ACT English : Semicolon Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Semicolon Errors

The world is full of contradictions and I am full of them as well.  Every person has their quirks and I am no exception.  I love sports but I am also lazy I love animals, but I am not a vegetarian and I love teaching but I hate taking classes.  With all these contradictions how does a person like me make sense?  I would love to enlighten you!

How should the author punctuate the underlined portion to make it a proper sentence?

Possible Answers:

I love sports, but I am also lazy; I love animals, but I am not a vegetarian; and I love teaching, but I hate taking classes.  

I love sports, but I am also lazy, I love animals, but I am not a vegetarian, and I love teaching, but I hate taking classes.  

I love sports, I am also lazy, and I love teaching.  

NO CHANGE

DELETE the underlined portion

Correct answer:

I love sports, but I am also lazy; I love animals, but I am not a vegetarian; and I love teaching, but I hate taking classes.  

Explanation:

When a sentence consists of smaller sentences combined into a longer one, if those smaller sentences already contain commas (such as the commas necessary between the conjunctions in the smaller sentences), they can be separated by semi colons to help keep the sentences cohesive.

Example Question #3 : Punctuation 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:

course

course; 

course:

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

course; 

Explanation:

Since the two sentences are so closely related to each other in theme, the semicolon is most appropriate here.

Example Question #2 : Semicolon 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:

NO CHANGE

their children it has to do with them, being teenagers

their children; it has to do with them being teenagers

their children, it has to do with them being teenagers

Correct answer:

their children; it has to do with them being teenagers

Explanation:

To avoid a comma splice or run-on sentence, the only option here for separating the two sentences is to join them with a semicolon since they are directly related to each other.

Example Question #3 : Semicolon Errors

The student the hand of whom was up (1) gave the wrong answer. She was asked what was a substantive adjective (2), and she answered that a substantive adjective is one that describe (3) a substance. "No!" (4) the teacher barked. "A substantive adjective takes the place of a noun in a sentence, as when someone talks about the rich and the poor (5). Did you learn nothing in this class?" He then asked what a superlative adjective was, to which she replied (6) that a superlative adjective was one that took the place of a noun in a sentence. "But thats (7) what I just said," the teacher screamed! (8) The student had said (9) that she had heard him, therefore (10) she answered his question. "You answered my question previously, (11)" he bellowed, "not the last one!" "Ah, you mean the latest one," the student replied, the moment at which (12) the teacher turned to the wall and started beating his head against it.

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:

him: therefore

him therefore

NO CHANGE

him; therefore

Correct answer:

him; therefore

Explanation:

"Therefore" is working here as a conjunctive adverb and not a conjunction, so the use of a comma is not appropriate. The semicolon should be used instead since this is actually two sentences, not one.

Example Question #3 : Semicolon Errors

"Whomever (1) wins the game will play in the Megabowl," (2) Paul shouted, and Derek wasnt (3) sure how to respond.  He dint (4) particularly care for football generally, (5) or for the Megabowl specifically but (6) he did not want to upset his best friend, whom (7) was obviously excessively (8) excited about the news.  He took a deep breath then (9) he said  "That's wonderful news (10) Paul.  Where is the game be (11) held?"  Paul grinned and replied, "In Antarctica!"  Derek blinked.  "Since when are they having football games in Antarctica" he (12) asked.  Paul simply smiled and said, "There had to be some good to come out of global warming, right?"

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:

breath: then

NO CHANGE

breath, then

breath; then

Correct answer:

breath; then

Explanation:

The semicolon is most appropriate here, because the two clauses can stand as two complete sentences, and "then" is being used not as a conjunction but as a conjunctive adverb.

Example Question #4 : Semicolon Errors

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

Whoever considers the final cause of the world, will discern a multitude of uses that result. They all admit of being thrown into one of the following classes; Commodity Beauty Language and Discipline.

Under the general name of Commodity, I rank all those advantages which our senses owe to nature. This, of course, is a benefit which is temporary and mediate, not ultimate, like its service to the soul. Yet although low, it is perfect in its kind, and is the only use of nature which all men apprehend. The misery of man appears like childish petulance, when we explore the steady and prodigal provision that has been made for his support and delight on this green ball which floats him through the heavens. What angels invented these splendid ornaments, these rich conveniences, this ocean of air above, this ocean of water beneath, this firmament of earth between? This zodiac of lights, this tent of dropping clouds, this striped coat of climates, this fourfold year? Beasts, fire, water, stones, and corn serve him. The field is at once his floor his work-yard his play-ground his garden and his bed.

Nature, in its ministry to man, is not only the material, but is also the process and the result. All the parts incessantly work into each other's hands for the profit of man. The wind sows the seed, the sun evaporates the sea, the wind blows the vapor to the field, the ice, on the other side of the planet, condenses rain on this, the rain feeds the plant, the plant feeds the animal, and thus the endless circulations of the divine charity nourish man.

Which is the best form of the underlined section?

Possible Answers:

The wind sows the seed, the sun evaporates the sea, the wind blows the vapor to the field, the ice, on the other side of the planet, condenses rain on this, the rain feeds the plant, the plant feeds the animal; and thus

The wind sows the seed; the sun evaporates the sea; the wind blows the vapor to the field; the ice, on the other side of the planet, condenses rain on this; the rain feeds the plant; the plant feeds the animal; and thus

The wind sows the seed; the sun evaporates the sea; the wind blows the vapor to the field; the ice, on the other side of the planet, condenses rain on this; the rain feeds the plant; the plant feeds the animal, and thus

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

The wind sows the seed; the sun evaporates the sea; the wind blows the vapor to the field; the ice, on the other side of the planet, condenses rain on this; the rain feeds the plant; the plant feeds the animal; and thus

Explanation:

Semicolons are used when a sentence contains a series of elements which contain commas; if commas were used, there would be confusion about where an element begins or ends, as would be the case with the element "the ice, on the other side of the planet, condenses rain on this."

Example Question #2 : Semicolon Errors

Adapted from “The Nose Tree” in German Fairy Tales and Popular Stories by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm (trans. Taylor, ed. 1864)

Then the king made known to all his kingdom, that whomever would heal her of this dreadful disease should be richly rewarded. Many tried, but the princess got no relief. Now the old soldier dressed himself up very sprucely as a doctor, and said he could cure her. Therefore, he chopped up some of the apple, and, to punish her a little more, gave her a dose, saying he would call to-morrow and see her again. The morrow came, and, of course, instead of being better, the nose had been growing on all night as before; and the poor princess was in a dreadful fright. So the doctor then chopped up a very little of the pear and gave it to her. He said that he was sure that it would help, and he would call again the next day. Next day came, and the nose was to be sure a little smaller. However, it was bigger than when the doctor first began to meddle with it.

Then he thought to him, "I must frighten this cunning princess a little more before I am able to get what I want from her." Therefore, he gave her another dose of the apple and said he would call on the morrow. The morrow came, and the nose was ten times bad as before.

"My good lady," said the doctor, "Something works against my medicine and is to strong for it. However, I know by the force of my art that it is this, you have stolen goods about you. I am certain of it. If you do not give them back, I can do nothing for you."

The princess denied very stoutly that she had anything of the kind.

"Very well," said the doctor, "you may do as you please, but I am sure I am correct. You will die if you do not own it." Then he went to the king, and told him how the matter stood.

"Daughter," said he, "send back the cloak, the purse, and the horn, that you stole from the right owners."

Then she ordered her maid to fetch all three and gave them to the doctor, and begged him to give them back to the soldiers. The moment he had them safe, he gave her a whole pear to eat, and the nose came right. And as for the doctor, he put on the cloak, wished the king and all his court a good day and was soon with his two brothers. They lived from that time happily at home in their palace, except when they took an airing to see the world in their coach with their three dapple-grey horses.

Which of the following is the best form of the underlined selection, "as before; and the poor princess was in a dreadful fright"?

Possible Answers:

as before, and the poor princess was in a dreadful fright

as before; therefore, the poor princess was in a dreadful fright

as before and the poor princess was in a dreadful fright

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

as before; therefore, the poor princess was in a dreadful fright

Explanation:

Since the sentence already is compounded, it is necessary to avoid stringing together more clauses by using "and" in a simple manner. While you could perhaps use "and" to introduce the independent clause after the semicolon, this would be very informal and grammatically questionable. Clearly, the author does relate the princess's fright to the growth of the nose. Therefore, the word "therefore" would function as a better connective between the two sentences that are connected by the semicolon.

Example Question #2 : Semicolon Errors

Which of the following sentences uses a semicolon incorrectly? 

Possible Answers:

I'd like to go out tonight; but I have a lot of homework.

Don't tell me about it; I haven't seen it yet. 

I've never played golf; even so, I think I would be good at it. 

She had never worn a dress before, and she was reluctant to try one on now; however, she was tired of people calling her a tomboy, so she slipped the pink gown over her head. 

Contestants came from Houston, Texas; Detroit, Michigan; and Los Angeles, California. 

Correct answer:

I'd like to go out tonight; but I have a lot of homework.

Explanation:

Semicolons can be used to separate items in a complex list, to join two independent clauses, to join two main clauses with a conjunctive adverb or a transitional phrase, and to join complex clauses with a coordinating conjunction. They are not used to join main clauses with coordinating conjunctions, which require commas instead.

Example Question #7 : Semicolon Errors

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

James chose a large, rusty car, Philip chose a brand new car, and I chose the cheapest, ugliest car on the lot.

Possible Answers:

James chose a large, rusty car; Philip chose a brand new car; and I chose the cheapest, ugliest car on the lot.

James chose a large rusty car Philip chose a brand new car and I chose the cheapest ugliest car on the lot.

James chose a large rusty car, Philip chose a brand new car, and I chose the cheapest ugliest car on the lot.

NO CHANGE

James chose a large, rusty car, Philip chose a brand new car; and I chose the cheapest, ugliest car on the lot.

Correct answer:

James chose a large, rusty car; Philip chose a brand new car; and I chose the cheapest, ugliest car on the lot.

Explanation:

Because the first and third clauses in this sentence contain commas themselves, semicolons are needed to separate the clauses in order to avoid confusion.  Also, because the phrases "large, rusty car" and "cheapest, ugliest car" can also be rendered as "large and rusty car" and "cheapest and ugliest car", the commas separating the adjectives are necessary.

Example Question #3 : Semicolon Errors

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

Sawyer attended that high school his first solo violin performance took place in the auditorium during his sophomore year.

Possible Answers:

that high school; his first

NO CHANGE

that high school? His first

that high school, but his first

that high school, his first

Correct answer:

that high school; his first

Explanation:

Unchanged, the presented sentence is a run-on. The option "that high school, his first" does not fix it completely as it is a comma splice. The option "that high school, but his first" does join the two independent clauses, but it is incorrect as it indicates the two clauses contradict each other. The correct answer, "that high school; his first" correctly joins the two related independent clauses with a semicolon.

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