SAT Writing : Identifying Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Writing

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Identifying Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

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

Bianca and the sister were at odds because although they were members of the same family, they felt differently about their parents' divorce. No error

Possible Answers:

their

No error

differently

the sister

because

Correct answer:

the sister

Explanation:

The error in this sentence arises where we are told that Bianca and her sister disagree over their parents' divorce, but her sister is presented abstractly; the correct usage of "her sister" allows the individual mentioned to be presented in relation to Bianca. Without the "her," we cannot be certain what the relation is, although it is clearly indicated elsewhere in the sentence.

Example Question #1 : Identifying Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

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

Since Molly won first place and Meg won second, she was honored at the awards ceremony after dinnerNo error

Possible Answers:

after dinner

won

she was

No error

at

Correct answer:

she was

Explanation:

This sentence has an ambiguous pronoun. To whom does "she" refer? You could fix this either by referring to both women with "they," if it is indeed the case that both were honored at the awards ceremony after dinner, or by replacing "she" with the name of the woman being specified.

Example Question #3 : Identifying Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

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

Mr. Harris told Mr. Jarvins that at the latest staff meeting, the owner of the company expressed a strong interest in promoting him to a senior executive position. No error

Possible Answers:

No error

him

expressed

executive

interest in

Correct answer:

him

Explanation:

This sentence contains an ambiguous pronoun. We don't know whether "him" refers to Mr. Harris or Mr. Jarvins, so "him" is the error in the sentence. If we wanted to fix the error, we would have to replace "him" with the unique name of the person—Mr. Harris or Mr. Jarvins—being considered for the promotion.

Example Question #4 : Identifying Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

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

Jim and Tommy were late to work for the fourth time that week, since they had to pick her up at the airport and her flight was late. No error

Possible Answers:

they

since

No error

her

were

Correct answer:

her

Explanation:

This is an ambiguous pronoun. We are not sure to whom "her" refers. The sentence should use her name.

Example Question #5 : Identifying Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

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

Many experts advocate changing how children learn to write, theorizing that they will have more success in the long run. No error

Possible Answers:

No error

changing

theorizing

they

to write

Correct answer:

they

Explanation:

"They" is an ambiguous pronoun reference—it could refer to either "experts" or "children."

Example Question #2 : Identifying Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

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

When Susanne and Patricia were called on stage as the finalists for the debate competition, she knew who was going to win. No error.

Possible Answers:

When

she

No error.

the finalists

were called

Correct answer:

she

Explanation:

"She" contains this sentence's error. As Susanne and Patricia are both girls, the pronoun "she" is ambiguous. Also, the "she" could refer to another person—perhaps someone observing the competition in the audience. We don't know if the she refers to Susanne, Patricia, or someone else, and this makes the sentence's meaning unclear.

Example Question #3 : Identifying Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

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

Jane and Annabel were so focused on the music the DJ was playing that she lost track of time. No error

Possible Answers:

No error

of time

she

were

was playing

Correct answer:

she

Explanation:

While the subjects of the sentence are "Jane and Annabel," the sentence later uses the pronoun "she," which could refer to either of the women. We can correct this ambiguity by replacing "she" with "they."

Example Question #4 : Identifying Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

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

We were confused when our Physics and Calculus teachers were not around during lunch, but then we heard that he was in a faculty meeting. No error

Possible Answers:

No error

during

but then

were confused

he

Correct answer:

he

Explanation:

The writer uses the pronoun "he" in this sentence, which is ambiguous because there are two teachers. The writer should use the pronoun "they," which is plural and thus agrees with its plural antecedent "teachers."

Example Question #9 : Identifying Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

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

Regina and Katherine have been best friends since the third grade, so it was no surprise to anyone that she ended up going to the same college. No error

Possible Answers:

have been

she

No error

no

anyone

Correct answer:

she

Explanation:

Since the subject of the sentence is "Regina and Katherine," the pronoun "she" is used incorrectly here and does not reflect that the writer is referring to two women.  The writer should replace "she" with the plural pronoun "they."

Example Question #10 : Identifying Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

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

Kenny told Pete that the angry chickens on Mr. Peterson's farm would have nothing to do with him. No error

Possible Answers:

would

No error

him

on

nothing

Correct answer:

him

Explanation:

The pronoun "him" is ambiguous here, as the reader cannot say for certain whether the "him" is referring to Kenny or Pete. To fix the error, we would need to replace "him" with the unique name of the person that the angry chickens would have nothing to do with. 

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