SAT Writing : Correcting Conventional and Idiomatic Usage Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Writing

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Example Questions

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Example Question #387 : Usage 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.

The snob woman looked down on the slovenly young man, who always dressed in a disheveled manner.

Possible Answers:

The snob woman looks down on the slovenly young man

The snobby woman looked down on the slovenly young man

The snob woman looking down on the slovenly young man

The snob woman looked down to the slovenly young man

The snob woman looked down on the slovenly young man

Correct answer:

The snobby woman looked down on the slovenly young man

Explanation:

The use of "snob" as an adjective in this sentence is incorrect, as "snob" is a noun and cannot properly modify "woman." The word needs to be changed to an adjectival form. "The snobby woman looked down on the slovenly young man" is the only answer choice to appropriately use an adjective.

Example Question #5 : Correcting Conventional And Idiomatic Usage 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.

I learned a lot from the woman that I talked to.

Possible Answers:

I learned a lot from the woman who I talked to.

I would learn a lot from the woman that I had talked to.

I learned a lot from the woman whom I talked to.

I learned a lot from the woman to whom I talked.

I learned a lot from the woman that I talked to.

Correct answer:

I learned a lot from the woman to whom I talked.

Explanation:

We do not end a sentence with a preposition. Also, we use the pronoun "whom" when a person is the object of the verb. Here, the woman is the object of the verb "talked".

Example Question #1 : Correcting Conventional And Idiomatic Usage 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.

No matter how hard I concentrated on the question, the solution to it kept alluding me.

Possible Answers:

the solution was keeping allusive.

the solution was kept elusive.

the solution to it kept eluding me.

alluding me was the solution to it.

the solution to it kept alluding me.

Correct answer:

the solution to it kept eluding me.

Explanation:

This question deals with incorrect word choice. The correct word is elude, which means to stay out of reach. Allude means to indirectly refer to something.

Example Question #43 : Other Usage 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.

The rain has a big affect on his mood.

Possible Answers:

The rain has a big effect on his mood.

On his mood, the rain is largely effecting.

(No changes to original.)

The rain affects his mood.

His mood has a big affect on the rain.

Correct answer:

The rain has a big effect on his mood.

Explanation:

Here, we need the noun “effect,” not the verb “affect.”

Example Question #2 : Correcting Conventional And Idiomatic Usage 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.

Many New Yorkers had no choice but to evacuate the area because of the imminent danger of the approaching snow storm.

Possible Answers:

because of the imminent danger from the approaching snow storm.

because of the imminent danger of the approaching snow storm.

because of the eminent danger from the approaching snowstorm.

because of the imminent danger of the approaching snowstorm.

because of the eminent danger of the approaching snow storm.

Correct answer:

because of the imminent danger of the approaching snowstorm.

Explanation:

“Imminent” means threatening or looming, while “eminent” means well-known or famous. Also, “snowstorm” is a compound word (two words put together).

Example Question #3 : Correcting Conventional And Idiomatic Usage 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.

The car was determined to be the one which was used in the robbery.

Possible Answers:

the one which was used in the robbery

that was used in the robbery.

which was used in the robbery.

the one having been used in the robbery.

that which was used in the robbery.

Correct answer:

the one which was used in the robbery

Explanation:

While the underlined phrase is a bit convoluted, the phrase is fully grammatically correct. Either "that" or "which" would be appropriate in the sentence, but using both or futher modifying the phrase makes it confusing and unclear. 

Example Question #6 : Correcting Conventional And Idiomatic Usage Errors

The two campaigns became certain the election was so close election night would not feature a definite result.

Possible Answers:

was closely

was so close

was so close that

was too close

was close

Correct answer:

was so close that

Explanation:

The key problem with the sentence is that the portion after the underlined part has to be introduced by a pronoun introducing the relative clause "election night would not feature a definite result." "Was so close that" is the only choice among the answers featuring such a word.

Example Question #4 : Correcting Errors Involving Commonly Confused Words

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.

We're you ever planning on telling me that we're almost out of gas or were you going to wait until the car stopped working?

Possible Answers:

We're you ever planning on telling me that were almost out of gas or we're you going to wait until the car stopped working?

Were you ever planning on telling me that we're almost out of gas or were you going to wait until the car stopped working?

Were you ever planning on telling me that were almost out of gas or were you going to wait until the car stopped working?

We're you ever planning on telling me that we're almost out of gas or we're you going to wait until the car stopped working?

Were you ever planning on telling me that we're almost out of gas or we're you going to wait until the car stopped working?

Correct answer:

Were you ever planning on telling me that we're almost out of gas or were you going to wait until the car stopped working?

Explanation:

"Were" is the past tense of "to be," and "we're" is the contraction of the two words "we are." For the first underlined word, we need the past tense of "to be," and we can tell this by noticing that this "were" needs to function as part of the verb "were . . . ever planning." The second underlined word needs to be the contraction of "we are," since we could replace it with "we are" ("that we are almost out of gas") and the sentence would still make sense. The third word needs to be the past tense of "to be," since, like the first word, it is part of the verb phrase "were . . . going." So, the correct answer is "Were you ever planning on telling me that we're almost out of gas? Or were you going to wait until the car stopped working?"

Example Question #242 : Correcting Usage 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.

Marlene and Josh spent hours debating what to wear and where to go for dinner.

Possible Answers:

wear and were

where and wear

wear and wear

were and wear

wear and where

Correct answer:

wear and where

Explanation:

"Wear" is a verb, "where" is an adverb, and "were" is the plural past tense form of the verb "to be." So, the correct answer is "wear and where."

Example Question #3 : Correcting Conventional And Idiomatic Usage 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.

What is most importantest in life is having love, health, and happiness in personal relationships.

Possible Answers:

importantest

most important

most importantly

more importanter

most importantest

Correct answer:

most important

Explanation:

"Importantest" is not a word, and is an incorrect superlative form. The proper superlative form of "important" is "most important," which is the correct answer choice.

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