ACT English : Subordinating Conjunction Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Question #1 : Subordinating Conjunction 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.

What is the proper form of the underlined selection, "known to all his kingdom, that"?

Possible Answers:

known to all his kingdom that

known to all his kingdom: that

known to all his kingdom; that

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

known to all his kingdom that

Explanation:

The word "that" is here being used as a conjunction that introduces an indirect quotation. You could write this sentence in a form like: Then the king spoke to all his kingdom, "Etc . . ." However, as used here, "that" introduces the clause describing indirectly what he said to the kingdom. This requires no comma, as it is a necessary part of the main clause, helping to specify exactly what he made known to the kingdom.

Example Question #2 : Subordinating Conjunction 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.

What is the best form of the underlined selection, "it would help, and he would"?

Possible Answers:

it would help; and he would

it would help and he would

it would help and that he would

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

it would help and that he would

Explanation:

There are two indirect statements being made by the "doctor" in this sentence:

1. That he was sure that it would help

2. That he would call on the next day

To make it clear that this is a compound set of indirect statements, use an additional "that" as the appropriate conjunction to indicate the fact. Otherwise, it is possible to misunderstand exactly what is being connected by the conjunction "and."

Example Question #3 : Subordinating Conjunction Errors

Adapted from The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1774; trans. Boylan 1854)

Wilhelm, what is the world to our hearts without love. What is a magic-lantern without light? You have but too kindle the flame within, and the brightest figures shine on the white wall; and, were love only to show us fleeting shadows, we are yet happy, when, like mere children, we behold it, and are transported with the splendid phantoms. I have not been able to see Charlotte today. I was prevented by company from which I could not disengage myself. What was to be done? I sent my servant to her house, that I might at least see somebody today whom had been near her. Oh, the impatience with which I waited for his return! Oh, the joy with which I welcomed him. I should certainly have caught him in my arms and kissed him, if I had not been ashamed.

It is said that the Bonona stone, when placed in the sun, attracts its rays and for a time appears luminous in the dark. So was it with me and this servant. The idea that Charlotte's eyes had dwelt on his countenance, his cheek, his very apparel, endeared it all inestimably to me so that, at that moment, I would not have parted from him for a thousand crowns. His presence made me so happy! Beware of laughing at me, Wilhelm. Can that be a delusion which makes us happy?

Which of the following is a clearer form of the sentence, "Can that be a delusion which makes us happy"?

Possible Answers:

Can that which makes us happy be a delusion?

NO CHANGE

Is that a delusion which makes us happy?

Would that which is a delusion make us happy?

Correct answer:

Can that which makes us happy be a delusion?

Explanation:

Do not change the overall sense of the sentence in answering this question. Among the wrong answers, this happens in the case of "Would that which is a delusion make us happy?" In the original, the author was asking whether something which makes us happy would be able to be a delusion—not vice-versa.  As written, the sentence awkwardly separates the relative clause "that which makes us happy" by placing "be a delusion" between "that" and "which." It would be better to keep the relative clause together, giving us the form, "Can that which makes us happy be a delusion?"

Example Question #3 : Subordinating Conjunction Errors

Which of the following sentences incorrectly uses a subordinating conjunction?

Possible Answers:

They had to whisper because it was late.

None of these sentences are correct. 

Although it was raining, they went hiking.

All of these sentences are correct.

They could not see where they were going.

Correct answer:

All of these sentences are correct.

Explanation:

There are two appropriate sentence structures using subordinate clauses:

1.) "Independent Clause + Subordinate Clause"

2.) "Subordinate Clause + Comma + Independent Clause"

All of the answer choices conform to one of the two structures. "They could not see where they were going" follows the first rule (with "where" being the subordinating conjunction), as does "They had to whisper because it was late" (with "because" being the subordinating conjunction). "Although it was raining, they went hiking" follows the second structure (with "although" being the coordinating conjunction).

Example Question #5 : Subordinating Conjunction Errors

In the sentence below, which of the following subordinating conjunctions will MOST change the meaning of the sentence when substituted for the underlined "if"?

That bear won't attack us if we lay down and play dead.

Possible Answers:

if only

once

after

unless

as long as

Correct answer:

unless

Explanation:

Of all of the possible subordinating conjunctions provided as answer choices, only "unless" makes it sound as though lying down and playing dead will result in the bear attacking. The other answers all make the opposite recommendation. So, "unless" most changes the meaning of the sentence and is thus the correct answer.

Example Question #6 : Subordinating Conjunction 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?”

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:

take two related, though different forms

NO CHANGE

takes two—related though different—forms

takes two related though different forms

takes two related, though different, forms

Correct answer:

takes two related, though different, forms

Explanation:

The subordinating conjunction "though" creates a clause that should be set off from the main clause by commas. The subordinate clause in question is "though different." The main clause is structurally adequate in itself: "takes two related . . . forms." To show the subordinate nature of this clause, place an additional comma after "different."

Example Question #4 : Subordinating Conjunction Errors

I love cleaning. It’s a good way to unwind at the end of the day, and, I always function better in a clean environment. I once heard someone say, “You’re home is your temple.” I attempt to lived my life by that. My priorities are getting rid of clutter, sweeping the floor, washing the dishes, and cleaning the counter top in our kitchen. I mop the floor extremely, quickly. I don’t mop all that often, but my roommates appreciate it whenever I do!.

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:

NO CHANGE

It’s a good way to unwind at the end of the day, and I always function better in a clean environment.

It’s a good way to unwind at the end of the day, also, I always function better in a clean environment.

It’s a good way to unwind at the end of the day; also I always function better in a clean environment.

It’s a good way to unwind at the end of the day and, also, I always function better in a clean environment.

Correct answer:

It’s a good way to unwind at the end of the day, and I always function better in a clean environment.

Explanation:

This sentence contains two clauses that are separate ideas, so a conjunction and punctuation are needed to connect them. The comma and the conjunction "and" correctly do this. The other choices incorrectly use commas or semicolons.

Example Question #5 : Subordinating Conjunction 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's 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.

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

Education is violent: because it is creative.

Education is violent because it is creative.

Education is violent; it is creative.

Correct answer:

Education is violent because it is creative.

Explanation:

The conjunction "because" does not here require any punctuation. It makes no sense to use a colon or a semi-colon. Likewise, do not be tempted to drop it completely (as in the option that merely has "it is creative" after the semi-colon). It has an important meaning and should be retained. Clearly, the next sentence is in parallel to this, using "because." This gives us a hint regarding the sentence we are considering.

Example Question #9 : Subordinating Conjunction 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 best translates the author’s usage of “as” bolded in the second sentence?

Possible Answers:

like

akin to

while

as being

Correct answer:

as being

Explanation:

The sense of the sentence in question is that we anticipate the future and thus treat it as though it is coming too slowly. Another way that we could translate "as" here would be "as though it were..." In lieu of this longer phrase, "as being" is an adequate translation. The options indicating similarity or similitude are not appropriate in this context.

Example Question #6 : Subordinating Conjunction Errors

Adapted from The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1774; trans. Boylan 1854)

That the life of man is but a dream, many a man has surmised heretofore. I, too, am everywhere pursued by this feeling. When I consider the narrow limits within which our active and inquiring faculties are confined, I am silent. Likewise, when I see how all our energies are wasted in providing for mere necessities, which again has no further end than to prolong a wretched existence, I find myself to be silenced. Indeed, discovering that all our satisfaction concerning certain subjects of investigation ends in nothing better than a passive resignation, while we amuse ourselves painting our prison-walls with bright figures and brilliant landscapes—when I consider all this Wilhelm—I am silent. I examine my own being, and find there a world, but a world rather of imagination and dim desires, than of distinctness and living power. Then, everything swims before my senses, and I smile and dream while pursuing my way through the world.

All learned professors and doctors are agreed that children do not comprehend the cause of their desires; however, nobody is willing to acknowledge that the grown-ups should wander about this earth like children, without knowing whence they come or whither they go, influenced as little by fixed motives but, instead, guided like them by biscuits, sugar-plums, and the rod.

I know what you will say in reply. Indeed, I am ready to admit that they are happiest, who, like children, amuse themselves with their playthings, dress and undress their dolls.  They are happiest, who attentively watch the cupboard, where mamma has locked up her sweet things, and, when at last they get a delicious morsel, eat it greedily, and exclaim, "More!" These are certainly happy beings; but others also are objects of envy, who dignify their paltry employments (and sometimes even their passions) with pompous titles, representing them to mankind as gigantic achievements performed for their welfare and glory. However, the man who humbly acknowledges the vanity of all this, who observes with what pleasure the thriving citizen converts his little garden into a paradise, and how patiently even the poor man pursues his weary way under his burden, and how all wish equally to behold the light of the sun a little longer—yes, such a man is at peace, and creates his own world within himself. Indeed, he is also happy precisely because he is a man. And then, however limited his sphere, he still preserves in his bosom the sweet feeling of liberty and knows that he can quit his prison whenever he likes.

What is the best form of the bolded selection, “which again has no further end than to prolong a wretched existence”?

Possible Answers:

which again have no further end than to prolong a wretched existence

which again has no further end but to prolong a wretched existence

which again has no further end than to prolong a wretched existence

that again has no further end than to prolong a wretched existence

Correct answer:

which again have no further end than to prolong a wretched existence

Explanation:

The key thing to notice here is the relationship between the relative clause's antecedent and the clause's verb. The antecedent is plural: "necessities." The verb in the relative clause should reflect this plural number. If we used "necessities" alone in a sentence, we would have something like: "The necessities have many aspects." "Have" is the appropriate plural verb to be used here.

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