ACT English : Verb Voice Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Verb Voice Errors

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

The new law was passed by a two-thirds majority.

Possible Answers:

A two-thirds majority passes the new law. 

The new law was passing by a two-thirds majority. 

NO CHANGE

The new law is passed by a two-thirds majority.

A two-thirds majority passed the new law.

Correct answer:

A two-thirds majority passed the new law.

Explanation:

In passive voice, the object is acted upon ("The new law was passed"). In active voice, the subject performs an action ("A two-thirds majority passed"). Passive voice typically uses "to be" helping verbs (in this case, "was"). Thus, in order to rewrite the sentence in active voice, it is important to ensure that the subject performs an action and to eliminate "to be" helping verbs, but there is no need to eliminate the past tense. In fact, eliminating the past tense alters the timeline of the action, and is therefore wrong. "The new law passed by a two-thirds majority" changes the subject of the sentence from "a two-thirds majority" to "the new law," which should be the object of the action, so this sentence is not the BEST choice.

Example Question #1 : Verb Voice 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 voice of the underlined verb "was formulated"?

Possible Answers:

subjunctive

indicative

passive

active

Correct answer:

passive

Explanation:

The voice of a verb refers to the relationship of activity between the subject and the verb of the sentence. It is divided only into the options "active" and "passive." In this sentence, the subject "it" stands for "the question." It is not the question that is "doing the asking"—as when one says, "Peter asks the question." Instead, the question "is being asked." It is passive—being done by someone else. 

Example Question #3 : Verb Voice Errors

Adapted from The Autobiography of John Adams (ed. 1856)

Here I will interrupt the narration for a moment to observe that, from all I have read of the history of Greece and Rome, England and France, and all I have observed at home and abroad, articulate eloquence in public assemblies is not the surest road to fame or preferment, at least, unless it be used with caution, very rarely, and with great reserve. The examples of Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson is enough to show that silence and reserve in public is more efficacious than argumentation or oratory. A public speaker who inserts himself, or is urged by others, into the conduct of affairs, by daily exertions to justify his measures, and answer the objections of opponents, makes himself too familiar with the public and unavoidably makes himself enemies. Few persons can bear to be outdone in reasoning or declamation or wit or sarcasm or repartee or satire, and all these things that are very apt to grow out of public debate. In this way, in a course of years, a nation becomes full of a man’s enemies, or at least, of such as have been galled in some controversy and take a secret pleasure in assisting to humble and mortify him. So much for this digression. We will now return to our memoirs.

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:

was urged

might have been urged

is urging

NO CHANGE

could be urged

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

The sentence is correct as it is written and needs no changed made to it in order to be grammatically correct. You can tell that the present verb "is urged" is in the correct tense because the verb "inserts" that precedes it in the sentence refers to the same subject, "A public speaker," and is also in the present tense. The mood of the verb is also correct as it is written for the same reason; "inserts" is in the indicative mood, so no modals are needed.

Example Question #1073 : Correcting Grammatical 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 their 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 it’s 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.

What is the best form of the boldfaced and underlined section?

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

was placing

has been placing

might be placing

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

The correct answer is "is placed," because this way of expressing means that the plant or animal is receiving the action of being placed. (Something or someone else is placing it into a new environment.) Such "received action" is expressed by means of the passive voice. A verb in the active voice would state, "The scientist places," or something akin to that. However, the plant is being placed, not doing the placing, so "is placed," the only answer choice that employs the passive voice, is the correct answer.

Example Question #4 : Verb Voice Errors

In 1929, E.F. Lindquist, a professor in the University of Iowa College of Education, began designing tests for the Iowa Academic Meet. The purpose of the meet was to identify exemplary high school students. Test-takers began with a first round of testing. This round occurred during the school day and covered ten core academic subjects. Students who scored well in the first round participated in district-level tests that were more difficult. High-scorers from the second round participated in a third round of testing. The top ten students in each subject area were rewarded with medals at a banquet. Although the test was a success, Lindquist wanted to reduce the competitive aspect of the test. To achieve this goal, Lindquist renamed the test the Iowa Every-Pupil Achievement Testing Program.

The tests popularity provided Lindquist with the opportunity to study how to best write, administer, and score a standardized test. However, Lindquist was not yet satisfied. He grew concerned that the test focused too much on rote memorization of content rather than on skill development. Lindquist began to work on a test for middle school students that would test skills. This test which was first administered in 1935 became known as the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. In 1942, the Every-Pupil test is discontinued and replaced with the Iowa Tests of Educational Development. As Lindquist had hoped, this test focused on testing skills rather than pure content memorization.

By the late 1950s, Lindquist had gained significant renown in the world of standardized testing, so he became involved in the process of developing a college admissions testing program. Although the SAT had been a commonly used admissions test since 1926, it was primarily marketed in the northeast and used as an admissions test for universities in that region. Schools outside this area used a variety of different tests that covered different content and was administered at different times. This led to unreliable results.

In 1958, that a standardized, national test be developed was proposed by Lindquist. He also hoped that, unlike the SAT, the new test would measure academic achievement so that it could be used to gauge each student’s level of preparation for college-level work.

Lindquist and a man named Ted McCarrel began developing the new test. One of McCarrel's main jobs was contacting admissions officers and convincing schools to use the new test. However, like the SAT, the ACT began as a regional test. Unlike the SAT, however, it was primarily used in the Midwest. With time and effort, the test became more popular in other parts of the country.

In 1959, the ACT was administered for the first time. The test was similar to the Iowa Tests of Educational Development. It consisted of four parts; English, math, social studies, and natural science. The social studies and natural science portions required students to interpret readings from each field; thus, Lindquist was able to maintain his goal of testing skills rather than memorized facts. Students had forty-five minutes to complete each section of the test. The ACT quickly became a staple of the college admissions process. In the first year, 132,963 students took the test, and that number grew in subsequent years.

Today, many colleges and universities in the U.S. accept ACT results from students applying for admission. So, don't worry! I'm sure your college will accept it too!

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:

the development of a standardized, national test was proposed by Lindquist

NO CHANGE

Lindquist proposed that a standardized, national test be developed

that a standardized, national test be developed proposed Lindquist

that a standardized, national test be proposed by Lindquist developed

Correct answer:

Lindquist proposed that a standardized, national test be developed

Explanation:

The original sentence is confusing, so we know it needs to be revised. "That a standardized, national test be proposed by Lindquist developed" is even more confusing, so it cannot be the correct answer. The same is true of "that a standardized, national test be developed proposed Lindquist." Thus, we are left with two options: "Lindquist proposed that a standardized, national test be developed" and "the development of a standardized, national test was proposed by Lindquist." When given the choice, we should avoid passive voice and opt for active voice. When passive voice is used, an action is performed on an object by the subject. In this case, the development of a test (object) is being proposed (action) by Lindquist (subject). When possible, we maintain active voice by placing the subject first so that the subject performs the action on the object. Thus, "Lindquist proposed that a standardized, national test be developed" is the correct answer because the subject (Lindquist) is performing the action (proposed) on the object (the development of a test).

Example Question #5 : Verb Voice Errors

Alfred Tarski, born on January 14, 1901, became known during his lifetime as a brilliant mathematician and teacher. He is best known for proving several advanced geometric theorems. By the time Tarski moved to the United States, much of Europe has already fallen into the grips of World War II. Hundreds of mathematical problems were solved by Tarski.

Tarski enrolled in Warsaw University in 1920. Originally wishing to study biology, mathematics was the subject in which Tarski ultimately excelled. He graduated with honors, and began his career as a math teacher. A true mathematical virtuoso, Tarski was concerned with neither the application of his research nor publishing his findings.   

Discoveries made by Tarski influenced the work of one of the world’s greatest physicists, Albert Einstein. Einstein and Tarski had many similar interests in common. Unlike Albert Einstein, however, Tarski was especially fond for pure mathematics. Although Tarski and Einstein were contemporaries, Einstein was the most prolific writer of the two.

In 1929, Tarski married his co-worker, Maria Witkowska. An affinity for mathematics ran in the family. Tarski even admitted that his wife knew more about algebra, geometry and trigonometry than did he. Tarski's two children, Jan, and Ina, grew up to be prominent mathematicians themselves; however, neither Jan nor Ina have received a great deal of international attention.

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:

Hundreds of problems, all of them mathematical, were solved by Tarski

NO CHANGE

Tarski solved hundreds of mathematical problems

Mathematical problems—hundreds of them—were solved by Tarski

Correct answer:

Tarski solved hundreds of mathematical problems

Explanation:

The ACT prefers the active voice over the passive voice. We know that the sentence "Hundreds of mathematical problems were solved by Tarski." contains the passive because it has a form of the verb "to be" (i.e. "were") followed by a past participle (i.e. "solved"). 

The correct way to express the sentence in active voice is "Tarski solved hundreds of mathematical problems."

Each of the other answer choices contains a passive construction and is therefore incorrect.

Example Question #2 : Verb Voice Errors

Communist rule in Poland ended in 1989 and the following year proved disastrous for the Polish economy. Prices rapidly ballooned while incomes dropped. Attempting to find a solution, the Balcerowicz Plan was implemented by Polish officials. The plan liberalized the economy by abolishing price controls, exposing markets to international competition, and it discontinued most industrial subsidiesIn the time of the years following these efforts, economic growth has increased steady

After years of negotiations and economic and political reforms, Poland became a member of The European Union on May 1, 2004. Soon after, Polish officials voted in favor for laws that would eventually mend the unemployment problem in Poland significantly. In fact, the unemployment rate improved for the first time in five years immediately following Poland's membership. The involvement of Poland in the Eastern Bloc is currently greater than the Czech Republic. The passage of two policies regarding energy credits from foreign countries provide evidence of the emergence of Poland in the global economy.

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:

the Balcerowicz Plan implemented

NO CHANGE

Polish officials implemented the Balcerowicz Plan

the Balcerowicz Plan, which Polish officials implemented

Correct answer:

Polish officials implemented the Balcerowicz Plan

Explanation:

A modifier that begins a sentence must modify the element immediately following it. In this case, the modifier is the gerund phrase "Attempting to find a solution," but the element immediately following it is "the Balcerowicz Plan." Logically speaking, the Polish officials were the ones attempting to find a solution, not the Balcerowicz Plan, so the element immediately following "Attempting to find a solution" must be "Polish officials" and not "the Balcerowicz Plan." The correct was to phrase the sentence is "Attempting to find a solution, Polish officials implemented the Balcerowicz Plan."

Example Question #3 : Verb Voice 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:

The last few decades marked by

NO CHANGE

The last few decades are being marked by

The last few decades had marked by

The last few decades have been marked by

Correct answer:

The last few decades have been marked by

Explanation:

Reading the sentence as written, you likely stumbled over your words—and for good reason! The selection does not properly use the voice of the verb in conjunction with the action of the sentence. The subject of the sentence is "decades." This subject is not performing the action—as is indicated by the prepositional phrase beginning with "by." The verb must be passive. By looking to the rest of the passage's context, you will note that it needs to be in the past tense, that is, "have been marked" instead of "are being marked."

Example Question #1078 : Correcting Grammatical 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 voice of the bolded verb "has locked up"?

Possible Answers:

indicative

passive

subjunctive

active

Correct answer:

active

Explanation:

Remember, voice is a matter of being active or passive. (The other two options pertain to mood, not voice.) In this subordinate clause, the verb "has locked up" describes an action being done by "mamma" to the "sweet things." The subject is active with respect to the direct object.

Example Question #4 : Verb Voice 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. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

Scenes from daily life were painted by the French Impressionists, in a break with their predecessors.

Possible Answers:

In a break with their predecessors, the French Impressionists painted scenes from daily life.

The French Impressionists’ scenes from daily life were painted in a break with their predecessors.

The French Impressionists broke from their predecessors who painted scenes from daily life.

Breaking from their predecessors, scenes from daily life were painted by the French Impressionists.

Scenes from daily life were painted by the French Impressionists, in a break with their predecessors.

Correct answer:

In a break with their predecessors, the French Impressionists painted scenes from daily life.

Explanation:

The initial sentence is in passive voice. The correct answer conveys the proper meaning while changing it to active voice.

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