ACT English : Simple Subject Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Simple Subject Errors

The common goose is one type of bird that flies south for the winter.

Possible Answers:

bird that fly

birds that fly

birds that are flying

NO CHANGE

birds that flies

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

The original word choice is the only noun-verb pairing that correctly pairs the singular "type" with the underlined portion. Remember: all connected nouns in a name or clause must match, either singular or plural.

Example Question #24 : Word Usage Errors

Make any necessary changes to the underlined word or phrase in the sentence.

The entire cast from her favorite television show, except the actress who plays the main character, were present at the event.

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

is present

was present

had been present

Correct answer:

was present

Explanation:

A television "cast" is singular, so “was” matches the singular noun. All other options change the tense.

Example Question #3 : Subject Verb Agreement Errors

One of the most popular programs of all those featured on the Internet (1) is a video clip show.  The format of the show is simple, each (2) week the host, a short but attractive New York native named John Jackson introduces (3) a set of three video clips from all over the Internet.  These clips shows (4) people hurting themselves in accidents, getting into crazy situations, interacting stupidly with animals, and et cetera. (5) Jackson introduces each clip comically and often comments on the action with animations where (6) he makes fun of the people in the videos.  While the videos are often funny, there is definitely an element of schadenfreude involved in watching these clips.  Schadenfreude is a German word for "the pleasure one takes at seeing the suffering of others".  (7) Jacksons (8) show are (9) not far removed from popular TV programs like (10) The U.S. Laughs at You there is also a version of which (11) on the Internet.  It is an open question whether laughing at these videos is a harmless activity or it causes harm to us. (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:

These clips show

These clips showing

Those clips shows

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

These clips show

Explanation:

The error is subject-verb agreement, so the correct answer should be "these clips show."

Example Question #2 : Simple Subject Errors

One of the most popular programs of all those featured on the Internet (1) is a video clip show.  The format of the show is simple, each (2) week the host, a short but attractive New York native named John Jackson introduces (3) a set of three video clips from all over the Internet.  These clips shows (4) people hurting themselves in accidents, getting into crazy situations, interacting stupidly with animals, and et cetera. (5) Jackson introduces each clip comically and often comments on the action with animations where (6) he makes fun of the people in the videos.  While the videos are often funny, there is definitely an element of schadenfreude involved in watching these clips.  Schadenfreude is a German word for "the pleasure one takes at seeing the suffering of others".  (7) Jacksons (8) show are (9) not far removed from popular TV programs like (10) The U.S. Laughs at You there is also a version of which (11) on the Internet.  It is an open question whether laughing at these videos is a harmless activity or it causes harm to us. (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

shows are

show is

shows is

Correct answer:

show is

Explanation:

Johnson has only one show with several episodes, and thus the error is a subject-verb agreement problem that can only be fixed with "show is."

Example Question #1 : Subject Verb Agreement 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:

has gotten

get

NO CHANGE

have gotten

Correct answer:

get

Explanation:

The verb should be conjugated to agree with the plural "those" and should remain in present tense, so "get" is the most appropriate answer.

Example Question #3 : Simple Subject 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:

those that describe

one that describes

ones that describe

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

one that describes

Explanation:

The phrase "one that describes" is the only one that maintains the correct subject-verb agreement and also agrees with the rest of the sentence.

Example Question #3 : Subject Verb Agreement Errors

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?”

What is the best form of the underlined selection, “during this time, the study of the material realities generally were not separated”?

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

during this time, the study of the material realities generally was not separated

during this time, the study of the material realities generally is not separated

during this time the study of the material realities generally were not separated

Correct answer:

during this time, the study of the material realities generally was not separated

Explanation:

The primary issue with the sentence, as written, is that the subject and verb do not agree in number. The main clause of the sentence reads: "The study . . . were . . ." The prepositional phrase "of the material realities" modifies the subject—"study"—which is singular. The tense must remain in the past, so the best option is the one that alters the verb to be singluar while remaining in the past—i.e. "was."

Example Question #3 : Subject Verb Agreement Errors

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.

Which is the best form of the underlined selection, "According as their spiritual judgment as to the foundation of values differ"?

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

their spiritual judgment as to the foundation of values differs

according as their spiritual judgments as to the foundation of values differ

their spiritual judgment as to the foundation of value differ

Correct answer:

according as their spiritual judgments as to the foundation of values differ

Explanation:

As written, the issue with the selection is the lack of agreement between the subject of the dependent clause and its verb. The subject of the clause is "judgment" and the verb is "differ." As a singular subject, "judgment" requires an "-s" as the ending of the verb. However, do not make this change! Since the author is contrasting a set of judgments, it is better to make the subject plural, which will make the subject and verb agree as well.

Example Question #5 : Subject Verb Agreement Errors

An adapted selection from The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli (1532)

Now, if you will consider what was the nature of the government of Darius, you will find it similar to the kingdom of the Turk. Therefore it was only necessarily for Alexander, first to overthrow him in the field, and then to take the country from him. After this victory, Darius being killed, the state remained secure in Alexander’s power, for the reasons noted earlier. If his successors had been united they would have enjoyed it securely and at their ease, for there was no tumults raised in the kingdom except those they provoked themselves. However, it is impossible to hold with such tranquility states constituted like that of France. Hence arose those frequent rebellions against the Roman’s in Spain, France, and Greece, owing to the many principalities there were in these latter states, of which the Romans always held an insecure possession; however, with the power and long continuance of the empire, the memory of them passed away, and the Romans then became secure possessors. When fighting afterwards amongst themselves, each one was able to attach to himself his own parts of the country, according to the authority he had assumed there; and the family of the former lord being exterminated, none other than the Romans were acknowledged.

When these things are remembered, no one will marvel at the ease with which Alexander held the Empire of Asia or at the difficulties that others have had to keep an acquisition. This is not occasioned by the little or abundance of ability in the conqueror but, instead, by the want of uniformity in the subject state.

What is the best form of the underlined selection, "and at their ease, for there was no tumults raised in the kingdom"?

Possible Answers:

and at their ease, for there were no tumults raised in the kingdom

and at their ease for there was no tumults raised in the kingdom

NO CHANGE

and at their ease, for there was no tumult raised in the kingdom

Correct answer:

and at their ease, for there were no tumults raised in the kingdom

Explanation:

As written, the sentence does not have agreement between its subject "tumults" and its main verb "was" (as written). You cannot change "tumults" to "tumult" because, later in the sentence, the subject is referred to in the plural as "those." Therefore, the correct answer is the one that replaces the singular form "was" with the plural "were."

Example Question #1 : Simple Subject Errors

Adapted from The Discourse on Method by René Descartes (1637; 1899, ed. Eliot)

From my childhood, I have been familiar with letters; and as I was given to believe that by their help a clear and certain knowledge of all that is useful in life might be acquired, I was ardently desirously for instruction in them. But as soon as I had finished the entire course of study, at the close of which it is customarily to be admitted into the order of the learned, I completely changed my opinion. I found myself involved in so many doubts and errors and was convinced that I had not advanced in all my attempts at learning. At every turn, ignorance and unknowing was to be discovered. And yet, I was studying in one of the most celebrated Schools in Europe. I thought there must be learned men in it, at least if such were anywhere to be found. I had been taught all that others learned there. However, not contented with the sciences actually taught us, I had, in addition, read all the books that had fallen into my hands, studying those branches that are judged to be the most curious and rare. I knew the judgment that others had formed of me. I did not find that I was considered inferior to my fellows, although there were among them some whom were already marked out to fill the places of our instructors. And, finally, our era appeared to me as flourishing and fertile with powerful minds as any preceding one. I was thus led to take the liberty of judging of all other men by myself. Furthermore, I concluded that there was no science in existence that was of such a nature as I had previously been given to believe.

Which of the following is the best form of the underlined selection "although there were among them"?

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

although there was among them

although, there were among them

although there are among them

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

As written, this portion of the sentence is correct. It subject is the substantive adjective "some," which implies the plural subject "some people." Therefore, you can think of this section of the setence in the form, "Although there were some people among them. . ." Notice that it would be wrong to write this in the form, "Although there was some people."

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