ACT English : Comma Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

Example Question #361 : Comma Errors

There once was a shepherd boy whom sat on the hillside watching the village sheep. He was hot and exhausted fanning himself, rapidly in a feeble attempt to cool himself down. On top of that, he had never been so bored before. 

To amuse himself, he decided to play a joke. He put his hands around his mouth and yelled in a loud voice, "Wolf! Wolf! A wolf is chasing the sheep!”

They came running. They asked the boy, “What’s going on? Did you yell ‘A wolf is chasing the sheep?’ ”

The boy laughed. “It was just a joke, everyone.”

The people fumed, but they all returned to their homes.

The next day, the boy bored again decided to amuse himself again. He bellowed, “Wolf! Wolf!”

Again, the townspeople came running. Once they arrived and witnessed the laughing boy, they realized they’d been tricked a second time. Nonetheless, they returned home and irritated resolved to never fall for the trick again for third time.

The next day, the boy was watching his sheep. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a wolf appeared from behind the bushes. With its teeth bared, the boy cowered as the wolf approached the sheep. Terrified, he called, “Help! A wolf! A wolf is here!”

The people ignored his cries. “That mischievous boy,” they all said to one another. “He must think he can fool us again.” But not one of them came running.

No one was there to witness as the wolf ate every last sheep on the hillside, as the boy helplessly cowered behind a bush. As the boy hid, he shook his head. “I shall never fib again,” he resolved to himself.

Which of the following is the best alternative for the underlined phrase, "they returned home and irritated resolved"?

Possible Answers:

they returned home and irritated, resolved

they returned home and irritably resolving

they returned home and, irritated, resolved

they returned home and irritated resolved,

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

they returned home and, irritated, resolved

Explanation:

The word "irritated" is an interrupter, and should be set off by commas on either side. Adding a comma after "irritated" makes the first part of the phrase "they returned home and irritated," which is incorrect as "returned" and "irritated" are not parallel. 

Changing the phrase to "irritably resolving" ruins the parallelism of the sentence, with "resolving" not matching "returned". Adding a comma to the end of the phrase does not fix the issue of the interrupter, and it also ruins parallelism by making "returned" and "irritated" a pair. Therefore, the only correct answer is "they returned home and, irritated, resolved."

Example Question #362 : Comma Errors

The truth is, I kinda hate my brother. Can you blame me? We're always fighting. Today, he "borrowed" my favorite book and now its ripped in two.  Likewise, my brother and I like to play sports together. We both bond over games like volleyball, and basketball. We both play real good. We even were considering trying out for the high school team together.

Which of the following is the best alternative for the underlined phrase, "volleyball, and"?

Possible Answers:

volleyball, and,  

volleyball and

volleyball, also 

volleyball; and

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

volleyball and

Explanation:

The comma between "volleyball" and "and" is unnecessary because we are only listing two objects. A semicolon leaves the phrase "and basketball" as a sentence fragment, because a semicolon divides two independent clauses. Adding a comma on both sides of "and" makes it an appositive that can be removed, but that leaves the sentence nonsensical. "Volleyball, also" is incorrect because "also" is a transitive adverb that starts a new sentence. "Volleyball and" is the only correct answer.

Example Question #363 : Comma Errors

The truth is, I kinda hate my brother. Can you blame me? We're always fighting. Today, he "borrowed" my favorite book and now its ripped in two.  Likewise, My brother and I like to play sports together. We both bond over games like volleyball, and basketball. We both play real good. We even were considering trying out for the high school team together.

What is the best form of the underlined bolded selection, "is, I"?

Possible Answers:

is, if I'm being completely honest, I

is that I

NO CHANGE

is:I

is; I

Correct answer:

is that I

Explanation:

The original sentence has an unnecessary comma in between "is" and "I." The phrase, "The truth is," is not a dependent clause; it's an incomplete independent clause with a "to be" verb that HAS to be attached to an object/adjective. Adding a colon or a semicolon would not be an effective way to fix the problem, because both of these indicate the end of independent clauses and would therefore still leave the phrase "The truth is" by itself. The option that says "is, if I'm being completely honest, I" is grammatically correct, but unnecessarily wordy. The best answer is "The truth is that I kinda hate my brother."

Example Question #364 : Comma Errors

Many people believe that the current admissions process for colleges is detrimental for high school students. They claim that current admissions standards place a lot of emphasis on things that do not actually measure a child's success in college, such as standardized test scores. They also believe, that there is an augmented attitude among youth of insincerity, as they do community service just or pretend to be interested in activities solely for admissions. 

On the other hand, some believe that there is nothing wrong with the admissions process: any insincerity is a result of active choices on the part of the student, as well as an increase in competition for colleges resulting from economic and social trends. Also, they believe that colleges are in the right for looking for active, rounded students involving in their school and community, and they perceive that there is nothing wrong in encouraging students to have more involvement.

Which of the following is the best alternative for the bolded phrase, "believe, that"?

Possible Answers:

believe: that

NO CHANGE

believed that

believe that

are of the belief that

Correct answer:

believe that

Explanation:

There is an unnecessary comma in the passage's version of this sentence. The option, "are of the belief that," is needlessly wordy. The option, "believed that," changes the verb tense. The option, "believed: that," is incorrect because the phrase before the colon is not an independent clause. The only correct option is "believe that." 

Example Question #365 : Comma Errors

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

During her class, at the local community college, Neko realized that her instructor was actually a well-known, popular television star in disguise.

Possible Answers:

During her class at the local community college Neko

During her class at the local community college, Neko,

During her class at the local community college, Neko

NO CHANGE

During her class at the local community college; Neko

Correct answer:

During her class at the local community college, Neko

Explanation:

No comma is needed after "class" because a prepositional phrase ("at the local community college") is included as part of the introductory clause. When this occurs, the comma must be located at the end of the introductory clause (after "college"). Note also, that semicolons can never be used to connect and introductory clause to a main clause.

Example Question #366 : Comma Errors

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

Casey missed the concert because she was busy studying for her Algebra quiz, which her teacher had warned would be the most difficult quiz of the semester.

Possible Answers:

Casey missed the concert, because she was busy, studying for her Algebra quiz, which her teacher had warned would be the most difficult quiz of the semester.

NO CHANGE

Casey missed the concert because she was busy studying for her Algebra quiz which her teacher had warned would be the most difficult of the semester.

Casey missed the concert, because she was busy studying for her Algebra quiz which her teacher had warned would be the most difficult quiz of the semester.

Casey missed the concert, because she was busy studying for her Algebra quiz; which her teacher had warned would be the most difficult quiz of the semester.

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

Usually, it is unnecessary to put a comma before "because." The only time this would be necessary is when a comma must be present to prevent altering the meaning of the sentence. A comma is, however, necessary before the clause beginning with "which." Clauses that begin with which, where, who, whom, and whose are often non-essential clauses and must be preceded by a comma. Note also that such clauses, as they are dependent clauses, must never be connected to the main clause using a semicolon.

Example Question #367 : Comma 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 frigid rainy day made me seriously consider staying home and catching up on my growing pile of unread books.

Possible Answers:

The frigid; rainy day made me seriously consider staying home;

The frigid rainy day made me seriously consider staying home,

NO CHANGE

The frigid, rainy day made me seriously consider staying home,

The frigid, rainy day made me seriously consider staying home

Correct answer:

The frigid, rainy day made me seriously consider staying home

Explanation:

A comma is necessary between "frigid" and "rainy" because they are coordinate adjectives (the order can be reversed and the description still makes sense). A comma is not necessary after "home" because "staying at home and catching up" is effectively a list of two items.

Example Question #368 : Comma Errors

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

While on the phone with her mother, Elizabeth had to stifle a scream, because she heard an alarming noise coming from outside her window.

Possible Answers:

While on the phone with her mother, Elizabeth had to stifle a scream because she heard

While on the phone with her mother Elizabeth had to stifle a scream; because she heard

While on the phone with her mother Elizabeth had to stifle a scream because she heard

NO CHANGE

While on the phone with her mother Elizabeth had to stifle a scream, because she heard

Correct answer:

While on the phone with her mother, Elizabeth had to stifle a scream because she heard

Explanation:

A comma is necessary after "mother" because "While on the phone with her mother" is an introductory participle phrase. A comma must separate these participle phrases from the main clause of the sentence. A comma is usually not necessary before "because." Only use a comma before "because" when failing to do so would change the meaning of the sentence.

Example Question #369 : Comma Errors

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

To move to the top of his class, Matt studied for three hours every night, which inspired great admiration among his friends.

Possible Answers:

To move to the top of his class Matt studied for three hours every night, which inspired

NO CHANGE

To move to the top of his class Matt studied for three hours every night which inspired

To move to the top of his class, Matt studied for three hours every night which inspired

To move to the top of his class, Matt studied for three hours every night; which inspired

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

"To move to the top of his class" is an example of an introductory infinitive phrase, which requires a comma at the end of the phrase. A comma is necessary before "which" because "which" marks the beginning of a nonessential clause. A non-essential clause must be separated from the rest of the sentence by commas.

Example Question #370 : Comma Errors

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

"We need to buy bananas" said Laura. "The ones we have are rotten".

Possible Answers:

"We need to buy bananas;" said Laura. "The ones we have are rotten".

"We need to buy bananas", said Laura. "The ones we have are rotten."

"We need to buy bananas," said Laura. "The ones we have are rotten."

"We need to buy bananas" said Laura. "The ones we have are rotten."

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

"We need to buy bananas," said Laura. "The ones we have are rotten."

Explanation:

A comma is necessary after "bananas" because commas must precede quotation marks. A comma is also necessary because the sentence does not end with the dialogue. Like commas, periods must also precede quotation marks.

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