ACT English : Subject-Verb Agreement Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

Example Question #20 : 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:

are depending

depend

NO CHANGE

have been depended

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

Consider the given sentence: "The rate at which countries adopt innovations depends significantly on environmental factors." We see that the subject is "rate" and the predicate is "depends." Since rate is singular and depends is singular, they match in number (i.e. they "agree"). Thus, no change is necessary, and the correct answer is "NO CHANGE."

Example Question #831 : Correcting Grammatical Errors

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has become wide recognized as one of the most brilliant and influential musicians of all time. At only thirteen years old, he skillfully played several instruments and wrote in a variety of musical genres. Over the past century, his orchestral music, along with his many operas, have delighted audiences around the world. Mozart wrote his music for wealthy patrons and aristocrats, yet even the commoners of the time enjoyed his music. The music of Mozart is richer and more textured than his contemporary, Joseph Haydn.  

The Austro-Turkish War, which began in 1787, prompted the redirection of much of Austria’s resources from arts and music to the military. As a result, Mozart faced financial difficulties. In 1788, he discontinued his public concerts and his income declined. In 1790, hoping to improve his financial situation and circumstances, Mozart toured Berlin and several other cities in Germany. The tours were unsuccessful, however, and did not improve his financial problems.

Scholars have proposed several hypotheses regarding the cause of Mozart’s death, such as influenza, smallpox and meningitisTheir is little physical evidence, however, to support these claims. Mozart's funeral belied the elaborate ornamentation of his music: the ceremony was basic and reserved. In the period following his death, Mozart’s popularity increased significantly. Concert halls throughout Europe featured his music, and composers sought to imitate his style. Modern audiences praise Mozart’s music for its liveliness, expressiveness, and the fact that it is sophisticated.

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

has delighted

delight

are delightling

Correct answer:

has delighted

Explanation:

The subject of this sentence ("his orchestral music") is singular, but the verb "have delighted" is plural (don't be fooled by the intervening phrase that begins "along with . . .").

To match the singular subject, we need a singular verb. The only answer choice with a singular verb is "has delighted," so it is correct. (The other answer choices have plural verbs).

Example Question #21 : Subject Verb Agreement Errors

“Why Text Messaging is a Good Thing” by Chelci Spiegel (2013)

Many people today think that technology such as text messages and social networking sites are creating distant relationships among people. They say that the relationships are false because face-to-face time is diminishing however, I do not believe this to be the case. These are technologies and technologies are very important tools. That’s just it they’re tools. They can be good or bad depending on how they are used. I believe that text messaging is a benefit to society because it provides fast communication with multiple people unobtrusive conversation and responding time for the receiver.

Because text messaging exists we can tell many people something very important very quickly. It is like an SOS message to whomever needs to know. If I have car trouble I can send a text to my father, brother, and friends all at once. Instead of dialing each number separately and maybe or maybe not getting anyone they all get a message then, I receive help more quickly. A more concrete example is from what I was lost in the woods searching for my horse who was also lost late one evening. I sent out one text message to multiple people and by the time I had found my way back to the truck there were seven friends pulled up with trucks mountain bikes and flashlights to help search for the horses all night.  That is not evidence of relationships distanced by text messaging but brought together.

Because text messaging does not require voice it is far less obtrusive in public places. When I was standing in line at the grocery store one of the ladies were using their phone while waiting for their turn. I heard her entire life story her boy troubles, her work troubles her friend troubles and her money troubles. It was very distracting. With texting people can vent all their frustrations to someone privately. If I am trying to set a date for a barbaque, I can text my neighbor to work out details rather than let the entire store know my weekend plans. Texting is a way to conduct private business in public places.

What would make the underlined portion grammatically correct?

Possible Answers:

will be

were all

NO CHANGE

would be

was

Correct answer:

was

Explanation:

In the phrase "one of the ladies were using," the subject of the independent clause is NOT "ladies," but rather "one." The verb must agree with the subject, and we wouldn't say "one were using" in English, but rather "one was using."

Example Question #833 : Correcting Grammatical Errors

"The Election of 1800" by Alec Slatky (2013)

The presidential election of 1800 was an unusual and unique contest in American history. The opponents were John Adams and Thomas Jefferson former friends who became rivals. Jefferson had actually been Vice President under Adams, but had not supported the latter’s policies. Jefferson leapt at the chance to unseat his former boss. Adams, too, would have enjoyed spending time on his farm more than dealing with political acrimony. Accordingly, he was too prideful to willingly relinquish his office. So, the two men who were most qualified for the position but least excited to have such a stressful job became the presidential candidates.

The campaign was a bitter partisan one and included numerous personal attacks. Critics called Jefferson a Democratic-Republican radical, he would lead the country down the bloody path of the French Revolution. Jefferson’s allies fired back, painting Adams as an anti-liberty autocrat. Adams was from Massachusetts. Adams even faced opposition from some extremists among his fellow Federalists and thus lacked the party unity required to win the election.

In the end, Jefferson emerged victorious, winning 73 of the 138 electoral votes. Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated as President, and Aaron Burr was inaugurated as Vice President. The election was a milestone in American history: it was the first that shifted control of the White House to a different party, the first with a modern mudslinging campaign, and the first that truly tested whether the new nation would remain united despite all its divisions.

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:

become

was

are

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

"Became" is correct because it is past tense and agrees with the plural subject ("men"). "Was" is a singular verb that does not agree with the plural subject. "Become" and "are" are in the present tense.

Example Question #834 : Correcting Grammatical Errors

Communist rule in Poland ended in 1989 and the following year proved disastrous for the Polish economy. Prices rapidly ballooned while incomes dropped. Attempting to find a solution, the Balcerowicz Plan was implemented by Polish officials. The plan liberalized the economy by abolishing price controls, exposing markets to international competition, and it discontinued most industrial subsidiesIn the time of the years following these efforts, economic growth has increased steady

After years of negotiations and economic and political reforms, Poland became a member of The European Union on May 1, 2004. Soon after, Polish officials voted in favor for laws that would eventually mend the unemployment problem in Poland significantly. In fact, the unemployment rate improved for the first time in five years immediately following Poland's membership. The involvement of Poland in the Eastern Bloc is currently greater than the Czech Republic. The passage of two policies regarding energy credits from foreign countries provide evidence of the emergence of Poland in the global economy.

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:

provides

continue to provide

NO CHANGE

have provided

Correct answer:

provides

Explanation:

The subject of the predicate "provide" is "the passage," which is singular (don't be confused by the intervening plural noun phrases!). To agree with the subject, the predicate must be in singular form as well. This is called "agreement in number." 

"Provide," as in the original text, as well as "have provided" and "continue to provide" are in plural forms, so they are incorrect. The only answer that contains a verb in singular form is the correct answer: "provides." 

 

 

Example Question #835 : Correcting Grammatical Errors

Speech production is a complicated and complex process, that requires the coordination of three different systems: respiration, phonation, and articulation. A deficit in any of these systems will negatively impact the quality of one’s speech.

We all know that respiration, or breathing, is necessary for life, but have you ever thought about it’s usefulness for speech? Try to talk while holding you’re breath and you will see what I mean. Exhalation provides a stream of air that the next two systems shape into what many people like to call speech.

Phonation happens in your larynx, or voice box. A pair of muscles form a shelf-like structure on either side of your larynx, and this pair of muscles is known as your vocal folds. As you exhale during speech, your vocal fold muscles contract and move towards each other. They vibrate as air passes between them, creating a buzzing sound, and this is a process that is known as phonation. The word “phonation” comes from the ancient Greek word for sound.

Finally, the last stage is articulation. At this final stage, you move your tongue, lips, and jaw to affect the way vibrating air leaves your mouth. For example, when you say the “b” sound, you need to squeeze your lips together to stop the airflow before opening your lips again. For the “v” sound, you touch your top teeth against your lower lip and force air through between your teeth and lip.

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:

forming

NO CHANGE

that forms

forms

will form

Correct answer:

forms

Explanation:

This contains a subject-verb agreement error. The subject of the verb is pair, which is grammatically a singular noun even though we are talking about two of something. The conjugation of the verb "to form" that agrees with a singular noun is "forms". "That forms" introduces a new error by creating a sentence fragment.

Example Question #836 : Correcting Grammatical Errors

Jeremy had no luck convincing the members of the orchestral committee about his suggestions. He pleaded, cajoled, was begging, and even threatened the committee at various times, but yet despite being the conductor, he couldnt get them to agree to his requests. Despite many attempts, the committee would not listen to him. In the end, he decided to go through with the Christmas concert despite him not having his favorite composer on the program. Afterward, one of his friends, whom was in the audience, came up and asked him why was there no Handel on the program? "I did try" Jeremy replied "but the committee were unanimously against me. I nearly begged them all day to put one piece on the program. But try as I might I could not get a Handel on it."

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:

the committee had been

NO CHANGE

the committee have been

the committee was

Correct answer:

the committee was

Explanation:

In American English, collective nouns, like "committee," take singular verbs; thus "was" is the conjugation that agrees best.

Example Question #21 : Subject Verb Agreement Errors

Adapted from “Emerson’s Prose Works” in The Works of Orestes A. Brownson: Philosophy of Religion by Orestes Brownson (ed. 1883)

Mr. Emersons literary reputation is established and placed beyond the reach of criticism. No living writer surpasses him in his mastery of pure and classic English; nor do any equal himneither in the exquisite delicacy and finish of his chiseled sentences, or in the metallic ring of his style. It is only as a thinker and teacher that we can venture any inquiry into his merits; and as such we cannot suffer ourselves to be imposed upon by his oracular manner, nor by the apparent originality either of his views or his expressions.

Mr. Emerson has had a swarm both of admirers but also of detractors. With many, he is a philosopher and sage, almost a god; while with others, he is regarded as an unintelligible mystic, babbling nonsense fitted to captivate beardless young men and silly maidens with pretty curls, all of who constituted years ago the great body of his hearers and worshipers. We rank us in neither class, though we regard he as no ordinary man. Indeed, we believe he to be one of the deepest thinkers as well as one of the first poets of our country. Indeed, by long acquaintance have him and us been in mutual contact—if only from a distance at times. We know him to be a polished gentleman, a genial companion, and a warmhearted friend, whose' kindness does not pass over individuals and waste itself in a vague philanthropy. So much, at least, we can say of the man, and this do we base not only upon former personal acquaintance and upon our former study of his writings.

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:

nor does any equal him

nor are any able to equal him

nor have any equalled him

nor does any equal he

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

nor does any equal him

Explanation:

The problem here is the implied subject. The adjective "any" is being used "substantively." That is, it is functioning as the noun of the sentence. The question you should ask yourself is, "Any what?" Based on the information provided, the "any" refers to "living writer"—it is singular in the earlier independent clause. Therefore, let's place it into the sentence as it stands: "nor do any living writer equal him." Notice the blatant error! The subject is singular—"writer"—but the verb is plural—"do." The verb should be changed to be "does" so that the sentence reads, "nor does any living writer equal him."

Example Question #22 : Subject Verb Agreement Errors

Adapted from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1843)

The ghost on hearing this set up another cry and clanked its chain so hideously in the dead silence of the night that the police has been justified in indicting it for a nuisance.

"Oh! captive, bound, and double-ironed," cried the phantom, "not to know that ages of incessant labor, by immortal creatures, for, this earth must pass into eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is all developed! Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness! Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunities misused! Yet such was I. Oh, such was I."

"But you were always a good man of business, Jacob" faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

"Business!" cried the Ghost wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive position of my business!"

Which of the following is the best form of the bolded section?

Possible Answers:

The dealings, of my trade, were

The dealings of my trade was

The dealings of my trade are

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

First, you can eliminate the option with the extra commas. We can also eliminate the option that uses the present-tense verb "are," because the rest of the paragraph in which this section appears makes use of past-tense verbs, and there is no reason to suddenly switch to using present-tense verbs. These are not needed and merely make the sentence more awkward than it needs to be. Now, the next thing to do is figure out what is the number (singular vs. plural) of the subject. The subject of the sentence is not "trade."  It is "dealings." "Of my trade" modifies this but is not the subject. Thus, we could elminate it to get, "The dealings were."

Example Question #23 : Subject Verb Agreement Errors

Adapted from "The Weakness, Unrest, and Defects of Man," from The Thoughts of Blaise Pascal (ed. 1901)

We care nothing for the present. We anticipate the future as too slow in coming, as if we could make it move faster; or we call back the past, to stop its rapid flight. So imprudent are we that we wander through the times in which we have no part, unthinking of that which alone is ours; so frivolous are we that we dream of the days which are not and pass by without reflection those which alone exist. For the days of the present generally gives us pain; we conceal it from our sight because it afflicts us, and if it be pleasant, we regret to see it vanish away. We endeavor to sustain the present by the future, and think of arranging things not in our power, for a time at which we have no certainty of arriving.

If we examine our thoughts, we shall find them always occupied with the past or the future. We scarcely think of the present, and if we do so, it is only that we may borrow light from it to direct the future. The present is never our end; the past and the present are our means, the future alone is our end. Thus we never live, but hope to live, and while we always lay ourselves out to be happy, it is inevitable that we can never be so.

If we accept the rhetorical device that the author uses in the sentence fragment, which following is the best form of the bolded selection, “For the days of the present generally . . .”?

Possible Answers:

For the day of the present generally give us pain

For the days of the present generally gives us pain

For the days of the present generally give us pain

For the days of the present generally give us pains

Correct answer:

For the days of the present generally give us pain

Explanation:

The error that requires correction in this selection is the agreement between the subject and the verb in the clause. The subject is not "present" but, instead, is "the days." "Of the present" modifies this. Shortening our sentence, we thus get, "For the days . . . gives." The subject and verb do not agree in number. The only option that corrects this is, "For the days of the present generally give us pain."

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