ACT English : Other Usage Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Conventional And Idiomatic 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."

The failing grade I received on my last test was the result of not studying enough.

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

result by

result to

result for

result which

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

"Of" is the correct preposition here. 

Example Question #1 : Conventional And Idiomatic Usage Errors

One of the most popular programs of all those featured on the Internet (1) is a video clip show.  The format of the show is simple, each (2) week the host, a short but attractive New York native named John Jackson introduces (3) a set of three video clips from all over the Internet.  These clips shows (4) people hurting themselves in accidents, getting into crazy situations, interacting stupidly with animals, and et cetera. (5) Jackson introduces each clip comically and often comments on the action with animations where (6) he makes fun of the people in the videos.  While the videos are often funny, there is definitely an element of schadenfreude involved in watching these clips.  Schadenfreude is a German word for "the pleasure one takes at seeing the suffering of others".  (7) Jacksons (8) show are (9) not far removed from popular TV programs like (10) The U.S. Laughs at You there is also a version of which (11) on the Internet.  It is an open question whether laughing at these videos is a harmless activity or it causes harm to us. (12)

Choose from the following four options the answer that best corrects the underlined mistake preceding the question number.  If there is no mistake or the original text is the best option, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

You, of which there is also a version

You, which also has a version

You, which there is also a version of

Correct answer:

You, of which there is also a version

Explanation:

The phrase "of which there is also a version" avoids ending the phrase in a preposition.

Example Question #2 : Conventional And Idiomatic Usage Errors

Many people watch football however (1) some do not. With (2) those who do not watch this sport (3) football is an incomprehensible pastime. Non football (4) fans cannot understand what is so exciting about watching two packs of grown men running away or toward each other, while (5) clinging for dear life to a piece of pigskin. It also makes from little to no sense (6) why those whom (7) play the sport gets (8) paid the exorbitant amounts that they do, even though he is (9) in effect doing the same thing that high school and college students do on a daily bases (10). But as the French would say, "Chacun à son goût" (11) though its (12) highly doubtful that most football fans (or even people who are not fans) would know what that means.

Choose from the following four options the answer that best corrects the underlined mistake preceding the question number. If there is no mistake or the original text is the best option, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

little or no sense

little, to no sense

little to no sense

Correct answer:

little to no sense

Explanation:

The phrase "little to no sense" is not a range, so the word "from" is not needed.

Example Question #1 : Conventional And Idiomatic Usage Errors

The student the hand of whom was up (1) gave the wrong answer.  She was asked what was a substantive adjective (2), and she answered that a substantive adjective is one that describe (3) a The student the hand of whom was up (1) gave the wrong answer. She was asked what was a substantive adjective (2), and she answered that a substantive adjective is one that describe (3) a substance. "No!" (4) the teacher barked. "A substantive adjective takes the place of a noun in a sentence, as when someone talks about the rich and the poor (5). Did you learn nothing in this class?" He then asked what a superlative adjective was, to which she replied (6) that a superlative adjective was one that took the place of a noun in a sentence. "But thats (7) what I just said," the teacher screamed! (8) The student had said (9) that she had heard him, therefore (10) she answered his question. "You answered my question previously, (11)" he bellowed, "not the last one!" "Ah, you mean the latest one," the student replied, the moment at which (12) the teacher turned to the wall and started beating his head against it.

Choose from the following four options the answer that best corrects the underlined mistake preceding the question number. If there is no mistake or the original text is the best option, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

'the rich and the poor'

"the rich and the poor"

NO CHANGE

the "rich" and the "poor"

Correct answer:

'the rich and the poor'

Explanation:

Since the teacher is talking about this phrase as a phrase, it should be set off in quotation marks, and since it already appears in a quotation, the phrase should be set off in single quotation marks.

Example Question #2 : Conventional And Idiomatic Usage Errors

Adapted from Sozein ta Phainomena: An Essay Concerning Physical Theory from Plato to Galileo by Pierre Duhem (translated by Matthew Minerd)

What are physical theories’ value? What relation does it have with metaphysical explication? These are questions that are greatly stirred and raised in our days. However, as with other questions, they are in no manner completely new. It is a question that has been posed in all ages. As long as there has been a science of nature, they have been posed. Granted, the form that they assume changes somewhat from one age to another, for they borrow their various appearance from the scientific vocabularies of their times. Nevertheless, one need only dismiss this outer vestment in order to recognize that they remain essentially identical to each other.

The science of nature offers us up until the 17th century at least, very few parties that managed to create theories expressed in a mathematical language. . . . If we leave aside several exceptions, an historical investigation places before our eyes strong evidence of a type science that would indeed be a prediction of modern mathematical physics. This science is astronomy. That is, where we would say, “Physical theory,” the Greek, Muslim, Medieval, and early Renaissance sages would say, “Astronomy.” However, for these earlier thinkers, the other parts of the study of nature did not attain a similar degree of perfection. That is, they did not express the laws of experience in a mathematical manner similar to that found in astronomy. In addition, during this time, the study of the material realities generally were not separated from what we would call today, “metaphysics.”

Thus, you can see why the question that concerns us takes two related, though different forms. Today, we ask, “What are the relations between metaphysics and physical theory?” However, in past days; indeed, for nearly two thousand years; it was formulated instead as, “What are the relations between physics and astronomy?”

What is the meaning of the underlined expression “places before our eyes”?

Possible Answers:

senses

enlightens

discusses

provides

Correct answer:

provides

Explanation:

The idiom "to place before one's eyes" means something akin to to make present to awareness like making something invisible to be visible. Among the brief options provided, only "provides" best fills this usage. The general idea is that historical investigations bring evidence forward in order that it might be evaluated according to Duhem's thesis.

Example Question #11 : Other Usage Errors

Adapted from Sozein ta Phainomena: An Essay Concerning Physical Theory from Plato to Galileo by Pierre Duhem (translated by Matthew Minerd)

What are physical theories’ value? What relation does it have with metaphysical explication? These are questions that are greatly stirred and raised in our days. However, as with other questions, they are in no manner completely new. It is a question that has been posed in all ages. As long as there has been a science of nature, they have been posed. Granted, the form that they assume changes somewhat from one age to another, for they borrow their various appearance from the scientific vocabularies of their times. Nevertheless, one need only dismiss this outer vestment in order to recognize that they remain essentially identical to each other.

The science of nature offers us up until the 17th century at least, very few parties that managed to create theories expressed in a mathematical language. . . . If we leave aside several exceptions, an historical investigation places before our eyes strong evidence of a type science that would indeed be a prediction of modern mathematical physics. This science is astronomy. That is, where we would say, “Physical theory,” the Greek, Muslim, Medieval, and early Renaissance sages would say, “Astronomy.” However, for these earlier thinkers, the other parts of the study of nature did not attain a similar degree of perfection. That is, they did not express the laws of experience in a mathematical manner similar to that found in astronomy. In addition, during this time, the study of the material realities generally were not separated from what we would call today, “metaphysics.”

Thus, you can see why the question that concerns us takes two related, though different forms. Today, we ask, “What are the relations between metaphysics and physical theory?” However, in past days; indeed, for nearly two thousand years; it was formulated instead as, “What are the relations between physics and astronomy?”

What is an equivalent meaning for the underlined selection, “one need only dismiss”?

Possible Answers:

it is absolutely necessary to forget

the reader merely needs to ignore

it is not necessary to approve

someone needs to dismiss

it is necessary to disprove

Correct answer:

the reader merely needs to ignore

Explanation:

The expression "one need only" means approximately "the only thing necessary is to . . . ". This indicates the minimum that someone must do for some relatively simple task. Here, the author wishes to state that the minimaly necessary action is to overlook the vocabularies in which a given system is expressed.

Example Question #11 : Conventional And Idiomatic Usage Errors

An adapted selection from The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli (1532)

Now, if you will consider what was the nature of the government of Darius, you will find it similar to the kingdom of the Turk. Therefore it was only necessarily for Alexander, first to overthrow him in the field, and then to take the country from him. After this victory, Darius being killed, the state remained secure in Alexander’s power, for the reasons noted earlier. If his successors had been united they would have enjoyed it securely and at their ease, for there was no tumults raised in the kingdom except those they provoked themselves. However, it is impossible to hold with such tranquility states constituted like that of France. Hence arose those frequent rebellions against the Roman’s in Spain, France, and Greece, owing to the many principalities there were in these latter states, of which the Romans always held an insecure possession; however, with the power and long continuance of the empire, the memory of them passed away, and the Romans then became secure possessors. When fighting afterwards amongst themselves, each one was able to attach to himself his own parts of the country, according to the authority he had assumed there; and the family of the former lord being exterminated, none other than the Romans were acknowledged.

When these things are remembered, no one will marvel at the ease with which Alexander held the Empire of Asia or at the difficulties that others have had to keep an acquisition. This is not occasioned by the little or abundance of ability in the conqueror but, instead, by the want of uniformity in the subject state.

Which of the following is an adequate replacement for the underlined "owing to"?

Possible Answers:

on account of

owing a favor to

repaying

being indebted to

borrowing money from

Correct answer:

on account of

Explanation:

When the participle "owing" is used in conjunction with "to," the expression means "on account of." In the sentence in question, the many rebellionis occured because of ("on account of") the number of principalities in the countries in question.

Example Question #13 : Other Usage Errors

In the last day of classes (1), everyone was distracted and unable to do their (2) work.  Even the teacher, which normally (3) was attentive and cheery, seems (4) unable to focus.  The final test took (5) way too long for everyone to complete, and many of students (6) had put down his head (7) on the desk.  The sound of the heat blowing through the room was enough to put everyone (8) to sleep, and the teachers' (9) eyes began drooping despite hisself (10).  After what seemed an eternity; (11) the bell had rung (12) and everyone, including the teacher, ran out of the room.

Choose from the following four options the answer that best corrects the underlined mistake preceding the question number.  If there is no mistake or the original text is the best option, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

The last day of classes

On the last day of classes

Within the last day of classes

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

On the last day of classes

Explanation:

The preposition "on" is the best choice here for the phrase.

Example Question #621 : Word Usage Errors

From an adaptation of a Letter from Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, On the Occasion of the Death of the Latter's Wife Abigail (1818)

The public papers my dear friend, have announced the fatal event of which your letter of October the 20th had given me ominous foreboding. Tried myself in the school of affliction, by the loss of every form of connection which can rive the human heart, I know well and feel what you have lost, what you have suffered, are suffering, and have yet to endure. The same trials have taught me that for ills so immeasurable, time and silence are the only medicine. I will not, therefore, by useless condolences, open afresh the sluices of your grief, nor, although mingling sincerely my tears with yours, will I say a word more where words are vain, but that it is of some comfort to us both, that the term is not very distant at which we are to deposit our sorrows and suffering bodies in the same soil and to ascend in essence to an ecstatic meeting with the friends we have loved and lost, and whom we shall still love and never lose again. God bless you and support you under your heavy affliction.

Which of the following is the best replacement for the boldfaced preposition “of” in the first sentence?

Possible Answers:

dated

for

on

delivered

Correct answer:

dated

Explanation:

Pay attention to the context of the usage of the preposition "of" here in order to understand its somewhat-outdated meaning. Jefferson is referring from Adams that had given an "ominous foreboding" of Abigail's death. Since he is addressing Adams, he needs to refer to the letter as Adams would know it. That is, he is not referring to the date that he (Jefferson) received the letter.  Instead, this usage is somewhat akin to saying, "Your letter from October 20th." Although you could likely argue on behalf of "on"—the letter "written on the 20th"—the best (clearest) answer is "dated" (i.e. "dated by Adams").

Example Question #11 : Other Usage Errors

Adapted from The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (ed. 1896)

Look at a plant in the midst of it’s range. Why does it not double or quadruple its numbers? We know that it can perfectly well withstand a little more heat or cold, dampness or dryness, for elsewhere it ranges into slightly hotter or colder, damper or drier districts. In this case, we can clearly see that if we wish in imagination to give the plant the power of increasing in number, we should have to give it some advantage over its competitors, or over the animals of the wild that prey on it. On the confines of its geographical range, a change of constitution with respect to climate would clearly be an advantage to our plant; but we have reason to believe that only a few plants or animals range so far, that they are destroyed exclusively by the rigor of the climate. Not until we reach the extreme confines of life, in the Arctic regions or on the borders of an utter desert, will competition cease. The land may be extremely cold or dry, yet their will be competition between some few species, or between the individuals of the same species, for the warmest or dampest spots.

Hence we can see that when a plant or animal is placed in a new country amongst new competitors, the conditions of its life will generally be changed in an essential manner, although the climate may be exactly the same as in its former home. If it’s average numbers are to increase in its new home, we should have to modify it in a different way to what we should have had to do in its native country; for we should have to give it some advantage over a different set of competitors or enemies.

It is good thus to try in imagination to give to any one species an advantage over another. Probably in no single instance should we know what to do. This ought to convince us of our ignorance on the mutual relations of all organic beings; a conviction as necessary, as it is difficult to acquire. All that we can do is to keep steadily in mind that each organic being is striving to increase in a geometrical ratio; that each at some period of its life, during some season of the year, during each generation or at intervals, has to struggle for life and to suffer great destruction. When we reflect on this struggle, we may console ourselves with the full belief that the war of nature is not incessant, that no fear is felt, that death is generally prompt, and that the vigorous, the healthy, and the happy survive and multiply.

What would be the best replacement for the boldfaced and underlined word “on” in the third sentence of the third paragraph.

Possible Answers:

upon

on

in

concerning

Correct answer:

concerning

Explanation:

The preposition "on" is far too vague in this sentence. The author wants to state that we are unable to create adequate imaginations of advantages for species. This should convince us that we are ignorant about or (as the answers require us here) concerning the relations of all organic beings.

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