ACT English : Subject-Verb Agreement Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

Example Question #10 : Simple Subject Errors

Adapted from The Discourse on Method by René Descartes (1637; 1899, ed. Eliot)

From my childhood, I have been familiar with letters; and as I was given to believe that by their help a clear and certain knowledge of all that is useful in life might be acquired, I was ardently desirously for instruction in them. But as soon as I had finished the entire course of study, at the close of which it is customarily to be admitted into the order of the learned, I completely changed my opinion. I found myself involved in so many doubts and errors and was convinced that I had not advanced in all my attempts at learning. At every turn, ignorance and unknowing was to be discovered. And yet, I was studying in one of the most celebrated Schools in Europe. I thought there must be learned men in it, at least if such were anywhere to be found. I had been taught all that others learned there. However, not contented with the sciences actually taught us, I had, in addition, read all the books that had fallen into my hands, studying those branches that are judged to be the most curious and rare. I knew the judgment that others had formed of me. I did not find that I was considered inferior to my fellows, although there were among them some whom were already marked out to fill the places of our instructors. And, finally, our era appeared to me as flourishing and fertile with powerful minds as any preceding one. I was thus led to take the liberty of judging of all other men by myself. Furthermore, I concluded that there was no science in existence that was of such a nature as I had previously been given to believe.

Which of the following is the best form of the underlined selection "although there were among them"?

Possible Answers:

although, there were among them

although there are among them

although there was among them

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

As written, this portion of the sentence is correct. It subject is the substantive adjective "some," which implies the plural subject "some people." Therefore, you can think of this section of the setence in the form, "Although there were some people among them. . ." Notice that it would be wrong to write this in the form, "Although there was some people."

Example Question #11 : Simple Subject Errors

Adapted from The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James (1902)

In the matter of religions, it is particularly easy distinguishing the too orders of question. Every religious phenomenon has its history and its derivation from natural antecedents. What is nowadays called the higher criticism of the Bible are only a study of the Bible from this existential point of view, neglected to much by the earlier church. Under just what biographic conditions did the sacred writers bring forth their various contributions to the holy volume? What had they exactly in their several individual minds, when they delivered their utterances? These are manifestly questions of historical fact, and one does not see how the answer to it can decide offhand the still further question: of what use should such a volume, with its manner of coming into existence so defined, be to us as a guide to life and a revelation? To answer this other question we must have already in our mind some sort of a general theory as to what the peculiarities in a thing should be which give it value for purposes of revelation; and this theory itself would be what I just called a spiritual judgment. Combining it with our existential judgment, we might indeed deduce another spiritual judgment as to the Bibles’ worth. Thus, if our theory of revelation-value were to affirm that any book, to possess it, must have been composed automatically or not by the free caprice of the writer, or that it must exhibit no scientific and historic errors and express no local or personal passions, the Bible would probably fare ill at our hands. But if, on the other hand, our theory should allow that a book may well be a revelation in spite of errors and passions and deliberate human composition, if only it be a true record of the inner experiences of great-souled persons wrestling with the crises of his fate, than the verdict would be much favorable. You see that the existential facts by itself are insufficient for determining the value; and the best adepts of the higher criticism accordingly never confound the existential with the spiritual problem. With the same conclusions of fact before them, some take one view, and some another, of the Bible's value as a revelation, according as their spiritual judgment as to the foundation of values differ.

What is the best form of the underlined selection, "criticism of the Bible are only a study of the Bible from this existential point of view"?

Possible Answers:

criticism of the Bible are, instead, a study of the Bible from this existential point of view

NO CHANGE

criticism of Bibles are only a study of the Bible from this existential point of view

criticism of the Bible is only a study of the Bible from this existential point of view

Correct answer:

criticism of the Bible is only a study of the Bible from this existential point of view

Explanation:

To see the problem with this sentence as written, first simplify the structure to get "What is . . . called . . . higher criticism . . . are." The issue here is the ambiguous nature of the pronoun "what." It can be plural or singular depending on its usage in a given sentence. Here, it is singular, as shown by the "is" that links it to "higher criticism." This whole relative clause ("what . . . criticism") is the subject of the main clause. It is a singular subject, which means that "are" is wrong as the main verb of the main clause of the sentence.

Example Question #12 : Simple Subject Errors

Choose the answer that best corrects the underlined portion of the sentence. If the underlined portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

There was a team of ice skaters gathered in the hotel lobby earlier today.

Possible Answers:

were

NO CHANGE

has been

are

is

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

"A team" is singular, so we need to pick out a singular verb. We also need that verb to be in the past tense so that it matches the past tense verb "gathered" that appears later in the sentence and makes sense given the phrase "earlier today." The verb that is written in the sentence as-is, "was," is the only answer choice that fulfills both of these criteria, so "NO CHANGE" is the correct answer.

Example Question #13 : Simple Subject Errors

Choose the answer that best corrects the underlined portion of the sentence. If the underlined portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

A group of travelers in the hotel lobby seem to be ready for breakfast.

Possible Answers:

seems

NO CHANGE

have seemed

to seem

are seeming

Correct answer:

seems

Explanation:

“Seems” matches both the tense of the sentence (present) and case of the subject, “a group,” which is singular. "Seem" may seem correct, but the verb here describes the "group" as one whole, rather than describing a plural group of travelers. "Travelers" cannot be the subject of the sentence because it is contained in a prepositional phrase and unnecessary to the sentence's structure. If you find this confusing, try omitting the prepositional phrase from the sentence: "A group in the hotel lobby seem to be ready for breakfast" makes the error more apparent.

Example Question #14 : Simple Subject Errors

Choose the answer that best corrects the underlined portion of the sentence. If the underlined portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

The box of goodies from her mother, which included chocolate, pretzels, and quarters for the laundry machine, were a life-saver for Michelle during exams.

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

was a life-saver

were life-savers

was life-savers

saved lives

Correct answer:

was a life-saver

Explanation:

The verb "was" refers to "the box," which is singular, so "life-saver" should also be singular.

Example Question #15 : Simple Subject Errors

Traveling can be both fun and stressful. If you leaves the country, you should always keep your passport with you. A domestic trip may be more palatable to the xenophobic. However, even a short road trip can be scarier than staying at home. People would be wise to simply treat them to a movie.

Choose the answer that best corrects the underlined portion of the passage. If the underlined portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

If you will leaves the country, you should always keep your passport with you. 

If we leaves the country, you should always keeps your passport with you. 

If he leaves the country, you should always keep your passport with you.

If you leave the country, you should always keep your passport with you.

Correct answer:

If you leave the country, you should always keep your passport with you.

Explanation:

The correct answer has verb noun agreement between the noun "you" and the verb "leave." There is verb noun agreement in the answer containing "If he leaves the country." However, the pronoun "he" changes the meaning of the sentence.

Example Question #11 : Simple Subject Errors

In 1929, E.F. Lindquist, a professor in the University of Iowa College of Education, began designing tests for the Iowa Academic Meet. The purpose of the meet was to identify exemplary high school students. Test-takers began with a first round of testing. This round occurred during the school day and covered ten core academic subjects. Students who scored well in the first round participated in district-level tests that were more difficult. High-scorers from the second round participated in a third round of testing. The top ten students in each subject area were rewarded with medals at a banquet. Although the test was a success, Lindquist wanted to reduce the competitive aspect of the test. To achieve this goal, Lindquist renamed the test the Iowa Every-Pupil Achievement Testing Program.

The tests popularity provided Lindquist with the opportunity to study how to best write, administer, and score a standardized test. However, Lindquist was not yet satisfied. He grew concerned that the test focused too much on rote memorization of content rather than on skill development. Lindquist began to work on a test for middle school students that would test skills. This test which was first administered in 1935 became known as the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. In 1942, the Every-Pupil test is discontinued and replaced with the Iowa Tests of Educational Development. As Lindquist had hoped, this test focused on testing skills rather than pure content memorization.

By the late 1950s, Lindquist had gained significant renown in the world of standardized testing, so he became involved in the process of developing a college admissions testing program. Although the SAT had been a commonly used admissions test since 1926, it was primarily marketed in the northeast and used as an admissions test for universities in that region. Schools outside this area used a variety of different tests that covered different content and was administered at different times. This led to unreliable results.

In 1958, that a standardized, national test be developed was proposed by Lindquist. He also hoped that, unlike the SAT, the new test would measure academic achievement so that it could be used to gauge each student’s level of preparation for college-level work.

Lindquist and a man named Ted McCarrel began developing the new test. One of McCarrel's main jobs was contacting admissions officers and convincing schools to use the new test. However, like the SAT, the ACT began as a regional test. Unlike the SAT, however, it was primarily used in the Midwest. With time and effort, the test became more popular in other parts of the country.

In 1959, the ACT was administered for the first time. The test was similar to the Iowa Tests of Educational Development. It consisted of four parts; English, math, social studies, and natural science. The social studies and natural science portions required students to interpret readings from each field; thus, Lindquist was able to maintain his goal of testing skills rather than memorized facts. Students had forty-five minutes to complete each section of the test. The ACT quickly became a staple of the college admissions process. In the first year, 132,963 students took the test, and that number grew in subsequent years.

Today, many colleges and universities in the U.S. accept ACT results from students applying for admission. So, don't worry! I'm sure your college will accept it too!

Choose the answer that best corrects the bolded portion of the passage. If the bolded portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

have been

is

were

NO CHANGE

are

Correct answer:

were

Explanation:

When finding the verb that agrees with the noun in number, it is important to identify what noun the verb needs to agree with. In this case, the noun is "tests," which is plural, so we need the plural form of the verb. The verb here is "to be," but because the sentence is written in the past tense, we need the past tense of the verb, which is "was" or "were." The plural form is "were," so that is the correct answer. If you chose "NO CHANGE," you may have mistakenly identified the noun as "content" instead of "tests."

Example Question #17 : Simple Subject Errors

When the patent on Alexander Graham Bell’s revolutionary invention, the telephone, expired in 1894 thousands of new firms entered the telecommunication industry. Among them were a collection of profitable companies that merged to form what would later become known as The Bell System. The Bell System had amassed such weight in the industry that in 1933, when Congress passed a law declaring phone service a public utility, the Bell System quickly transformed into a monopoly. Lawmakers enthusiastic supported a series of provisions intended to stimulate competition. Appointed as the nation’s sole provider of telecommunication services, widespread criticism about the Bell System began to surface

The Federal Communications Act has so far been highly effective and the industry has grown tremendously as a result. In fact, for the past three years, the profitability of the largest three telecommunication companies has been greater than the largest three automotive companies. The number of calls provided by the top three companies range from five billion to six billion per day. Today, virtually everyone has made a phone call over the course of their lives. Most people do not know, however, that payment for swaths of electromagnetic wavelengths have become commonplace.

One explanation for such high call volume and large profits is that calls are becoming much less expensive for companies to provide, regardless for many large fixed expenses such as communication towers, base stations, and paying for utility poles. Over the last century, telephones had become an important part of modern society. In fact, the cost of delivering one telephone call today is about a thousandth of the cost in the 1950s. The increasing affordability and abundance of phone calls mark the progress made since the time of Alexander Graham Bell and the Bell System.

Choose the answer that best corrects the bolded portion of the passage. If the bolded portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

have ranged

ranges

are ranging

Correct answer:

ranges

Explanation:

The subject of the predicate "range" in the sentence is "number", a singular noun phrase. Thus, the predicate must be in singular form as well, which in this case is "ranges." All of the other answer choices—"range", "have ranged", and "are ranging"—contain predicates in plural form, and are therefore incorrect.

Example Question #18 : Simple Subject Errors

When the patent on Alexander Graham Bell’s revolutionary invention, the telephone, expired in 1894 thousands of new firms entered the telecommunication industry. Among them were a collection of profitable companies that merged to form what would later become known as The Bell System. The Bell System had amassed such weight in the industry that in 1933, when Congress passed a law declaring phone service a public utility, the Bell System quickly transformed into a monopoly. Lawmakers enthusiastic supported a series of provisions intended to stimulate competition. Appointed as the nation’s sole provider of telecommunication services, widespread criticism about the Bell System began to surface. 

The Federal Communications Act has so far been highly effective and the industry has grown tremendously as a result. In fact, for the past three years, the profitability of the largest three telecommunication companies has been greater than the largest three automotive companies. The number of calls provided by the top three companies range from five billion to six billion per day. Today, virtually everyone has made a phone call over the course of their lives. Most people do not know, however, that payment for swaths of electromagnetic wavelengths have become commonplace.

One explanation for such high call volume and large profits is that calls are becoming much less expensive for companies to provide, regardless for many large fixed expenses such as communication towers, base stations, and paying for utility poles. Over the last century, telephones had become an important part of modern society. In fact, the cost of delivering one telephone call today is about a thousandth of the cost in the 1950s. The increasing affordability and abundance of phone calls mark the progress made since the time of Alexander Graham Bell and the Bell System.

Choose the answer that best corrects the underlined portion of the passage. If the undelrined portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

has become

become

NO CHANGE

are becoming

Correct answer:

has become

Explanation:

In this sentence, we have the subject "payment" and the predicate "have become". "Payment" is singular, so we need the corresponding predicate to be singular as well. The original text, however, contains a plural predicate ("have become"), as do the answer choices "become" and "are becoming."

To express the statement correctly, the singular subject must be paired with a singular predicate. The only answer choice that does so is "has become." The correct way to express the sentence is therefore "Most people do not know, however, that payment for swaths of electromagnetic wavelengths has become commonplace."

Example Question #19 : Simple Subject Errors

During the final months of 2007, the prices of basic grains nearly doubled in Northern Africa, Latin America, and much of Asia, the high prices caused a global food crisis. The catastrophe sparked and incited an international debate regarding the licensing of new technologies to developing nations. One economist warned that because of the risk of unforeseen price shocks, officials should proceed very cautiously. The construction of private farms pose a serious financial threat to farmers in the United States; nevertheless, of the five most industrialized nations, the United States exports more crops.  

How do some countries cope with food crises better than others. It is technology that accounts for the majority of the difference. The rate at which countries adopt innovations depends significantly on environmental factors. These environmental factors include climate, soil and elevation. The variability in environment inhibits new technologies from gaining worldwide popularity that are suited for one particular region over another. For example, the pesticides used in Europe are much more acidic than North America. Without the different levels of acidity, pests would prevent the crops to grow.

Choose the answer that best corrects the bolded portion of the passage. If the bolded portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

have posed

poses

are posing

Correct answer:

poses

Explanation:

The subject of the sentence "The construction of private farms pose a serious financial threat to farmers in The United States" is "construction," and the predicate is "pose."

Since "construction" is singular and "pose" is plural, the original text contains a subject-verb agreement error. 

The answer choices "has posed" and "is posing" contain subject-verb agreement errors as well—both are plural predicates when we have a singular subject.

The only answer choice in the singular form is "poses." The correct way to express the sentence is "The construction of private farms poses a serious financial threat to farmers in The United States."

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