SAT Writing : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas for Dependent Clauses

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Writing

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas For Dependent Clauses

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 initially refused to go to the cinema, James finally saw the movie, that his friends had recommendedNo error

Possible Answers:

No error

refused to go to the cinema

movie, that

had recommended

Although he

Correct answer:

movie, that

Explanation:

Commas, gramatically speaking, should never be used before or after the word "that." The correct sentence would have: "James finally saw the movie that his friends . . ."

"Had recommended" could be changed to "recommended", for the sake of simplicity, but the comma error is more flagrant.

Example Question #2 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas For Dependent Clauses

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

Joey will reluctantly eat broccoli and spinach but his favorite green vegetables are peas and green beans. No error

Possible Answers:

are

spinach but

No error

green beans

reluctantly

Correct answer:

spinach but

Explanation:

The sentence consists of two independent clauses ("Joey will reluctantly eat broccoli and spinach" and "his favorite green vegetables are peas and green beans") joined by a coordinating conjunction, "but." (Other coordinating conjunctions can include "and," "or," "nor," "yet," "so," and "for.") When two independent clauses are joined by a coordinating conjunction, a comma is required after the first clause immediately before the conjunction. The corrected sentence would read, "Joey will reluctantly eat broccoli and spinach, but his favorite green vegetables are peas and green beans."

Example Question #3 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas For Dependent Clauses

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

The student body cheered loudly and celebrated wildly, when summer vacation arrived once again. No error

Possible Answers:

student body

loudly and

No error

when at long last

student body

Correct answer:

when at long last

Explanation:

The comma used between "wildly" and "when" is extraneous and creates a grammatical error in this sentence. No comma is needed to separate the subordinate clause "when summer vacation arrived once again" from the independent clause "The student body cheered loudly and celebrated wildly." Note that if the order of these clauses were reversed and the sentence began with the subordinate clause, a comma would be needed after "again": "When summer vacation arrived once again, the student body cheered loudly and celebrated wildly"; however, since the subordinate clause follows the independent clause in the sentence as it is given, no comma is needed.

Example Question #4 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas For Dependent Clauses

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

While I would love to go to the beach with you I have to study instead. No error

Possible Answers:

While I

you I

love to

study instead

No error

Correct answer:

you I

Explanation:

“While I would love to go to the beach with you” is a dependent clause, which means that if it is removed from the sentence, the rest of the sentence (“I have to study instead”) will still be a complete sentence. Because commas are always used to separate a dependent clause from an independent clause when the dependent clause precedes the independent clause, a comma must appear between “with you” and “I have.”

Example Question #4 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas For Dependent Clauses

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

Wherever they go, they can’t seem to find a vacation spot, that suits their needs. No error

Possible Answers:

can't seem

Wherever

spot,

go,

No error

Correct answer:

spot,

Explanation:

“Wherever they go” is a dependent clause, so it must be separated from the rest of the sentence by a comma. However, commas generally don’t appear before or after the word “that,” so no comma is necessary there. (Specifically, commas are not generally needed to separate dependent clauses from independent clauses when the dependent clause follows the independent clause.)

Example Question #5 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas For Dependent Clauses

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

Being a strong math student Chris didn’t understand his classmates’ confusion with prime numbers, logarithms, or exponents. No error

Possible Answers:

No error.

logarithms,

student

classmates'

prime numbers,

Correct answer:

student

Explanation:

“Being a strong student” is a modifier that describes “Chris,” so a comma is needed to separate the two. The three items in the list are properly punctuated with commas, and since "classmates" is plural, the correct possessive is "classmates’."

Example Question #6 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas For Dependent Clauses

Select the underlined word or words that need to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences may not contain an error.

Here’s the situation: your dog isn’t properly trained to be around children, adults or other animals. No error

Possible Answers:

No error

Your

situation:

children,

adults

Correct answer:

adults

Explanation:

Because “Here’s the situation” is an independent clause introducing another independent clause, a colon is the correct punctuation mark to use to separate them. A comma is required after “adults,” though, since it’s an item in a list.

Example Question #7 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas For Dependent Clauses

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

Jane wanted to go parasailing over vacation but then, a fierce storm rolled in and flooded the harbor. No error

Possible Answers:

vacation but then, a

and

No error

over

wanted to

Correct answer:

vacation but then, a

Explanation:

The placement of the comma in this sentence between "then" and "a" is incorrect. The comma should instead appear between "vacation" and "but" in order to correctly connect the compound sentence's two independent clauses using a comma followed by a conjunction.

Example Question #8 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas For Dependent Clauses

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

The crowd jumped out of their seats and cheered loudly, when the home team scored the game-winning shot at the buzzer. No error.  

Possible Answers:

No error

at

game-winning

loudly, when

out of 

Correct answer:

loudly, when

Explanation:

The comma between "loudly" and "when" is unnecessary, creating and punctuation error in the sentence.

Example Question #9 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas For Dependent Clauses

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

Although Danny was not the best swimmer his friends always said he threw the best pool parties. No error

Possible Answers:

always said

Although 

threw

No error

swimmer his

Correct answer:

swimmer his

Explanation:

The sentence requires a comma after "swimmer" in order to correctly join its dependent and independent clauses ("Although Danny was not the best swimmer" and "his friends always said he threw the best pool parties"). 

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