SAT Writing : Identifying Ambiguous Modifier Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Writing

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Identifying Ambiguous Modifier 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.

When she was young, living in her mother's garden, Helen liked to imagine there were fairies.

Possible Answers:

When she was young, living in her mother's garden, Helen liked to imagine there were fairies.

Helen liked to imagine, living in her mother's garden, there were fairies when she was young.

Helen, when she was young, living in her mother's garden, liked to imagine there were fairies.

Living in her mother's garden, Helen liked to imagine there were fairies when she was young.

When she was young, Helen liked to imagine there were fairies living in her mother's garden.

Correct answer:

When she was young, Helen liked to imagine there were fairies living in her mother's garden.

Explanation:

In many of these examples, it is not clear if the modifier "living in her mother's garden" refers to Helen or the fairies. The modifier should appear as close to the noun that it modifies as possible so that the meaning is clear. For this reason, "When she was young, Helen liked to imagine there were fairies living in her mother's garden" is the most correct answer.

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