ACT English : Usage Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

Example Question #22 : Verb Formation 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.

At the turn of the century, many new advances in technology were discovered by scientists.

Possible Answers:

Scientists discovering many new advances in technology at the turn of the century.

At the scientist's turn of the century, they discovered many new advances in technology. 

At the turn of the century, scientists discovered many new advances in technology. 

At the turn of the century, many new advances in technology were discovered by scientists.

Many new advances in technology were discovered by scientists at the turn of the century.

Correct answer:

At the turn of the century, scientists discovered many new advances in technology. 

Explanation:

This example shows how the active voice is preferred over the passive voice. The active voice constructs a much stronger sentence than the passive does.

Example Question #23 : Verb Formation 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.

Mike and Jonas were asked to spar by the boxing coach, eager to see how they would perform in a simulated match.

Possible Answers:

Mike and Jonas, eager to see how they would perform in a simulated match, were asked to spar by the boxing coach.

The boxing coach, eagerly sees how Mike and Jonas would perform in a simulated match, asked them to spar.

Mike and Jonas, eager to see how the boxing coach would perform in a simulated match, asked them to spar. 

Eager to see how they would perform in a simulated match, the boxing coach asked Mike and Jonas to spar.

Mike and Jonas were asked to spar by the boxing coach, eager to see how they would perform in a simulated match.

Correct answer:

Eager to see how they would perform in a simulated match, the boxing coach asked Mike and Jonas to spar.

Explanation:

The initial independent clause in the sentence, "Mike and Jonas were asked to spar by the boxing coach," uses passive voice ("were asked"); it becomes clearer when we use active voice ("the boxing coach asked Mike and Jonas . . .").

Example Question #24 : Verb Formation 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.

As the suit was finished quickly, that it still needed alterations did not surprise Henry.

Possible Answers:

it still needed alterations, which did not surprise Henry.

it was not surprising to Henry that it still needed alterations.

because it still needed alterations, which surprised Henry.

that it still needed more alterations did not surprise Henry.

Henry was not surprised that it still needed alterations.

Correct answer:

Henry was not surprised that it still needed alterations.

Explanation:

Avoid the passive voice of the original ("it still needed alterations") and choose the simplest answer which preserves the meaning of the original sentence.

Example Question #25 : Verb Formation Errors

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

State regulators removed records from the controller's office because it was believed by them that there were irregularities in the annual reports.

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

the annual reports were believed by them to have irregularities.

belief was had by them that there were irregularities in the annual reports.

they believed there were irregularities in the annual reports.

there was a belief that there were irregularities in the annual reports.

Correct answer:

they believed there were irregularities in the annual reports.

Explanation:

Since the first clause is written in active voice, the second clause should have the same actor/agent "they...the regulators" and an active verb, "believed".

Example Question #26 : Verb Formation 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 plant was watered diligently every day by Mary.

Possible Answers:

Mary diligently watered the plant every day. 

The plant was being diligently watered every day by Mary.

Every day, the plant was watered diligently by Mary.

NO CHANGE

The plant was, by Mary, diligently watered every day.

Correct answer:

Mary diligently watered the plant every day. 

Explanation:

This question asks you to strengthen a sentence by eliminating passive voice. In the passive voice, an object is acted upon, whereas in the active voice, a subject performs an action. The active voice is generally stronger than the passive voice. In this sentence, the subject, "Mary," should perform the action, "watered," rather than having the object, "the plant," acted upon. The use of the active voice strengthens the sentence and makes its meaning more clear.

Example Question #27 : Verb Formation 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 one is a writer who wishes to be published in a national magazine, you should expect to re-write pieces several times before they are accepted.

Possible Answers:

yourself

they

we

NO CHANGE

one

Correct answer:

one

Explanation:

"One" establishes the sentence as being in third-person, singular, thus shifts into 2nd person ("you" "yourself) or plural pronouns would be incorrect.

Example Question #28 : Verb Formation 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 repeats the underlined portion as it is written.

Horses were domesticating by humans thousands of years ago.

Possible Answers:

were domesticated

were domesticating

domesticated taking place

domestication

domesticating

Correct answer:

were domesticated

Explanation:

The sentence describes what humans did to horses in the past, a fact that needs to be reflected in the verb's tense and transitivity. The correct answer must indicate that the domesticating being discussed took place in the past and was done by humans to horses, leading to "were domesticated" as the only possible answer choice.

Example Question #21 : Verb Voice Errors

In 1929, E.F. Lindquist, a professor in the University of Iowa College of Education, began designing tests for the Iowa Academic Meet. The purpose of the meet was to identify exemplary high school students. Test-takers began with a first round of testing. This round occurred during the school day and covered ten core academic subjects. Students who scored well in the first round participated in district-level tests that were more difficult. High-scorers from the second round participated in a third round of testing. The top ten students in each subject area were rewarded with medals at a banquet. Although the test was a success, Lindquist wanted to reduce the competitive aspect of the test. To achieve this goal, Lindquist renamed the test the Iowa Every-Pupil Achievement Testing Program.

The tests popularity provided Lindquist with the opportunity to study how to best write, administer, and score a standardized test. However, Lindquist was not yet satisfied. He grew concerned that the test focused too much on rote memorization of content rather than on skill development. Lindquist began to work on a test for middle school students that would test skills. This test which was first administered in 1935 became known as the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. In 1942, the Every-Pupil test is discontinued and replaced with the Iowa Tests of Educational Development. As Lindquist had hoped, this test focused on testing skills rather than pure content memorization.

By the late 1950s, Lindquist had gained significant renown in the world of standardized testing, so he became involved in the process of developing a college admissions testing program. Although the SAT had been a commonly used admissions test since 1926, it was primarily marketed in the northeast and used as an admissions test for universities in that region. Schools outside this area used a variety of different tests that covered different content and was administered at different times. This led to unreliable results.

In 1958, that a standardized, national test be developed was proposed by Lindquist. He also hoped that, unlike the SAT, the new test would measure academic achievement so that it could be used to gauge each student’s level of preparation for college-level work.

Lindquist and a man named Ted McCarrel began developing the new test. One of McCarrel's main jobs was contacting admissions officers and convincing schools to use the new test. However, like the SAT, the ACT began as a regional test. Unlike the SAT, however, it was primarily used in the Midwest. With time and effort, the test became more popular in other parts of the country.

In 1959, the ACT was administered for the first time. The test was similar to the Iowa Tests of Educational Development. It consisted of four parts; English, math, social studies, and natural science. The social studies and natural science portions required students to interpret readings from each field; thus, Lindquist was able to maintain his goal of testing skills rather than memorized facts. Students had forty-five minutes to complete each section of the test. The ACT quickly became a staple of the college admissions process. In the first year, 132,963 students took the test, and that number grew in subsequent years.

Today, many colleges and universities in the U.S. accept ACT results from students applying for admission. So, don't worry! I'm sure your college will accept it too!

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

Possible Answers:

that a standardized, national test be developed proposed Lindquist

NO CHANGE

that a standardized, national test be proposed by Lindquist developed

the development of a standardized, national test was proposed by Lindquist

Lindquist proposed that a standardized, national test be developed

Correct answer:

Lindquist proposed that a standardized, national test be developed

Explanation:

The original sentence is confusing, so we know it needs to be revised. "That a standardized, national test be proposed by Lindquist developed" is even more confusing, so it cannot be the correct answer. The same is true of "that a standardized, national test be developed proposed Lindquist." Thus, we are left with two options: "Lindquist proposed that a standardized, national test be developed" and "the development of a standardized, national test was proposed by Lindquist." When given the choice, we should avoid passive voice and opt for active voice. When passive voice is used, an action is performed on an object by the subject. In this case, the development of a test (object) is being proposed (action) by Lindquist (subject). When possible, we maintain active voice by placing the subject first so that the subject performs the action on the object. Thus, "Lindquist proposed that a standardized, national test be developed" is the correct answer because the subject (Lindquist) is performing the action (proposed) on the object (the development of a test).

Example Question #30 : Verb Formation 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  underlined section?

Possible Answers:

might be placing

has been placing

NO CHANGE

was placing

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

The correct answer is "is placed," because this way of expressing means that the plant or animal is receiving the action of being placed. (Something or someone else is placing it into a new environment.) Such "received action" is expressed by means of the passive voice. A verb in the active voice would state, "The scientist places," or something akin to that. However, the plant is being placed, not doing the placing, so "is placed," the only answer choice that employs the passive voice, is the correct answer.

Example Question #31 : Verb Formation Errors

Humanities: This passage is adapted from chapter three of Sir John Lubbock’s The Pleasures of Life. The chapter is entitled “A Song of Books” and was written in 1887.

 

Of all the privileges we enjoy in this nineteenth century there is none, perhaps, for which we ought to be more thankful than for the easier access to books.

The debt we owe to books was well expressed and articulated by Richard de Bury, Bishop of Durham, author of Philobiblon, written as long ago as 1344, published in 1473, and the earliest English treatise on the delights of literature: "These,” he says, “are the masters who instruct us without rods and ferules, without hard words and anger, without clothes or money. If you approach them, they are not asleep; if you interrogate them, they conceal nothing; if you mistake them, they never grumble; if you are ignorant, they cannot laugh at you. The library, therefore, of wisdom is more precious than all riches, and nothing that can be wished for is worthy to be compared with it. Whosoever therefore acknowledges himself to be a zealous follower of truth, of happiness, of wisdom, of science, or even of the faith, must of necessity make himself a lover of books.” 

This feeling that books are real friends is constantly present to all who love reading. “I have friends,” said Petrarch, “whose society is extremely agreeable to me; they are of all ages, and of every country. They have distinguished themselves both in the cabinet and in the field, and obtained high honors for their knowledge of the sciences. It is easy to gain access to them, for they are always at my service, and I admit them to my company, and dismiss them from it, whenever I please. They are never troublesome, but immediately answer every question I ask them. Some relate to me the events of past ages, while others reveal to me the secrets of Nature. Some teach me how to live, and others how to die. Some, by their vivacity, drive away my cares and exhilarate my spirits; while others give fortitude to my mind, and teach me the important lesson how to restrain my desires, and to depend wholly on myself. They open to me, in short, the various avenues of all the arts and sciences, and upon their information I may safely rely in all emergencies. In return for all their services, they only ask me to accommodate them with a convenient chamber in some corner of my humble habitation, where they may repose in peace; for these friends are more delighted by the tranquillity of retirement than with the tumults of society.”

“He that loveth a book,” says Isaac Barrow, “will never want a faithful friend, a wholesome counsellor, a cheerful companion, an effectual comforter. By study, by reading, by thinking, one may innocently divert and pleasantly entertain himself, as in all weathers, so in all fortunes.”

This feeling that books are real friends is constantly present to all who love reading. “I have friends,” said Petrarch, “whose society is extremely agreeable to me; they are of all ages, and of every country."

 

Possible Answers:

could be

are

have been

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

Verb tenses must remain consistent. The other verbs in this sentence show this sentence to be present tense (i.e., "is").

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