ACT English : Other Usage Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

Example Question #381 : Usage 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:

of

to

on

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

of

Explanation:

The preposition "of" is the most appropriate choice to go with the verb "to convince" in this context.

Example Question #1421 : Correcting Grammatical Errors

Adapted from “Authority: The Unavoidable” in What’s Wrong with the World by G.K. Chesterton (1912)

The important point here is only that you cannot get rid of authority in education. It is not so much that parental authority ought to be preserved. The more, important truth, is that such authority cannot be destroyed. Mr. Bernard Shaw once said that he had hated the idea of forming a child's mind. In that case, Mr. Bernard Shaw had better hang himself, for he hates something inseparable from human life. I only mentioned [earlier in the book] the drawing out of the child’s abilities in order to point out that even this mental trick does not avoid the idea of parental or scholastic authority. The educator's drawing out is just as arbitrary and coercive as the instructor’s action, for he draws out what he chooses. He decides what in the child shall be developed and what shall not be developed.

The only result of all this pompous distinction between the “educator” and the “instructor” is who the instructor pokes where he likes and the educator pulls where he likes. Exactly the same intellectual violence is done to the creature whom is poked and pulled. We must all except the responsibility of this intellectual violence, whether from poking or from pulling.

Education is violent; because it is creative. It is such because it is human. It is as reckless as playing on the fiddle, as dogmatic as drawing a picture, as brutal as building a house. In short, it is what all human action is, it is an interference with life and growth. After that it is a trifling and even a jocular question whether we say of this tremendous tormentor, the artist Man, that he puts things into us like a pharmacist or draws things out of us.

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:

Mr. Bernard Shaw can hang himself

Mr. Bernard Shaw had better hang himself

Mr. Bernard Shaw will hang himself

Mr. Bernard Shaw had better hung himself

Correct answer:

Mr. Bernard Shaw had better hang himself

Explanation:

To understand the correct answer, notice that the author wishes to say, "Mr. Bernard Shaw ought to hang himself." While perhaps a bit gruesome—in a sarcastic way—the expression says nothing about whether or not he can or will do so. The expression "had better" is a bit idiomatic, but it generally means "ought to," which is exactly what is needed in this sentence.

Example Question #22 : Conventional And Idiomatic Usage Errors

Known as Prohibition the political fight in the United States to ban the sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol took a long time. The official ratification of the 18th Amendment, which banned alcohol, took place in January of 1919, after Nebraska became the 36th state to have its legislature ratify the amendment. The Amendment had first been passed of the United States Senate in 1917, and needed vigorous political action taken by its supporters just to get the necessary 36 states to ratify it. Its official enactment on January 1, 1920 was met with equal amounts of relief and joy by it’s proponents.

Most of them had been fighting to ban alcohol for decades. The American Temperance Society was founding in 1826. Frances Willard had been running the Women’s Christian Temperance Union for decades by the time a national debate was taking place on Prohibition. Carrie Nation had banded together women in the Midwest since the turn of the century to destroy bars and saloons with her trademark hatchet. The Anti-Saloon league organized thousands of everyday Americans to vote against any politician that did not support Prohibition. A burgeoning movement had grown into a legitimate groundswell, by the late 1910s.

After the ratification of the 18th Amendment, few of these supporters thought that it would be the abject failure it turned out to be. Most Americans did not want the absolute ban of all sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol. The most enterprising Americans found many illicit ways to profit from alcohol’s new illegal status. Americans looking for alcohol were seldom out of options, as every corner had either a speakeasy or a bootlegger selling imported or homemade liquor. Criminal organizations grew in strength thanks to profits from illegal booze, and federal agents were hopelessly outmanned of mobsters and thugs. On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution repealed the 18th Amendment, eliminating the Prohibition of alcohol and turning back the work of all of the Prohibition activists.

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:

founding by 1826

founded in 1826

NO CHANGE

founding under 1826

Correct answer:

founded in 1826

Explanation:

The present participle "founding" is incorrect in this sentence, as it is used with the past tense verb "was." The participle needs to be changed to the past participle form. Therefore, the correct answer choice is "founded in 1826."

Example Question #21 : Conventional And Idiomatic Usage Errors

Known as Prohibition the political fight in the United States to ban the sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol took a long time. The official ratification of the 18th Amendment, which banned alcohol, took place in January of 1919, after Nebraska became the 36th state to have its legislature ratify the amendment. The Amendment had first been passed of the United States Senate in 1917, and needed vigorous political action taken by its supporters just to get the necessary 36 states to ratify it. Its official enactment on January 1, 1920 was met with equal amounts of relief and joy by it’s proponents.

Most of them had been fighting to ban alcohol for decades. The American Temperance Society was founding in 1826. Frances Willard had been running the Women’s Christian Temperance Union for decades by the time a national debate was taking place on Prohibition. Carrie Nation had banded together women in the Midwest since the turn of the century to destroy bars and saloons with her trademark hatchet. The Anti-Saloon league organized thousands of everyday Americans to vote against any politician that did not support Prohibition. A burgeoning movement had grown into a legitimate groundswell, by the late 1910s.

After the ratification of the 18th Amendment, few of these supporters thought that it would be the abject failure it turned out to be. Most Americans did not want the absolute ban of all sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol. The most enterprising Americans found many illicit ways to profit from alcohol’s new illegal status. Americans looking for alcohol were seldom out of options, as every corner had either a speakeasy or a bootlegger selling imported or homemade liquor. Criminal organizations grew in strength thanks to profits from illegal booze, and federal agents were hopelessly outmanned of mobsters and thugs. On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution repealed the 18th Amendment, eliminating the Prohibition of alcohol and turning back the work of all of the Prohibition activists.

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:

passed in the United States Senate by 1917

NO CHANGE

passed in the United States Senate around 1917

passed by the United States Senate in 1917

Correct answer:

passed by the United States Senate in 1917

Explanation:

The prepositional phrase "in the United States Senate" is odd and confusing, as the United States Senate is the body that "passed" the amendment. As such, the preposition should be changed to one that better indicates that the Senate is the body taking action, rather than just the location where something happened. Therefore, the best answer choice is "passed by the United States Senate in 1917."

Example Question #30 : Conventional And Idiomatic Usage Errors

Known as Prohibition the political fight in the United States to ban the sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol took a long time. The official ratification of the 18th Amendment, which banned alcohol, took place in January of 1919, after Nebraska became the 36th state to have its legislature ratify the amendment. The Amendment had first been passed of the United States Senate in 1917, and needed vigorous political action taken by its supporters just to get the necessary 36 states to ratify it. Its official enactment on January 1, 1920 was met with equal amounts of relief and joy by it’s proponents.

Most of them had been fighting to ban alcohol for decades. The American Temperance Society was founding in 1826. Frances Willard had been running the Women’s Christian Temperance Union for decades by the time a national debate was taking place on Prohibition. Carrie Nation had banded together women in the Midwest since the turn of the century to destroy bars and saloons with her trademark hatchet. The Anti-Saloon league organized thousands of everyday Americans to vote against any politician that did not support Prohibition. A burgeoning movement had grown into a legitimate groundswell, by the late 1910s.

After the ratification of the 18th Amendment, few of these supporters thought that it would be the abject failure it turned out to be. Most Americans did not want the absolute ban of all sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol. The most enterprising Americans found many illicit ways to profit from alcohol’s new illegal status. Americans looking for alcohol were seldom out of options, as every corner had either a speakeasy or a bootlegger selling imported or homemade liquor. Criminal organizations grew in strength thanks to profits from illegal booze, and federal agents were hopelessly outmanned of mobsters and thugs. On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution repealed the 18th Amendment, eliminating the Prohibition of alcohol and turning back the work of all of the Prohibition activists.

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:

hopelessly outmanned by mobsters and thugs

NO CHANGE

hopeless outmanned of mobsters and thugs

hopelessly outmanning mobsters and thugs

Correct answer:

hopelessly outmanned by mobsters and thugs

Explanation:

The preposition "of" is a strange choice in this sentence, as the "mobsters and thugs" are the ones doing the action the prepositional phrase is tied to. A better choice is to use a preposition that conveys this fact. Therefore, the correct answer choice is "hopelessly outmanned by mobsters and thugs."

Example Question #31 : Conventional And Idiomatic Usage Errors

Known as Prohibition the political fight in the United States to ban the sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol took a long time. The official ratification of the 18th Amendment, which banned alcohol, took place in January of 1919, after Nebraska became the 36th state to have its legislature ratify the amendment. The Amendment had first been passed of the United States Senate in 1917, and needed vigorous political action taken by its supporters just to get the necessary 36 states to ratify it. Its official enactment on January 1, 1920 was met with equal amounts of relief and joy by it’s proponents.

Most of them had been fighting to ban alcohol for decades. The American Temperance Society was founding in 1826. Frances Willard had been running the Women’s Christian Temperance Union for decades by the time a national debate was taking place on Prohibition. Carrie Nation had banded together women in the Midwest since the turn of the century to destroy bars and saloons with her trademark hatchet. The Anti-Saloon league organized thousands of everyday Americans to vote against any politician that did not support Prohibition. A burgeoning movement had grown into a legitimate groundswell, by the late 1910s.

After the ratification of the 18th Amendment, few of these supporters thought that it would be the abject failure it turned out to be. Most Americans did not want the absolute ban of all sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol. The most enterprising Americans found many illicit ways to profit from alcohol’s new illegal status. Americans looking for alcohol were seldom out of options, as every corner had either a speakeasy or a bootlegger selling imported or homemade liquor. Criminal organizations grew in strength thanks to profits from illegal booze, and federal agents were hopelessly outmanned of mobsters and thugs. On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution repealed the 18th Amendment, eliminating the Prohibition of alcohol and turning back the work of all of the Prohibition activists.

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 Anti-Saloon league organizes

The Anti-Saloon League organized

The Anti-Saloon league organizing

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

The Anti-Saloon League organized

Explanation:

"The Anti-Saloon league" is a proper noun as the name of an organization, and every element of a proper noun must be capitalized. In the bolded portion, the word "league" needs to be capitalized. The only answer choice that uses proper capitalization is "The Anti-Saloon League organized," so it is the correct answer.

Example Question #31 : Other Usage Errors

As a child the only thing I wanted to be was a race car driver. My mothers family all lived in central Indiana, and I went to the Indianapolis 500 every year growing up. Between the colors on the cars the speed of the race and the enthusiasm of the crowd, nothing in the world seemed more exciting to a child. I would lay awake at night thinking about getting behind the wheel of my own race car. My bedroom walls were adorned with posters of the all great racers from all over the world.

When I was a teenager, I had the opportunity to race go karts on small tracks against other kids my age. Very quickly I realized I am the terrible driver. Any bumping with another driver was too much for me to handle, and I could not take the turns quick enough to keep pace with the best drivers. None of this diminished my love of racing, however, because just being at the track was such a thrill. The noise, the speed, and rushing were all more exciting from the pits than from the grandstand. If I could never be in the driver’s seat, then I would place myself behind the scenes.

With this new focus, I began studying mechanical engineering and automotive design. I might not have been able to drive a race car; but now I could design a car, build a car, and engineer it to win a race. The drivers still get all the credit for the championships, but everyone knows they would never win without the people like myself.

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

I would laying awake at night

I would lying awake at night

I would lie awake at night

Correct answer:

I would lie awake at night

Explanation:

"Lay" means set something down, as in, "I usually lay the mail on the front table." "Lie," on the other hand, can mean fib, but it can also mean lie down. So, in this case, since nothing is being set down anywhere, "lie" is the appropriate choice, and the underlined section should read, "I would lie awake at night."

Example Question #32 : Other Usage Errors

Adapted from “The Fear of the Past” in What’s Wrong with the World by G.K. Chesterton (1910)

The last few decades have marked by a special cultivation of the romance of the future. We seem to have made up our minds to misunderstand what has happened; and we turn, with a sort of relief, to stating what will happen—which is (apparently) more easy. The modern man no longer presents the memoirs of his great grandfather; but is engaged in writing a detailed and authoritative biography of his great-grandson. Instead of trembling before the specters of the dead, we shudder abject under the shadow of the babe unborn. This spirit is apparent everywhere, even to the creation of a form of futurist romance. Sir Walter Scott stands at the dawn of the nineteenth century for the novel of the past; Mr. H. G. Wells stands at the beginning of the twentieth century for the novel of the future. The old story, we know, was supposed to begin: "Late on a winter's evening two horsemen might have been seen . . ." The new story has to begin: "Late on a winter's evening two aviators will be seen . . ." The movement is not without its elements of charm; theres something spirited, if eccentric, in the sight of so many people fighting over again the fights that have not yet happened; of people still aglow with the memory of tomorrow morning. A man in advance of the age is a familiar phrase enough. An age in advance of the age is really rather odd.

What is an equivalent expression for the bolded selection, "has to begin"?

Possible Answers:

will begin

must begin

had to begin

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

must begin

Explanation:

The expression "to have to" expresses obligation. Therefore, "it has to begin," means, "it is necessary that it begins." More simply, this could be stated with the modal "must": "it must begin."

Example Question #33 : Other Usage Errors

Paul stood waiting, for the meeting with James. He had arrived early at the little alleyway in northern Bramville, waiting to meet the other man at a pub named the “Pick and the Shovel.” The whole situation was extremely strange, for Paul had never met James. Indeed, nobody whom Paul knew had met him. Hitherto, the mysterious man had been nothing more than a voice on the phone and a conversationalist via e-mail.

The making, of the trip to Bramville, was utterly unexpected, and his companions had encouraged him to reconnoiter the situation, record his thoughts, and communicate them within the coming week. Many peoples’ fates rode on the character of this mysterious man, this James. By stroke of luck, Paul was about to meet him.

Although Paul was quite certain that this was the appropriate course of action, he was still quite unnerved. Thousands of miles from his home, far from any friends, and without a cell phone, he could well be the target of a dangerous man. For this reason, he watched very intently as every person passed by, particularly those men who were alone. Many times, he asked himself, “Is that him”?

Thus, Paul watched and waited, somewhat overcome with fear yet also anxious to meet this mysterious man. It was time for a meeting with this man, upon whose mysterious persona were placed so many hopes. Though Paul was nervous to be the person to meet James, he knew that he was the man to whom this task had been appointed by fate.

What is the meaning of the bolded expression "about to meet him"?

Possible Answers:

nearby to meet him

soon to meet him

around the area of the meeting

determined to meet him

Correct answer:

soon to meet him

Explanation:

The expression "about to meet him" is an idiomatic expression meaning "soon to meet him."  The word "about" can be used as an adverb meaning "approximately" ("about fifteen dollars") or indicating a given place ("clothes that are laying about the room").  In the idiomatic expression being used here, the word "about" can indicate that somethings is going to be done soon or in a short time.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Conventional And Idiomatic Usage Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English.

The snob woman looked down on the slovenly young man, who always dressed in a disheveled manner.

Possible Answers:

The snob woman looked down to the slovenly young man

The snobby woman looked down on the slovenly young man

The snob woman looked down on the slovenly young man

The snob woman looks down on the slovenly young man

The snob woman looking down on the slovenly young man

Correct answer:

The snobby woman looked down on the slovenly young man

Explanation:

The use of "snob" as an adjective in this sentence is incorrect, as "snob" is a noun and cannot properly modify "woman." The word needs to be changed to an adjectival form. "The snobby woman looked down on the slovenly young man" is the only answer choice to appropriately use an adjective.

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