ACT English : Other Usage Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

Example Question #11 : 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. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

Some writers use literary illusions to tactfully reference authors who previously wrote about similar themes.  

Possible Answers:

use literary illusions tactfully to reference authors

use literary illusions to tactfully reference authors

tactfully use literary allusions to reference authors

tactfully use literary illusions to reference authors

use literary allusions to tactfully reference authors

Correct answer:

tactfully use literary allusions to reference authors

Explanation:

An illusion is a hallucination, an image that isn’t really there. An allusion is a reference or citation, especially to/from another text. Also, there is a split infinitive; the adverb “tactfully” must be moved elsewhere in the sentence so the verb “to reference” is kept together.

Example Question #41 : 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. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

Floridians often have to secure and fortify their homes in anticipation of an eminent costal hurricane

Possible Answers:

having to anticipate an imminent costal hurricane

in anticipation of an imminent costal hurricane

in anticipation of an eminent costal hurricane 

anticipating an eminent costal hurricane

as they anticipate an eminent costal hurricane

Correct answer:

in anticipation of an imminent costal hurricane

Explanation:

Eminent means famous or well known, while imminent means threatening or looming. These two words sound identical in speech, but only imminent can describe a hurricane (unless it is a specific and famous hurricane in history, such as Hurricane Sandy).

Example Question #12 : 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. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

During the political debate, it was quite obvious whom the speaker’s insult was directed at.

Possible Answers:

who the speaker’s insult was directed at

at whom the speaker’s insult was directed

at who the speaker’s insult was directed

whom the speaker’s insult was directed at

to who the speaker had directed his insult

Correct answer:

at whom the speaker’s insult was directed

Explanation:

In a grammatical sense, the person being insulted acts as an object, so we should use “whom” to describe him/her. Also, sentences should not be ended with prepositions, so the word “at” should be placed earlier on in the sentence. 

Example Question #11 : 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. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

If you enter the contest, you could win a sneak peak at the fall fashion line.

Possible Answers:

you could win a sneak peak in the fall fashion line.

you could win a sneak peek to the fall fashion line.

you could win a sneak peak to the fall fashion line.

you could win a sneak peek at the fall fashion line.

you could win a sneak peak at the fall fashion line.

Correct answer:

you could win a sneak peek at the fall fashion line.

Explanation:

In conventional usage, people take a peek “at” something, not “to” or “in” it. The word “peak” refers to a mountaintop; “peek” is the synonym for a glance or look.

Example Question #51 : Other 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. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

The magician performed a cunning illusion for the captivated audience.

Possible Answers:

The magician performed a cunning allusion for the captivated audience.

The magician performed a cunning illusion for the captivated audience.

The magician performed a cunning allusion to the captivated audience.

The magician performed a cunning illusion to the captivated audience.

The magician performed a cunning illusion at the captivated audience.

Correct answer:

The magician performed a cunning illusion for the captivated audience.

Explanation:

An “illusion” is a trick; an “allusion” is a reference (often literary). Tricks and illusions are performed “for” audiences, not “to” or “at” them.

Example Question #51 : Other 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 politicians couldn't hardly believe their luck.

Possible Answers:

couldn't hardly believe his or her luck.

couldn't nearly believe their luck.

couldn't hardly believe their luck.

would not hardly believe their luck.

could hardly believe their luck.

Correct answer:

could hardly believe their luck.

Explanation:

We are looking for the answer choice without negation. "Could hardly believe their luck" is the only answer that does not contain a negative.

Example Question #52 : Other Usage 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 word, "for"?

Possible Answers:

at

with

NO CHANGE

of

to

Correct answer:

to

Explanation:

This question requires familiarity with the idiom, "detrimental to." The word detrimental is usually used in the phrase "detrimental to," while the rest of the answers do not fall in line with conventional English.

Example Question #53 : Other 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 names of many Latin American dictators have become synonymous to "tyrant," as many of these leaders killed civilians deemed "subversives" without mercy.

Possible Answers:

The names of many Latin American dictators have become a synonym to the word "tyrant," as many of these leaders killed civilians deemed "subversives" without mercy.

The names of many Latin American dictators have become synonymous with "tyrant," as many of these leaders killed civilians deemed "subversives" without mercy.

The names of many Latin American dictators have become a synonym with the word "tyrant," as many of these leaders killed civilians deemed "subversives" without mercy.

The names of many Latin American dictators have become synonymous of "tyrant," as many of these leaders killed civilians deemed "subversives" without mercy.

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

The names of many Latin American dictators have become synonymous with "tyrant," as many of these leaders killed civilians deemed "subversives" without mercy.

Explanation:

The problem here is idiomatic. In standard English, the word "synonymous" is paired with the word "with." Something is synonymous with something else, an expression indicating that two nouns are remarkably similar, sharing key qualities. 

Example Question #54 : Other 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."

If I had practiced more, I could of won the concerto competition.

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

I could have won

I could win

I would of won

I could win

Correct answer:

I could have won

Explanation:

While people might say "could of" in everyday language, it is not grammatically correct. Could/would/should always go with "have." 

Example Question #55 : Other Usage Errors

Select the answer that best corrects the underlined portion of the sentence. If the sentence is correct as is, select "NO CHANGE."

Now that I live several thousand miles from home, I wish I would of spent more time with my family when I lived there.

Possible Answers:

I had spent

I have spent

NO CHANGE

I was spending

I could of spent

Correct answer:

I had spent

Explanation:

While many people say "could of" and "would of" it is not grammatically correct (should be "could have" or "would have"). In this case, "had spent" is the proper tense for the verb phrase.

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