ACT English : Verb Formation Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

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Example Question #19 : Act English

Jimmy is annoyed at the video game that he was playing. For one thing, there was not nearly enough interesting characters suspenseful moments or exciting escapes in the game to satisfy him. For another, it was incredibly hard while playing the game to control the cars. It always wanted to veer to the left when he tried to steer to the right. But the ending of the game was worst. By the time he got to the end, the hero had decided to stop chasing rogue spies and therefore marry his girlfriend, a surprise attack resulted in her being kidnapped, and the hero must go on a final mission to save her before the game can be completed. That would of been fine, except it involved tracking the enemy using a helicopter, and Jimmy much to his chagrin never mastered flying the helicopter.

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:

NO CHANGE

was annoyed

will be annoyed

has been annoyed

Correct answer:

was annoyed

Explanation:

The entire passage is written in past tense, so the past tense form "was annoyed" is most appropriate here.

Example Question #20 : Act English

Jimmy is annoyed at the video game that he was playing. For one thing, there was not nearly enough interesting characters suspenseful moments or exciting escapes in the game to satisfy him. For another, it was incredibly hard while playing the game to control the cars. It always wanted to veer to the left when he tried to steer to the right. But the ending of the game was worst. By the time he got to the end, the hero had decided to stop chasing rogue spies and therefore marry his girlfriend, a surprise attack resulted in her being kidnapped, and the hero must go on a final mission to save her before the game can be completed. That would of been fine, except it involved tracking the enemy using a helicopter, and Jimmy much to his chagrin never mastered flying the helicopter.

Which is the best form of the bolded and underlined section?

Possible Answers:

is deciding

was deciding

decided

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

The hero's decision takes place in the past of other past events in the game, so the past perfect form ("had decided") is appropriate here.

Example Question #11 : Usage Errors

The teacher had several questions for her students when they returned from the museum. Who did they talk to? What did they see?  

 “We talked to whoever would answer our questions,” replied Jake with the red hair (as opposed to Jake who sat behind him with the brown hair). “Our questions were answered by one woman most of the time.”

"But who was that woman?" the teacher asked.

"We never got her name," Jake with the brown hair said.  "At the time, we didn't think her name was important." 

Upon hearing this, Hugh was getting annoyed. "Her name wasn't 'Important,'" said Hugh, "it was Ingrid." 

"Oh," Jake with the brown hair said. "I knew it started with an 'I.'"

"We saw several paintings by some guy named Renoir," Jake with the red hair said. 

"What were these?" Jake with the brown hair asked.

"They were the bigger of the three by the door," Jake with the brown hair replied.

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

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

One woman answered our questions

One woman was the one was answered our questions

By one woman most of our questions were answered

Correct answer:

One woman answered our questions

Explanation:

The original form of the sentence is in passive voice, and all but the choice "One woman answered our questions" are variations on the passive voice.

Example Question #12 : Usage Errors

The teacher had several questions for her students when they returned from the museum. Who did they talk to? What did they see?  

 “We talked to whoever would answer our questions,” replied Jake with the red hair (as opposed to Jake who sat behind him with the brown hair). “Our questions were answered by one woman most of the time.”

"But who was that woman?" the teacher asked.

"We never got her name," Jake with the brown hair said.  "At the time, we didn't think her name was important." 

Upon hearing this, Hugh was getting annoyed. "Her name wasn't 'Important,'" said Hugh, "it was Ingrid." 

"Oh," Jake with the brown hair said. "I knew it started with an 'I.'"

"We saw several paintings by some guy named Renoir," Jake with the red hair said. 

"What were these?" Jake with the brown hair asked.

"They were the bigger of the three by the door," Jake with the brown hair replied.

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

Possible Answers:

Hugh got annoyed

Hugh was annoyed

NO CHANGE

Hugh had gotten annoyed

Correct answer:

Hugh got annoyed

Explanation:

The phrase "Hugh got annoyed" would be the most active form of the phrase as the original and all the other choices are in passive voice.

Example Question #1 : Verb Voice 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 new law was passed by a two-thirds majority.

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

A two-thirds majority passes the new law. 

The new law was passing by a two-thirds majority. 

A two-thirds majority passed the new law.

The new law is passed by a two-thirds majority.

Correct answer:

A two-thirds majority passed the new law.

Explanation:

In passive voice, the object is acted upon ("The new law was passed"). In active voice, the subject performs an action ("A two-thirds majority passed"). Passive voice typically uses "to be" helping verbs (in this case, "was"). Thus, in order to rewrite the sentence in active voice, it is important to ensure that the subject performs an action and to eliminate "to be" helping verbs, but there is no need to eliminate the past tense. In fact, eliminating the past tense alters the timeline of the action, and is therefore wrong. "The new law passed by a two-thirds majority" changes the subject of the sentence from "a two-thirds majority" to "the new law," which should be the object of the action, so this sentence is not the BEST choice.

Example Question #2 : Verb Voice 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 voice of the underlined verb "was formulated"?

Possible Answers:

indicative

passive

subjunctive

active

Correct answer:

passive

Explanation:

The voice of a verb refers to the relationship of activity between the subject and the verb of the sentence. It is divided only into the options "active" and "passive." In this sentence, the subject "it" stands for "the question." It is not the question that is "doing the asking"—as when one says, "Peter asks the question." Instead, the question "is being asked." It is passive—being done by someone else. 

Example Question #1 : Verb Voice Errors

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

Here I will interrupt the narration for a moment to observe that, from all I have read of the history of Greece and Rome, England and France, and all I have observed at home and abroad, articulate eloquence in public assemblies is not the surest road to fame or preferment, at least, unless it be used with caution, very rarely, and with great reserve. The examples of Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson is enough to show that silence and reserve in public is more efficacious than argumentation or oratory. A public speaker who inserts himself, or is urged by others, into the conduct of affairs, by daily exertions to justify his measures, and answer the objections of opponents, makes himself too familiar with the public and unavoidably makes himself enemies. Few persons can bear to be outdone in reasoning or declamation or wit or sarcasm or repartee or satire, and all these things that are very apt to grow out of public debate. In this way, in a course of years, a nation becomes full of a man’s enemies, or at least, of such as have been galled in some controversy and take a secret pleasure in assisting to humble and mortify him. So much for this digression. We will now return to our memoirs.

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:

is urging

could be urged

NO CHANGE

was urged

might have been urged

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

The sentence is correct as it is written and needs no changed made to it in order to be grammatically correct. You can tell that the present verb "is urged" is in the correct tense because the verb "inserts" that precedes it in the sentence refers to the same subject, "A public speaker," and is also in the present tense. The mood of the verb is also correct as it is written for the same reason; "inserts" is in the indicative mood, so no modals are needed.

Example Question #21 : 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 underlined portion of the passage. If the underlined portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

Tarski solved hundreds of mathematical problems

Mathematical problems—hundreds of them—were solved by Tarski

NO CHANGE

Hundreds of problems, all of them mathematical, were solved by Tarski

Correct answer:

Tarski solved hundreds of mathematical problems

Explanation:

The ACT prefers the active voice over the passive voice. We know that the sentence "Hundreds of mathematical problems were solved by Tarski." contains the passive because it has a form of the verb "to be" (i.e. "were") followed by a past participle (i.e. "solved"). 

The correct way to express the sentence in active voice is "Tarski solved hundreds of mathematical problems."

Each of the other answer choices contains a passive construction and is therefore incorrect.

Example Question #1 : Verb Voice 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:

the Balcerowicz Plan implemented

the Balcerowicz Plan, which Polish officials implemented

NO CHANGE

Polish officials implemented the Balcerowicz Plan

Correct answer:

Polish officials implemented the Balcerowicz Plan

Explanation:

A modifier that begins a sentence must modify the element immediately following it. In this case, the modifier is the gerund phrase "Attempting to find a solution," but the element immediately following it is "the Balcerowicz Plan." Logically speaking, the Polish officials were the ones attempting to find a solution, not the Balcerowicz Plan, so the element immediately following "Attempting to find a solution" must be "Polish officials" and not "the Balcerowicz Plan." The correct was to phrase the sentence is "Attempting to find a solution, Polish officials implemented the Balcerowicz Plan."

Example Question #6 : Verb Voice 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.

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 last few decades marked by

The last few decades are being marked by

The last few decades had marked by

NO CHANGE

The last few decades have been marked by

Correct answer:

The last few decades have been marked by

Explanation:

Reading the sentence as written, you likely stumbled over your words—and for good reason! The selection does not properly use the voice of the verb in conjunction with the action of the sentence. The subject of the sentence is "decades." This subject is not performing the action—as is indicated by the prepositional phrase beginning with "by." The verb must be passive. By looking to the rest of the passage's context, you will note that it needs to be in the past tense, that is, "have been marked" instead of "are being marked."

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