ACT English : Sentence Fragment and Sentence Combination Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Sentence Fragment And Sentence Combination Errors

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

If we made even a slight mistake. The entire project could be ruined.

Possible Answers:

No error

slight mistake

slight mistake; the

slight mistake, our

slight mistake: the

Correct answer:

slight mistake, our

Explanation:

Originally, the question presents a sentence fragment with an independent sentence. To combine them, they will have to be joined with a comma, as the first clause cannot stand alone.

Example Question #2 : Sentence Fragment And Sentence Combination Errors

While the course appeared hard from the outset, when his report card arrived in the mail, Charlie had discovered that all of his studying had paid off. He had successfully passed Chemistry: his father would be proud. His father, a world-renowned chemist was doubtful that Charlie would pass the class but Charlie was sure that he could do it. He had spent all of the fall semester studying the periodic table, memorizing different measurements and learning the parts of an atom.

That terrible semester culminated in the final exam. The day of the big test, his stomach is a tight knot of nerves. He tried to tell his mother that he was feeling ill but she knew that he was lying.1 He shook as he tried to put on his shoes and socks.He woke up with his fingers tightly gripping the bedspread.3 Sitting on the bus, he could feel himself sweating through his light sweater.4 When Charlie finally arrived at school, he walked into his Chemistry class just as his teacher was passing out the test. “You may now begin,” she said.

With the report card now clenched in his hands in victory, Charlie knew that he could tackle anything to which he put his mind.

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

Chemistry his father was

Chemistry; his father

Chemistry, his father

Correct answer:

Chemistry; his father

Explanation:

The two independent clauses are related but independent so they need to be connected by a semicolon. A period would also work in this situation but is not one of the given answers.

Example Question #3 : Sentence Fragment And Sentence Combination Errors

"A Unique Journey" by Jasmine Tilley (2013)

While I was studying abroad in Europe, I had the great opportunity to travel to different countries. For one of my adventures, I chose to travel to Switzerland; however, the classmates I usually traveled with were unable to come with me. I was faced in deciding whether to go alone or not at all. This decision was easy for me, I was not going to pass up the opportunity to see Switzerland!

I first had to board a train from where I was staying in Italy to reach the southern part of Switzerland. Unfortunately, the train workers were on strike that day, so I ended up delayed in Milan for several hours. Soon enough I was on my way again.  However, shortly after I reached the Switzerland border, the train stopped because one of the cars was filled with smoke! I still have no idea what happened, but after a few minutes we were moving again.

Once I finally reached Geneva, I had to walk to find the hostel where I was staying that I had booked. It was night, and I realized that I was truly alone. I did not know another soul in this entire country! This thought was both scary and exciting.

The next day, I walked all around Geneva. Being my own tour guide was a fantastic adventure. I saw all the major sites while also experiencing the culture. There was some sort of marathon going on that day, and there was so much excitement all throughout the city. There were live bands. It even rained off and on. Everything was new and interesting, and I loved it.

That evening, I boarded a train to Zermatt. Prior to this journey, I had no idea that the Matterhorn was an actual mountain! The city of Zermatt was very tiny and had no cars, only small electric vehicles that resembled wind-up toys. The whole city was lit up, and though I was walking to my hostel at night again, I felt very safe. Walking through Geneva at night, though, starkly contrasted it.

The next day, I decided to go skiing on the beautiful, snowy mountains in Zermatt. I rented a pair of skis and spent a few hours skiing in my jeans and coat! It was an amazing experience.

My journey to Switzerland is dear to me not just because of the many beautiful and exciting things I experienced, but also because I was alone. I had the time as well as the quiet atmosphere to absorb and contemplate not just what was going on around me but also what was going on inside myself. I felt changed somehow. I felt stronger and more independent.

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:

me, being that I

me. I

I

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

me. I

Explanation:

Both the phrases before and after the comma are independent, so they need either a period, a comma followed by a conjunction, or a semicolon in between.

 

Example Question #4 : Sentence Fragment And Sentence Combination Errors

Adapted from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1843)

The ghost on hearing this set up another cry and clanked its chain so hideously in the dead silence of the night that the police has been justified in indicting it for a nuisance.

"Oh! captive, bound, and double-ironed," cried the phantom, "not to know that ages of incessant labor, by immortal creatures, for, this earth must pass into eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is all developed! Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness! Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunities misused! Yet such was I. Oh, such was I."

"But you were always a good man of business, Jacob" faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

"Business!" cried the Ghost wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive position of my business!"

Which of the following is the best form for the bolded section?

Possible Answers:

creatures for this earth

creatures, for this earth

NO CHANGE

creatures: for this earth

Correct answer:

creatures, for this earth

Explanation:

This sentence is somewhat awkward because of its conversational manner and the way that the "ghost" is shouting things out. However, look at the content following the "for." This portion is an independent clause that could stand on its own. Thus, a single comma is needed before the "for." Nothing else is necessary, and a colon is completely nonsensical.

Example Question #5 : Sentence Fragment And Sentence Combination Errors

Adapted from “The Fear of the Past” in What’s Wrong with the World by G.K. Chesterton (1910)

The last few decades have marked by a special cultivation of the romance of the future. We seem to have made up our minds to misunderstand what has happened; and we turn, with a sort of relief, to stating what will happen—which is (apparently) more easy. The modern man no longer presents the memoirs of his great grandfather; but is engaged in writing a detailed and authoritative biography of his great-grandson. Instead of trembling before the specters of the dead, we shudder abject under the shadow of the babe unborn. This spirit is apparent everywhere, even to the creation of a form of futurist romance. Sir Walter Scott stands at the dawn of the nineteenth century for the novel of the past; Mr. H. G. Wells stands at the beginning of the twentieth century for the novel of the future. The old story, we know, was supposed to begin: "Late on a winter's evening two horsemen might have been seen . . ." The new story has to begin: "Late on a winter's evening two aviators will be seen . . ." The movement is not without its elements of charm; theres something spirited, if eccentric, in the sight of so many people fighting over again the fights that have not yet happened; of people still aglow with the memory of tomorrow morning. A man in advance of the age is a familiar phrase enough. An age in advance of the age is really rather odd.

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:

great grandfather; but, is engaged in 

great grandfather; instead, he is engaged in 

NO CHANGE

great grandfather while he is engaged in

great grandfather but is engaged in 

Correct answer:

great grandfather; instead, he is engaged in 

Explanation:

The issue with the selection as written is its use of the semicolon. After the semicolon, the author uses a sentence fragment. Clearly, he wishes to express the contrast between the two assertions made in this sentence. Still, the grammar is a bit distracting for this reason. Now, technically, you could make the predicate of the first sentence compound merely by removing the semicolon. To some degree, this is acceptable. However, since the author wants to draw attention to the distinction, you should either (1) remove the semicolon and add something like "instead" after "but" or (2) make the second clause wholly independent (as is done in the correct answer provided).

Example Question #6 : Sentence Fragment And Sentence Combination Errors

Adapted from "The Weakness, Unrest, and Defects of Man," from The Thoughts of Blaise Pascal (ed. 1901)

We care nothing for the present. We anticipate the future as too slow in coming, as if we could make it move faster; or we call back the past, to stop its rapid flight. So imprudent are we that we wander through the times in which we have no part, unthinking of that which alone is ours; so frivolous are we that we dream of the days which are not and pass by without reflection those which alone exist. For the days of the present generally gives us pain; we conceal it from our sight because it afflicts us, and if it be pleasant, we regret to see it vanish away. We endeavor to sustain the present by the future, and think of arranging things not in our power, for a time at which we have no certainty of arriving.

If we examine our thoughts, we shall find them always occupied with the past or the future. We scarcely think of the present, and if we do so, it is only that we may borrow light from it to direct the future. The present is never our end; the past and the present are our means, the future alone is our end. Thus we never live, but hope to live, and while we always lay ourselves out to be happy, it is inevitable that we can never be so.

Which of the following is the best form of the bolded selection, “faster; or we”?

Possible Answers:

faster; or we

faster, or

faster, or we

faster or we

Correct answer:

faster, or

Explanation:

There are two things to note in this question. First, note the subordinate clause, "as if we could make it move faster." This will need to be set off from the main clause or clauses appropriately. Likewise, note that the independent clause after the semicolon has the same subject as the one before the semicolon. If we set off the aforementioned subordinate clause with a comma, we can eliminate the "we" in the second independent clause. This will leave the sentence as having a compound predicate: "We anticipate the future . . . and call back the past . . ."

Example Question #7 : Sentence Fragment And Sentence Combination Errors

Select the correct form of the underlined portion of the sentence. If it is correct as it is, select "NO CHANGE."

Sam is unlike most toddlers in that he is not a picky eater, on the contrary, he will try almost any new food.

Possible Answers:

eater on the contrary, he

eater however on the contrary, he

eater; on the contrary, he

NO CHANGE

eater however, he

Correct answer:

eater; on the contrary, he

Explanation:

This sentence is composed of two independent clauses: "Sam is unlike most toddlers in that he is not a picky eater" and "on the contrary, he will try almost any new food." Two independent clauses cannot be combined using a comma; this creates a type of grammatical error called a "comma splice." Two independent clauses can be combined using either a semicolon or a comma followed by a conjunction. This means that the answer choice "eater; on the contrary, he" is the correct answer.

Example Question #8 : Sentence Fragment And Sentence Combination Errors

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

Scientists have already sequenced the genomes of many animals; as a result, they have now begun to map the epigenome.

Possible Answers:

animals: as a result, they

animals. A result of which they

NO CHANGE

animals, as a result, they

animals resulting from which they

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

This sentence is composed of two independent clauses, or clauses that have a subject and a verb and can stand as complete sentences on their own. This means that to combine them into a single compound sentence, you must either use a semicolon or a comma followed by a conjunction. As written, the sentence correctly uses a semicolon to connect the two independent clauses. In addition, it correctly uses a comma after the phrase "as a result," which is functioning like an adverb.

Example Question #9 : Sentence Fragment And Sentence Combination Errors

She liked the finer things in life she always had to have nice clothes and fine food.

Possible Answers:

She liked the finer things in life, always had to have nice clothes and fine food.

She liked the finer things in life and she always had to have nice clothes and fine food.

She liked the finer things in life, and she always had to have nice clothes and fine food.

She liked the finer things in life, she always had to have nice clothes and fine food.

She liked the finer things in life she always had to have nice clothes and fine food.

Correct answer:

She liked the finer things in life, and she always had to have nice clothes and fine food.

Explanation:

The sentence is a compound sentence, or one sentence that contains two complete thoughts joined together to highlight their relationship to each other. All compound sentences must be joined either by a semicolon or a comma and a conjunction. The only answer choice that appropriately does this is "She liked the finer things in life, and she always had to have nice clothes and fine food."

Example Question #10 : Sentence Fragment And Sentence Combination 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.

Patients were not allowed in many different parts of the clinic they were restricted to staff only.

Possible Answers:

Patients were not allowed in many different parts of the clinic; they were restricted to staff only.

Patients were not allowed in many different parts of the clinic they were restricted to staff only.

Patients were not allowed in many different parts of the clinic were restricted to staff only.

Patients not allowed in many different parts of the clinic were restricted to staff only.

Patients were not allowed in many different parts of the clinic was restricted to staff only.

Correct answer:

Patients were not allowed in many different parts of the clinic; they were restricted to staff only.

Explanation:

The sentence as written is a compound sentence, or two complete sentences joined into one sentence to show the relationship between the two thoughts. All compound sentences need to be joined by either a semicolon or a comma and a conjunction. The only answer choice that appropriately does this is "Patients were not allowed in many different parts of the clinic; they were restricted to staff only."

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