ACT English : Subjective and Objective Pronoun Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

Example Question #11 : Subjective And Objective Pronoun Errors

Adapted from "The Ephemera: An Emblem of Human Life" by Benjamin Franklin (1778)

You may remember, my dear friend, that when we lately spent that happy day in the delightful garden and sweet society of the Moulin Joly, I stopped a little in one of our walks, and stay some time behind the company. We had been shown numberless skeletons of a kind of little fly, called an ephemera, whose successive generations, we were told, were bred and expired within the day. I happened to see a living company of them on a leaf, who appeared to be engaged in conversation. You know I understand all the inferior animal tongues. My too great application to the study of them is the best excuse I can give for the little progress I have made in your charming language. I listened through curiosity to the discourse of these little creatures; but as they, in their national vivacity, spoke three or four together, I could make but little of their conversation. I found however by some broken expressions that I heard now and then, they were disputing warmly on the merit of two foreign musicians, one a "cousin," the other a "moscheto": in which dispute they spent their time, seemingly as regardless of the shortness of life as if they had been sure of living a month. Happy people! thought I; you are certainly under a wise just and mild government, since you have no public grievances to complain of, nor any subject of contention but the perfections and imperfections of foreign music. I turned my head from them to an old gray-headed one, who was single on another leaf, and talking to himself. Being amused with his soliloquy, I put it down in writing, in hopes it will likewise amuse her to who I am so much indebted for the most pleasing of all amusements, her delicious company and heavenly harmony.

Which is the best form of the underlined section, "to who I am so much indebted"?

Possible Answers:

to whose I am so much indebted

who I am so much indebted to

to whom I am so much indebted

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

to whom I am so much indebted

Explanation:

The objective relative pronoun "whom" should be used here since it is the object of a preposition.

Example Question #12 : Subjective And Objective Pronoun Errors

Adapted from “The Nose Tree” in German Fairy Tales and Popular Stories by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm (trans. Taylor, ed. 1864)

Then the king made known to all his kingdom, that whomever would heal her of this dreadful disease should be richly rewarded. Many tried, but the princess got no relief. Now the old soldier dressed himself up very sprucely as a doctor, and said he could cure her. Therefore, he chopped up some of the apple, and, to punish her a little more, gave her a dose, saying he would call to-morrow and see her again. The morrow came, and, of course, instead of being better, the nose had been growing on all night as before; and the poor princess was in a dreadful fright. So the doctor then chopped up a very little of the pear and gave it to her. He said that he was sure that it would help, and he would call again the next day. Next day came, and the nose was to be sure a little smaller. However, it was bigger than when the doctor first began to meddle with it.

Then he thought to him, "I must frighten this cunning princess a little more before I am able to get what I want from her." Therefore, he gave her another dose of the apple and said he would call on the morrow. The morrow came, and the nose was ten times bad as before.

"My good lady," said the doctor, "Something works against my medicine and is to strong for it. However, I know by the force of my art that it is this, you have stolen goods about you. I am certain of it. If you do not give them back, I can do nothing for you."

The princess denied very stoutly that she had anything of the kind.

"Very well," said the doctor, "you may do as you please, but I am sure I am correct. You will die if you do not own it." Then he went to the king, and told him how the matter stood.

"Daughter," said he, "send back the cloak, the purse, and the horn, that you stole from the right owners."

Then she ordered her maid to fetch all three and gave them to the doctor, and begged him to give them back to the soldiers. The moment he had them safe, he gave her a whole pear to eat, and the nose came right. And as for the doctor, he put on the cloak, wished the king and all his court a good day and was soon with his two brothers. They lived from that time happily at home in their palace, except when they took an airing to see the world in their coach with their three dapple-grey horses.

What is the best form of the underlined selection, "whomever would heal her of this dreadful disease"?

Possible Answers:

he whom healed her of this dreadful disease

NO CHANGE

whomever could heal her of this dreadful disease

whoever would heal her of this dreadful disease

Correct answer:

whoever would heal her of this dreadful disease

Explanation:

The error with the sentence as written is its improper use of the objective form of "whoever." When "who" is the object of a verb or a preposition, it takes the form "whom." (For example: "The man to whom the shirt was given . . . ") The same holds true for "whoever" and "whomever." Here, the word "whomever" is being incorrectly used as the subject of the relative clause, when it the sentence says that whoever heals her will be rewarded.

Example Question #11 : Pronoun Usage 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 "some whom were already marked out to fill the places of our instructors"?

Possible Answers:

some who were already marked out to fill the places of our instructors

some whom was already marked out to fill the places of our instructors

some who was already marked out to fill the places of our instructors

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

some who were already marked out to fill the places of our instructors

Explanation:

When dealing with relative pronouns, we need to pay attention both to the antecedent and to the function of the pronoun in its relative clause. In this selection, the relative pronoun "whom" has "some" as its antecedent. "Some" is a substantive adjective implying the fuller expression "some people"—a plural antecendent. In the clause itself the "whom" is actually the subject of the verb. The people were marked out for future academic posts. Therefore, the pronoun must be "who," not "whom." Likewise, since relative pronoun is the subject, refering to a plural antecedent, the verb must be plural—i.e. "were."

Example Question #11 : Pronoun Case Errors

Adapted from The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1774; trans. Boylan 1854)

Wilhelm, what is the world to our hearts without love. What is a magic-lantern without light? You have but too kindle the flame within, and the brightest figures shine on the white wall; and, were love only to show us fleeting shadows, we are yet happy, when, like mere children, we behold it, and are transported with the splendid phantoms. I have not been able to see Charlotte today. I was prevented by company from which I could not disengage myself. What was to be done? I sent my servant to her house, that I might at least see somebody today whom had been near her. Oh, the impatience with which I waited for his return! Oh, the joy with which I welcomed him. I should certainly have caught him in my arms and kissed him, if I had not been ashamed.

It is said that the Bonona stone, when placed in the sun, attracts its rays and for a time appears luminous in the dark. So was it with me and this servant. The idea that Charlotte's eyes had dwelt on his countenance, his cheek, his very apparel, endeared it all inestimably to me so that, at that moment, I would not have parted from him for a thousand crowns. His presence made me so happy! Beware of laughing at me, Wilhelm. Can that be a delusion which makes us happy?

Which of the following is the best form of the underlined selection, "that I might at least see somebody today whom had been near her"?

Possible Answers:

that I might at least see somebody today who had been near her

NO CHANGE

so that I might at least see somebody today whom had been near her

that I might at least see somebody today, whom had been near her

Correct answer:

that I might at least see somebody today who had been near her

Explanation:

As written, the error in the selection is its misuse of the relative pronoun "whom." "Whom" is used when you are designating an object. A simple example is the use of a prepositional phrase: "to whom I gave . . ." In our selection, the relative pronoun is describing a person who would have at least been near Charlotte. It is the servant—the "who"—that is near. Therefore, in the relative clause, "who" designates the subject of the verb, thus requiring "who," not "whom."

Example Question #241 : Usage Errors

The witness turned and pointed a shaky finger at the person that had fired the gun into the air.

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

Possible Answers:

person which had fired

NO CHANGE

person whom had fired

person that fired

person who had fired

Correct answer:

person who had fired

Explanation:

"Who" is used for people. "That" and "which" are used for things. In addition, "person that fired" changes the tense of the verb "fired," and introduces confusion into the sentence.

Example Question #11 : Pronoun Case Errors

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

I run more than him, so I should beat him in the race.

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

him or her

he

his

Correct answer:

he

Explanation:

The first clause compares the pronouns “I” and “him,” which are in different cases. To properly compare them, you must match “I” with “he.” Another way to remember this rule is that the clause has colloquially dropped the verb “does.” When added back in, this would correctly read as “I run more than he does.”

Example Question #21 : Pronoun Usage Errors

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

When Margaret got back from the business meeting, she excitedly told me whom she had sat next to: the company’s CEO.

Possible Answers:

with whom

who

with who

NO CHANGE

whose

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

In this case, it is necessary to use “whom” instead of “who.” An easy way to remember which to use is to rearrange the sentence to see if you can replace the noun in question with either “he” or “him.” If you can do so, you should use "whom," not "who." Here, the rearranged sentence might read: “Margaret excitedly told me about the CEO and about how she had sat next to him,” which indicates the usage of “whom” (and “he” would correlate with using “who.”)

Example Question #11 : Pronoun Case Errors

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

After the party, Maria, who the party was thrown for, walked home alone, savoring the memories of the friends she would be leaving when she moved for her new job next week.

Possible Answers:

for who the party was thrown

for whom the party was thrown

for whose the party was thrown

for whom the party was thrown for

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

for whom the party was thrown

Explanation:

In this clause, the party is thrown for Maria, so she is an object and not the subject of the clause. "Who" is used to refer to the subject and is therefore incorrect. "Who . . . for" is also incorrect because it ends the clause with a preposition, which one generally should try to avoid doing when using standard written English.

Example Question #14 : Pronoun Case Errors

"Our Family Trip to Hawaii" by Jennifer Mings (2013)

Last summer, my mother, sister, brother, and me took a trip to Honolulu, Hawaii. We were excited to see everything, and couldn’t wait to arrive. After our lengthy plane ride, we stepped off of the plane in a daze. There was two flight attendants who immediately greeted us, putting flower wreaths around our necks. We then met up with our tour guide; and he told us that we would be going straight to Pearl Harbor.

On our way to Pearl Harbor, there was a largely immense amount of traffic, something that aggravated my mother. Luckily, the tour guide was a native of the island, and he was able to calm my mother down.

When we finally arrived at Pearl Harbor, there was many tourists and natives of different nationalities. The first thing we did when we arrived was watching a movie about the history of Pearl Harbor, which included the story of the USS Arizona. During the movie, everyone had been excited to see the USS Arizona Memorial and wanted to get on the boat. After, we all got on a boat and we were driven to the USS Arizona Memorial. It was an amazing, beautiful, gorgeous, and great experience for everyone.

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:

Last summer, my mother, sister, brother and I

Last summer, my mother, sister, brother, and I

NO CHANGE

Last summer, my mother sister brother and me

Correct answer:

Last summer, my mother, sister, brother, and I

Explanation:

The comma placement is correct in the passage, but “me” must be changed to “I” in order for the sentence to be grammatically correct.

Example Question #12 : Pronoun Case Errors

As the class entered the museum, Ms. Johnson noticed that two of her students had fallen behind the group. After all of the tickets had been secured, she approached the two girls, saying: “what on Earth is causing you to go so slow?” The taller girl, whose name was Ashley, was the first to respond:

“Veronica and I were just discussing something very private. Nobody can hear what her and I are discussing.”

“Well, Ashley, I think that our tour guide, Dr. Mitchell, will be offended by your behavior. You and Veronica should find separate places in the group and you should pay attention to him and me.”

The two girls reluctantly joined the rest of the class. Ms. Johnson looked to see if another student was out of their place, but everything seemed to be in order. The tour guide, Dr. Mitchell, introduced himself to the class: 

“Hello everyone! My name is Dr. Mitchell. I’m so glad that you have all come to the Museum of Natural History today; I think you’ll really enjoy our exhibits, which have been curated with the utmost care. The museum has three distinct types of exhibitions. Permanent exhibitions, temporary exhibitions, and space shows. The permanent exhibition and the space show is always available for viewing, but the temporary exhibition changes seasonally.“

Having finished his introduction, the permanent exhibition was the first thing that Dr. Mitchell showed to the class.

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:

Nobody can hear what her and me are discussing.

Nobody can hear what she and me are discussing.

Nobody can hear what she and I are discussing.

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

Nobody can hear what she and I are discussing.

Explanation:

Veronica and Ashley are the subjects doing the discussing, so we must use a pronoun that functions as a subject, not an object. These pronouns are I, you, she, he, we, and they. In this case, the correct answer is "she and I."

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