PSAT Writing : Identifying Verb Tense Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Writing

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Identifying Verb Tense Errors

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Seafarers have not been able to measure longitude during their journeys until the 18th century, when clockmaker William Harrison solved the problem with a very precise clock. No error.

Possible Answers:

when

have not been able to

solved the problem with

their journeys

No error.

Correct answer:

have not been able to

Explanation:

The verb tenses in this sentence do not work together. The first part of the sentence takes place before a point in the past (when Harrison solved the problem), so the correct verb would be “had not been able.” The corrected sentence reads, "Seafarers had not been able to measure longitude during their journeys until the 18th century, when clockmaker William Harrison solved the problem with a very precise clock."

Example Question #2 : Identifying Verb Tense Errors

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Frustrated by the limited career options in his small, rural hometown, Frank ran away with the circus and was becoming a contortionist. No error.

Possible Answers:

with the circus

No error.

was becoming

small, rural hometown

Frustrated by

Correct answer:

was becoming

Explanation:

There is no reason for the last verb in this sentence to be in the past progressive tense—it happened at a singular point in the past. The corrected sentence reads, "Frustrated by the limited career options in his small, rural hometown, Frank ran away with the circus and became a contortionist."

Example Question #3 : Identifying Verb Tense Errors

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Although he found his job being dreadfully boring, he remained committed, knowing that his wages would buy him a plane ticket to Paris. No error.

Possible Answers:

being

Although

he remained

would buy

No error.

Correct answer:

being

Explanation:

This sentence uses the wrong form of the verb “to be.” After “found,” it is correct to use the infinitive "to be" instead of "being." The corrected sentence reads, "Although he found his job to be dreadfully boring, he remained committed, knowing that his wages would buy him a plane ticket to Paris."

Example Question #4 : Identifying Verb Tense Errors

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Long before she began her tenure as chair of the Biology department, Professor Green has taught undergraduate classes in Spanish literature. No error.

Possible Answers:

her tenure

No error.

in

has taught

Long before

Correct answer:

has taught

Explanation:

The timeline of this sentence is off. The first phrase is in the past tense, so the verb “has taught” needs to indicate that it happened before that point in the past. So, "has taught" should be changed to "had taught," and "has taught" contains the sentence's error. The corrected sentence reads, "Long before she began her tenure as chair of the Biology department, Professor Green had taught undergraduate classes in Spanish literature."

Example Question #5 : Identifying Verb Tense Errors

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

The show will not have been such a fiasco if the animals had not escaped from their kennels just as the curtain was rising. No error.

Possible Answers:

will not

No error.

had not escaped

such a fiasco if

just as

Correct answer:

will not

Explanation:

This sentence describes a situation that did not happen, and should use the conditional “would” instead of the future tense “will.” The corrected sentence reads, "The show would not have been such a fiasco if the animals had not escaped from their kennels just as the curtain was rising."

Example Question #6 : Identifying Verb Tense Errors

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Her flat intonation masked the incredible excitement she felt at found the prize in the cereal boxNo error.

Possible Answers:

found

incredible

in the cereal box

Her flat intonation

No error.

Correct answer:

found

Explanation:

This sentence uses the wrong form of the verb “to find.” In order to fit into the timeline of the sentence, it should read “having found” or possibly "finding." The corrected sentence reads, "Her flat intonation masked the incredible excitement she felt at having found the prize in the cereal box."

Example Question #7 : Identifying Verb Tense Errors

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

The issue being that the director does not come into the office on Fridays and I am not familiar with the process she uses. No error.

Possible Answers:

familiar with

does not come into

she

No error.

being that

Correct answer:

being that

Explanation:

This sentence uses the "-ing" verb “being” when it isn’t necessary. In fact, this sentence is a fragment as it is written, but can be made into a complete sentence by changing "being" as "is." This also sounds much cleaner and more direct. The corrected sentence reads, "The issue is that the director does not come into the office on Fridays and I am not familiar with the process she uses."

Example Question #8 : Identifying Verb Tense Errors

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Robert being always the top of his class in high school, and he put enormous pressure on himself to maintain his rank in college. No error.

Possible Answers:

No error.

being

his

pressure on himself

the top of his class

Correct answer:

being

Explanation:

The gerund “being” here is unnecessary and makes the sentence sound clunky. Replace it with “was” to make the sentence run more smoothly: "Robert was always the top of his class in high school, and he put enormous pressure on himself to maintain his rank in college."

Example Question #4 : Identifying Verb Tense Errors

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Although he had never taken piano lessons, anytime that Jeff, who was unusually intelligent, sees a piano, he was able to play a song. No error

Possible Answers:

who was

sees

Although

No error

able to play

Correct answer:

sees

Explanation:

The entire sentence refers to the past, as we can tell from the verb "was" in "who was unusually intelligent" and the verb "was" in "was able to play." Therefore, the verb "sees" should be in the past tense like the rest of the verbs in the sentence. To correct the sentence's error, we would need to change "sees" to "saw."

Example Question #8 : Identifying Verb Errors

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

The revolutionary, having been the subject of abuse during his childhood, emphatically lead the uprising, fueled by both a desire for social justice, as well as a certain anger that he himself did not entirely understand. No error

Possible Answers:

No error

lead

having been 

fueled by both

he himself

Correct answer:

lead

Explanation:

"Lead" is in the present tense. Given that the rest of the sentence is in the past tense, this verb should also be in the past tense. Therefore, it should be "led," not "lead."

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