.K. Chesterton (1912)

The important point here is only that you cannot get rid of authority in education. It is not so much that parental authority ought to be preserved. The more, important truth, is that such authority cannot be destroyed. Mr. Bernard Shaw once said that he had hated the idea of forming a child's mind. In that case, Mr. Bernard Shaw had better hang himself, for he hates something inseparable from human life. I only mentioned [earlier in the book] the drawing out of the child’s abilities in order to point out that even this mental trick does not avoid the idea of parental or scholastic authority. The educator drawing out is just as arbitrary and coercive as the instructor’s action, for he draws out what he chooses. He decides what in the child shall be developed and what shall not be developed.

The only result of all this pompous distinction between the “educator” and the “instructor” is who the instructor pokes where he likes and the educator pulls where he likes. Exactly the same intellectual violence is done to the creature whom is poked and pulled. We must all except the responsibility of this intellectual violence, whether from poking or from pulling.

Education is violent; because it is creative. It is such because it is human. It is as reckless as playing on the fiddle, as dogmatic as drawing a picture, as brutal as building a house. In short, it is what all human action is, it is an interference with life and growth. After that it is a trifling and even a jocular question whether we say of this tremendous tormentor, the artist Man, that he puts things into us like a pharmacist or draws things out of us.

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

Possible Answers:

out of us somewhat like a miner digs up gold

out of us like a dentist

out of us unlike a pharmacist

out of us

out of us like a miner

Correct answer:

out of us like a dentist

Explanation:

The phrase we are looking for is to be contrasted against "puts things into us like a pharmacist." The contrast is lost in cumbersome language if it is expressed, "out of us unlike a pharmacist." "Out of us like a miner," is somewhat better, but the expression ending with "dentist" vividly draws the reader's attention to the contrast being expressed. Clearly the two "medical" professions are in parallel—the one as the image of "putting things in" and the other as the image of "pulling things out."

Example Question #9 : Phrase, Clause, And Sentence Errors

Humanities: This passage is adapted from chapter three of Sir John Lubbock’s The Pleasures of Life. The chapter is entitled “A Song of Books” and was written in 1887.

 

Of all the privileges we enjoy in this nineteenth century there is none, perhaps, for which we ought to be more thankful than for the easier access to books.

The debt we owe to books was well expressed and articulated by Richard de Bury, Bishop of Durham, author of Philobiblon, written as long ago as 1344, published in 1473, and the earliest English treatise on the delights of literature: "These,” he says, “are the masters who instruct us without rods and ferules, without hard words and anger, without clothes or money. If you approach them, they are not asleep; if you interrogate them, they conceal nothing; if you mistake them, they never grumble; if you are ignorant, they cannot laugh at you. The library, therefore, of wisdom is more precious than all riches, and nothing that can be wished for is worthy to be compared with it. Whosoever therefore acknowledges himself to be a zealous follower of truth, of happiness, of wisdom, of science, or even of the faith, must of necessity make himself a lover of books.” 

This feeling that books are real friends is constantly present to all who love reading. “I have friends,” said Petrarch, “whose society is extremely agreeable to me; they are of all ages, and of every country. They have distinguished themselves both in the cabinet and in the field, and obtained high honors for their knowledge of the sciences. It is easy to gain access to them, for they are always at my service, and I admit them to my company, and dismiss them from it, whenever I please. They are never troublesome, but immediately answer every question I ask them. Some relate to me the events of past ages, while others reveal to me the secrets of Nature. Some teach me how to live, and others how to die. Some, by their vivacity, drive away my cares and exhilarate my spirits; while others give fortitude to my mind, and teach me the important lesson how to restrain my desires, and to depend wholly on myself. They open to me, in short, the various avenues of all the arts and sciences, and upon their information I may safely rely in all emergencies. In return for all their services, they only ask me to accommodate them with a convenient chamber in some corner of my humble habitation, where they may repose in peace; for these friends are more delighted by the tranquillity of retirement than with the tumults of society.”

“He that loveth a book,” says Isaac Barrow, “will never want a faithful friend, a wholesome counsellor, a cheerful companion, an effectual comforter. By study, by reading, by thinking, one may innocently divert and pleasantly entertain himself, as in all weathers, so in all fortunes.”

Which of the following replacements of the underlined portion is NOT appropriate:

"By study, by reading, by thinking, one may innocently divert and pleasantly entertain himself, as in all weathers, so in all fortunes.”

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

Studying, reading, and thinking can

To studying, to read, to thinking, these

Study, reading, and thought

Correct answer:

To studying, to read, to thinking, these

Explanation:

Each noun form must be consistent; the correct answer fails to make "read" into a gerund.

Example Question #5 : Parallel Structure 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:

you could not offend your students

one couldn't offend one's students

one could not offend one student

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

one couldn't offend one's students

Explanation:

Since "one" replaces the personal pronoun in the previous clause, it must also be used here.

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