ACT English : Other Usage Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store varsity tutors amazon store varsity tutors ibooks store

Example Questions

Example Question #64 : Conventional And Idiomatic Usage Errors

The rainforest in Borneo which is home to a declining orangutan population is in danger because of the slash and burn agriculture practices of palm oil plantations. As a student of environmental science and policy, I had the opportunity to travel to Borneo with a team of scientists and learn more about the situation.  It was my first time visiting the rainforest, and I was excited to hike, camp, and learning.   At night, we cooked dinner over a small camp stove, but during the day we ate plants along the trail. The biologists's extensive training in botany helped them identify which plants were edible during their trek through the rainforest.  I felt very fortunate to see this beautiful, endangered forest. One of the scientists told me that much of the trails in the forest are impassable during the rainy season.

After a few days of trekking, we arrived in a part of the forest that was supposed to be a protected area.  However, the local minister of forestry was known for catering to the wishes of large palm oil plantation owners. The minister was determined to support the lucrative palm oil industry, irregardless of the costs. Consequently, he had recently allowed the area’s largest company to conduct slash-and-burn farming within the boundaries of the protected area. The scientists told me that these practices not only harmed orangutan habitats, and they contributed to global warming by releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide when peat burns on the forest floor.

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

Possible Answers:

contributed

but did contribute

but also contributed

NO CHANGE

and also contributed

Correct answer:

but also contributed

Explanation:

When using the phrase "not only....." the second part of the phrase (which incorrectly reads "and they contributed" in the passage) must begin with "but also."  

Example Question #71 : Other Usage Errors

Over winter break, our AP Spanish class took a trip to South America to practice the language and learn more about different Spanish-speaking cultures.  Before we left, every student had to get their vaccinations for yellow fever and typhoid. Our first stop was Bolivia. When we landed at El Alto airport the highest in the world, we could see the city of La Paz sprawling up the hillsides in the shadow of the Andes.   The first day in La Paz, we went to the Witches’s Market, run by local yatiri. The yatiri are medical practitioners who perform healing rituals in they’re communities. At the market, we saw dried frogs, llama fetuses, herbs, and seeds, used in various rituals. After we visited La Paz, we traveled to Cochabamba.  Cochabamba is Bolivia’s culinary capital, with delicious specialties such as salteñas and rellenos. In Cochabamba, we also climbed 1400 steps to see the Cristo de La Concordia statue, the tallest of it’s kind in South America. Next, we visited the salt flats of Uyuni.  Several lagoons dotted the high desert landscape, some of who were full of flamingos!

 

On our way out of Bolivia, we stopped at Lake Titicaca on the Peruvian border. Because the lake’s elevation is over 12,000 feet, some of my classmates experienced a bit of altitude sickness.  Despite the altitude sickness, everyone said they loved seeing the beautiful scenery and visiting the mysterious “floating islands” made of reeds.   When we crossed the border into Peru, one of my classmates thought she had lost her passport. I would of had a panic attack! She ended up finding it buried in a pocket of her backpack and we were on our way. 

 

My favorite part of Peru was our trek to the ancient Incan ruins of Machu Picchu. We spent four days hiking in the Andes on a trail to the ruins. Our guides, whom spoke Spanish, English, and Quechua, were very knowledgeable about the history, flora, and fauna in the region.  Upon waking up the next morning, a beautiful sunrise greeted us and cast the mountains in its soft pink glow. After we explored the ruins, we took a train ride back to Cuzco.  The next day, we flew to Lima and prepared to return home. I was sad to leave, but I know I would be back some day!

Select the answer choice that best corrects the bold underlined portion of the passage. If the sentence is correct as written, select NO CHANGE.

Possible Answers:

I could of had a panic attack!

NO CHANGE

I would have to be having a panic attack!

I would have had a panic attack!

I would of been having a panic attack!

Correct answer:

I would have had a panic attack!

Explanation:

Even though people often say "would of" (or "could of" or "should of") in everyday speech, the correct idiomatic expression is "would (or could or should) have." In this case, "would have" is correct.

Example Question #1 : Comparative And Superlative Adjective And Adverb Errors

Adapted from The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James (1902)

In the matter of religions, it is particularly easy distinguishing the too orders of question. Every religious phenomenon has its history and its derivation from natural antecedents. What is nowadays called the higher criticism of the Bible are only a study of the Bible from this existential point of view, neglected to much by the earlier church. Under just what biographic conditions did the sacred writers bring forth their various contributions to the holy volume? What had they exactly in their several individual minds, when they delivered their utterances? These are manifestly questions of historical fact, and one does not see how the answer to it can decide offhand the still further question: of what use should such a volume, with its manner of coming into existence so defined, be to us as a guide to life and a revelation? To answer this other question we must have already in our mind some sort of a general theory as to what the peculiarities in a thing should be which give it value for purposes of revelation; and this theory itself would be what I just called a spiritual judgment. Combining it with our existential judgment, we might indeed deduce another spiritual judgment as to the Bibles’ worth. Thus, if our theory of revelation-value were to affirm that any book, to possess it, must have been composed automatically or not by the free caprice of the writer, or that it must exhibit no scientific and historic errors and express no local or personal passions, the Bible would probably fare ill at our hands. But if, on the other hand, our theory should allow that a book may well be a revelation in spite of errors and passions and deliberate human composition, if only it be a true record of the inner experiences of great-souled persons wrestling with the crises of his fate, than the verdict would be much favorable. You see that the existential facts by itself are insufficient for determining the value; and the best adepts of the higher criticism accordingly never confound the existential with the spiritual problem. With the same conclusions of fact before them, some take one view, and some another, of the Bible's value as a revelation, according as their spiritual judgment as to the foundation of values differ.

What is the appropriate form of the underlined word "favorable"?

Possible Answers:

more favorable

NO CHANGE

to the favorable

favorabler

Correct answer:

more favorable

Explanation:

(Note that there are other minor mistakes in this sentence, about which other questions will be asked.) Reading the whole sentence, you can see that the author is stating that prospects for the Bible's (or any book's) meaningfulness (according to the author, at least) would be better if it were "a true record of the inner experiences of great-souled persons . . ." The implication is that the verdict concerning (judgment of) such texts would be in a much more favorable status than if such an allowance were not made. That is, there is an implied comparison, which requires the comparative degree of the adjective "favorable." Because of its length, the word requires the use of "more" and not the "-er" suffix.

Example Question #681 : Word Usage Errors

Choose the word or phrase that best completes the sentence.

He was the ________ of all the performers.

Possible Answers:

more funny

funniest

funny

most funniest

funnier

Correct answer:

funniest

Explanation:

Because the sentence implies that there were more than two performers, you need a superlative, not a comparative, adjective. Thus, "funnier" and "more funny" are both incorrect, because they are comparative forms of adjectives. "More" and "most" are used to modify the original adjective (in this case, "funny"), so "most funniest" is also incorrect. "Funny" by itself is neither a comparative nor a superlative adjective. Since it implies no comparison, "funny" cannot be the correct answer either. "Funniest" is the correct answer.

Example Question #1 : Comparative And Superlative Adjective And Adverb Errors

Adapted from The Autobiography of John Adams (ed. 1856)

Not long after this, the three greatest measures of all were carried. Three committees were appointed, one for preparing a declaration of independence, another for reporting a plan of a treaty to be proposed to France, and a third to digest a system of articles of confederation to be proposed to the States. I was appointed on the committee of independence and on that for preparing the form of a treaty with France. On the committee of confederation Mr. Samuel Adams was appointed. The committee of independence were Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston. Mr. Jefferson had been now about a year a member of Congress, but had attended his duty in the house a very small part of the time, and, when there, had never spoken in public. During the whole time I sat with him in Congress, I never heard him utter three sentences together. It will naturally be inquired how it happened that he was appointed on a committee of such importance. There were more reasons than one. Mr. Jefferson had the reputation of a masterly pen; he had been chosen a delegate in Virginia, in consequence of a very handsome public paper which he had written for the House of Burgesses, which had given him the character of a fine writer. Another reason was, that Mr. Richard Henry Lee was not beloved by the most of his colleagues from Virginia, and Mr. Jefferson was set up to rival and supplant him. This could be done only by the pen, for Mr. Jefferson could stand no competition with him or any one else in elocution and public debate.

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

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

Another reason was that Mr. Richard Henry Lee was not beloved by most of his colleagues from Virginia

Another reason was that Mr. Richard Henry Lee was not beloved by the most of his colleagues from Virginia

Therefore Mr. Richard Henry Lee was not beloved by most of his colleagues from Virginia

Additionally, Mr. Richard Henry Lee was not beloved by the most of his colleagues from Virginia

Correct answer:

Another reason was that Mr. Richard Henry Lee was not beloved by most of his colleagues from Virginia

Explanation:

The main issue in the sentence is the use of the superlative "most." As it is used here, it should not have the definite article "the." The sentence simply is stating that Mr. Lee was not beloved by most (the majority) of his colleagues. The additional "the" only makes the sentence more opaque and difficult to understand.

Example Question #1 : Comparative And Superlative Adjective And Adverb Errors

Travelling can be both fun stressful. If you leaves the country, you should always keep your passport with you. A domestic trip may be more palatable to the xenophobic. However, even a short road trip can be scary than staying at home. People would be wise to simply treat them to a movie.

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

Possible Answers:

However, even a short road trip can be more scarier than staying at home.

However, even a short road trip can be scarier than staying at home.

NO CHANGE

However, even a short road trip can be more scarier than staying at home.

However, even a short road trip can be scaryer than staying at home.

Correct answer:

However, even a short road trip can be scarier than staying at home.

Explanation:

 

"Scarier" is the correct way to turn "scary" into a comparative adjective. Adjectives ending in "y" drop the "y" and add "ier" to become comparative. 

 

Example Question #1 : Comparative And Superlative Adjective And Adverb Errors

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

Erik came from a large family and had four uncles on his mother's side; they all had attributes that made them great uncles, but Uncle Stan was, without a doubt, the funnest.

Possible Answers:

most fun

funner

more fun

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

most fun

Explanation:

As there are more than four uncles being compared, a superlative adjective must be used, as superlative adjectives are used in comparisons that involve three or more people or things. However, "funnest" is not a word; the accepted superlative form of the adjective "fun" is "most fun."

Example Question #1 : Comparative And Superlative Adjective And Adverb Errors

My childhood was fairly idyllic. I grew up in southern suburbia, we could play outside nearly year round. We almost played outside every day. Our days were filled with bike rides, jumping on the trampoline, playing in the sprinklers, and also imagination games. Countless afternoons were spent in the side yard of our home, where our imaginations were the limit to our fun. One of our favorite games was “Lost Children.” Oddly enough, the parents in the game were always deceased or fighting in a foreign war. The source of this game likely stemmed from the books we read.

My mother’s old, rusty, orange wheelbarrow was perpetually propped up against the fence, to serve as the base for our makeshift range. The metal braces beneath the wheelbarrow bin provided the perfect resting place for a pair of burners, hastily sketched on a flat board. Old paint buckets became a sink and a stained picnic table was scrubbed to a relative state of cleanliness. Our visitors, who were often kings and queens, were served heaping helpings of mud and grass pie, possibly adorned with a side helping of flowers. Household chores were far more fun to do in our imaginary world, and we would eagerly sweep and dust our humble home. Even covered in leaves, we loved our outdoor kitchen.  

Other days, we would scamper around the neighborhood park, sometimes venturing into the woods to go exploring. One time we borrowed my little sister’s wagon and flew down the sides of the ditch. Although we had a grand time my mother was not pleased when she had to replace the broken axle. On adventurous days, we would pretend to be statues on the entrance sign to our neighborhood. But, the most perfect afternoons were spent biking up to the local corner store. With spending money burning a hole in our pockets, we would peruse the convenience store shelves, and after carefully picking our selections, we would pedal home. Our plastic shopping bags hung from the handlebars, rustling in the wind.

The bite of crisp fall evenings would barely phase our childlike fantasies. But, to our dismay, twilight would inevitably seep into our childhood world. Mother would call us in for dinner and a bath, if needed. Tired, beds were welcomed. I would often fall asleep to the gentle rhythm of my mother’s voice.

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 perfect summer afternoons were

NO CHANGE

a most perfect summer afternoon was

the most perfect of summer afternoons were

Correct answer:

the perfect summer afternoons were

Explanation:

"The perfect summer afternoons were" is the best choice because “perfect” is an superlative adjective and cannot be compared. An afternoon cannot be more perfect. It is either perfect or it is not.

Example Question #1811 : Act English

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:

a greater number of

the greater number of

the most crops

that great number

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

the most crops

Explanation:

When comparing two items, use the comparative form of an adjective such as "better," "softer," or "more transparent."

When comparing three or more items, use the superlative form of an adjective, such as "best," "softest," or "most transparent."

We know from context that there are five countries being compared, so we must use the superlative form. In this case, the superlative is "most." The correct way to express the phrase is therefore "Of the five most industrialized nations, the United States exports the most crops."

Example Question #1 : Comparative And Superlative Adjective And Adverb 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:

NO CHANGE

more prolific

very greatest

best

Correct answer:

more prolific

Explanation:

Adjectives have comparative and superlative forms: the comparative form (e.g. "bigger" or "more persuasive") and the superlative form (e.g. "biggest" or "most persuasive"). 

When comparing two items, the appropriate form is the comparative form.

When comparing three or more items, the appropriate form is the superlative form.

Since the sentence is comparing two items (as indicated by the phrase "of the two"), the comparative form is appropriate.

The correct way to express the sentence is therefore "Although Tarski and Einstein were contemporaries, Einstein was the more prolific writer of the two." Each of the other answer choices contains the superlative rather than comparative form, and is therefore incorrect.

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors