ACT English : Other Usage Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

Example Question #11 : Conventional And Idiomatic 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 is the best form of the boldfaced and underlined section?

Possible Answers:

keeping steadily in mind

steadily to keep in mind

NO CHANGE

kept steadily in mind

Correct answer:

steadily to keep in mind

Explanation:

We could paraphrase what the author is stating as, "We must keep in mind . . . ," or something like that. Among the options provided, we can immediately eliminate "kept" and "keeping." The author is using a verbal expression as an predicate nominative: "All that we can do" is the subject of "is." This is equated with what follows. What is it that is to be done? "The act of keeping in mind."

Given the overall structure of the sentence the infinitive will best function for this. However, to make things clearer, it is best to move the adverb "steadily" to the beginning of expression. The whole expression "to keep in mind" is a bit idiomatic and is best kept together as unit without any intervening modifiers. While we perhaps could rewrite the whole sentence in a better way, for this question, this is the "least bad" answer.

Example Question #11 : Conventional And Idiomatic Usage Errors

While the course appeared hard from the outset, when his report card arrived in the mail, Charlie had discovered that all of his studying had paid off. He had successfully passed Chemistry: his father would be proud. His father, a world-renowned chemist was doubtful that Charlie would pass the class but Charlie was sure that he could do it. He had spent all of the fall semester studying the periodic table, memorizing different measurements and learning the parts of an atom.

That terrible semester culminated in the final exam. The day of the big test, his stomach is a tight knot of nerves. He tried to tell his mother that he was feeling ill but she knew that he was lying.1 He shook as he tried to put on his shoes and socks.He woke up with his fingers tightly gripping the bedspread.3 Sitting on the bus, he could feel himself sweating through his light sweater.4 When Charlie finally arrived at school, he walked into his Chemistry class just as his teacher was passing out the test. “You may now begin,” she said.

With the report card now clenched in his hands in victory, Charlie knew that he could tackle anything to which he put his mind.

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:

culminated by the

culminated for the

culminated toward the

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

This sentence is correct as written. The expression “culminated in” is an idiomatic phrase; it could also be written as “culminated with.”

Example Question #11 : Conventional And Idiomatic Usage Errors

"A Unique Journey" by Jasmine Tilley (2013)

While I was studying abroad in Europe, I had the great opportunity to travel to different countries. For one of my adventures, I chose to travel to Switzerland; however, the classmates I usually traveled with were unable to come with me. I was faced in deciding whether to go alone or not at all. This decision was easy for me, I was not going to pass up the opportunity to see Switzerland!

I first had to board a train from where I was staying in Italy to reach the southern part of Switzerland. Unfortunately, the train workers were on strike that day, so I ended up delayed in Milan for several hours. Soon enough I was on my way again.  However, shortly after I reached the Switzerland border, the train stopped because one of the cars was filled with smoke! I still have no idea what happened, but after a few minutes we were moving again.

Once I finally reached Geneva, I had to walk to find the hostel where I was staying that I had booked. It was night, and I realized that I was truly alone. I did not know another soul in this entire country! This thought was both scary and exciting.

The next day, I walked all around Geneva. Being my own tour guide was a fantastic adventure. I saw all the major sites while also experiencing the culture. There was some sort of marathon going on that day, and there was so much excitement all throughout the city. There were live bands. It even rained off and on. Everything was new and interesting, and I loved it.

That evening, I boarded a train to Zermatt. Prior to this journey, I had no idea that the Matterhorn was an actual mountain! The city of Zermatt was very tiny and had no cars, only small electric vehicles that resembled wind-up toys. The whole city was lit up, and though I was walking to my hostel at night again, I felt very safe. Walking through Geneva at night, though, starkly contrasted it.

The next day, I decided to go skiing on the beautiful, snowy mountains in Zermatt. I rented a pair of skis and spent a few hours skiing in my jeans and coat! It was an amazing experience.

My journey to Switzerland is dear to me not just because of the many beautiful and exciting things I experienced, but also because I was alone. I had the time as well as the quiet atmosphere to absorb and contemplate not just what was going on around me but also what was going on inside myself. I felt changed somehow. I felt stronger and more independent.

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

OMIT the underlined portion.

with

to

Correct answer:

with

Explanation:

This is an idiom. You are "faced with" something.

Example Question #21 : Other Usage Errors

"A Unique Journey" by Jasmine Tilley (2013)

While I was studying abroad in Europe, I had the great opportunity to travel to different countries. For one of my adventures, I chose to travel to Switzerland; however, the classmates I usually traveled with were unable to come with me. I was faced in deciding whether to go alone or not at all. This decision was easy for me, I was not going to pass up the opportunity to see Switzerland!

I first had to board a train from where I was staying in Italy to reach the southern part of Switzerland. Unfortunately, the train workers were on strike that day, so I ended up delayed in Milan for several hours. Soon enough I was on my way again.  However, shortly after I reached the Switzerland border, the train stopped because one of the cars was filled with smoke! I still have no idea what happened, but after a few minutes we were moving again.

Once I finally reached Geneva, I had to walk to find the hostel where I was staying that I had booked. It was night, and I realized that I was truly alone. I did not know another soul in this entire country! This thought was both scary and exciting.

The next day, I walked all around Geneva. Being my own tour guide was a fantastic adventure. I saw all the major sites while also experiencing the culture. There was some sort of marathon going on that day, and there was so much excitement all throughout the city. There were live bands. It even rained off and on. Everything was new and interesting, and I loved it.

That evening, I boarded a train to Zermatt. Prior to this journey, I had no idea that the Matterhorn was an actual mountain! The city of Zermatt was very tiny and had no cars, only small electric vehicles that resembled wind-up toys. The whole city was lit up, and though I was walking to my hostel at night again, I felt very safe. Walking through Geneva at night, though, starkly contrasted it.

The next day, I decided to go skiing on the beautiful, snowy mountains in Zermatt. I rented a pair of skis and spent a few hours skiing in my jeans and coat! It was an amazing experience.

My journey to Switzerland is dear to me not just because of the many beautiful and exciting things I experienced, but also because I was alone. I had the time as well as the quiet atmosphere to absorb and contemplate not just what was going on around me but also what was going on inside myself. I felt changed somehow. I felt stronger and more independent.

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:

It was a stark contrast to walking through Geneva at night.

Contrastingly was walking through Geneva at night.

Walking through Geneva, in stark contrast, at night.

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

It was a stark contrast to walking through Geneva at night.

Explanation:

"It was a stark contrast to walking through Geneva at night" is the only complete sentence that properly uses the idiom “contrast to."

Example Question #23 : Other Usage 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:

regardless with

regardless of

regardless

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

regardless of

Explanation:

An idiomatic phrase is a fixed expression such as ""point out" or "in common." The correct answer is the idiomatic phrase "regardless of." The other answer choices represent distortions of this idiom and are therefore incorrect.

Example Question #21 : Conventional And Idiomatic Usage 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:

from growing

of growth

NO CHANGE

to be growing

Correct answer:

from growing

Explanation:

The correct idiomatic expression is "prevent from," so "prevent from growing" is the correct answer choice. The answer choices with "prevent to" and "prevent of" contain incorrect uses of this idiom.

Example Question #24 : Other Usage Errors

Alfred Tarski, born on January 14, 1901, became known during his lifetime as a brilliant mathematician and teacher. He is best known for proving several advanced geometric theorems. By the time Tarski moved to the United States, much of Europe has already fallen into the grips of World War II. Hundreds of mathematical problems were solved by Tarski.

Tarski enrolled in Warsaw University in 1920. Originally wishing to study biology, mathematics was the subject in which Tarski ultimately excelled. He graduated with honors, and began his career as a math teacher. A true mathematical virtuoso, Tarski was concerned with neither the application of his research nor publishing his findings.   

Discoveries made by Tarski influenced the work of one of the world’s greatest physicists, Albert Einstein. Einstein and Tarski had many similar interests in common. Unlike Albert Einstein, however, Tarski was especially fond for pure mathematics. Although Tarski and Einstein were contemporaries, Einstein was the most prolific writer of the two.

In 1929, Tarski married his co-worker, Maria Witkowska. An affinity for mathematics ran in the family. Tarski even admitted that his wife knew more about algebra, geometry and trigonometry than did he. Tarski's two children, Jan, and Ina, grew up to be prominent mathematicians themselves; however, neither Jan nor Ina have received a great deal of international attention.

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:

fond of

NO CHANGE

fond about

fond with

fond in

Correct answer:

fond of

Explanation:

English features many fixed expressions, such as "figure out" or "look for," in which certain verbs are paired with specific prepositions. In this case, the correct fixed expression is "fond of," so it is the correct answer choice. The other answer choices are distortions of this expression.

Example Question #21 : Other Usage 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:

in favor with

for favor of

NO CHANGE

in favor of

Correct answer:

in favor of

Explanation:

An idiomatic expression is a fixed phrase in a language, such as "in order to" or "find out." The correct idiomatic expression for this sentence is "in favor of." All of the other answer choices are distortions of this idiom, and are therefore incorrect.

Example Question #21 : Other Usage Errors

The house stood, at the bottom of a hill, making it hard to see from the street. The owner wants it that way, as he had no use for any of his neighbors. “Nosy sneaks and cheats” he would to say to his son. Not that his son ever really listening. The old man did not see him very much, either at his home or going anywhere else. Every time he did see him, his son would just complain about how his house was dark musty, and filthy. The old man did not need such criticism, especially from only his blood relative. He had lived in that house for fifty years, and planned to live there as long as he possibly could. While he lived there, his neighbors would never see him or his house if he could help it. He could take care of him, and steadfastly refused to allow anyone to help. In his tiny house, at the bottom of the hill, the old man was content to be alone, and believed he was living perfect.

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:

In his tiny house, at the bottom, of the hill,

NO CHANGE

In his tiny house at the bottom of the hill

In his tiny house at the bottom of the hill,

In his tiny house: at the bottom of the hill,

Correct answer:

In his tiny house at the bottom of the hill,

Explanation:

The comma in the middle of the underlined portion oddly divides the phrase in two, with no real purpose, as the prepositional phrase can be directly attached to the word "house." The comma should be removed to make the sentence flow more smoothly, making the correct answer choice "In his tiny house at the bottom of the hill."

Example Question #21 : Other Usage 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:

move your tongue, lips, and jaw; this affects the way vibrating air leaves your mouth

move your tongue, lips, and jaw to affect the way vibrating air leaves from your mouth

move you’re tongue, lips, and jaw to affect the way vibrating air leaves your mouth

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

The answer choice "move you’re tongue, lips, and jaw to affect the way vibrating air leaves your mouth" is incorrect because it introduces an error. "Your" is correctly used in the original sentence to indicate possession. If one were to say, "move you are tongue, lips, and jaw," it would not make sense.

The answer choice "move your tongue, lips, and jaw to affect the way vibrating air leaves from your mouth" is incorrect because it adds an unecessary preposition, "from."

The answer choice "move your tongue, lips, and jaw; this affects the way vibrating air leaves your mouth" is grammatically correct, but the original sentence was also correct and more concise.

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