ACT English : Usage Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Correcting Verb 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.

Under the old regime, liberties curtailed greatly.

Possible Answers:

The old regime greatly curtailed liberties.

Under the old regime, liberties being curtailed greatly.

The old regime had liberties curtailing a great amount.

The old regime's liberties were greatly curtailed.

Under the old regime, liberties curtailed greatly.

Correct answer:

The old regime greatly curtailed liberties.

Explanation:

The underlined portion of the sentence contains a flaw in word order. To have the sentence make sense, the government, and not liberties, must be doing the curtailing. The only answer choice that correctly indicates that "the old regime" is the thing doing the curtailing without introducing errors into the sentence is "The old regime greatly curtailed liberties."

Example Question #1 : Correcting Verb Voice 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.  

Tom was given the most lucrative promotion, although Mr. Jones normally only recognizes the most senior accountants.

Possible Answers:

Mr. Jones gave Tom the most lucrative promotion although normally only he recognizes the most senior accountants.

Tom was given the most lucrative promotion, although the most senior accountants were recognized normally only by Mr. Jones.

Although Mr. Jones normally only recognizes the most senior accountants, he gave Tom the most lucrative promotion.

Tom was given the most lucrative promotion after Mr. Jones normally only recognizes the most senior accountants.

Tom was given the most lucrative promotion, although Mr. Jones normally only recognizes the most senior accountants.

Correct answer:

Although Mr. Jones normally only recognizes the most senior accountants, he gave Tom the most lucrative promotion.

Explanation:

The initial clause of the sentence, "Tom was given the most lucrative promotion," uses the passive voice; conventionally, altering this type of sentence to use active voice makes it clearer and more concise.

Example Question #11 : Verb Voice 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:

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. 

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

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

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

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 #21 : Verb Voice 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:

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. 

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

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 #41 : 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.

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

Possible Answers:

that it still needed more alterations did not surprise Henry.

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

it still needed alterations, which did not surprise Henry.

because it still needed alterations, which surprised 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 #21 : 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."

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:

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

they believed there were irregularities in the annual reports.

the annual reports were believed by them to have irregularities.

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

NO CHANGE

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 #301 : Word 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 plant was watered diligently every day by Mary.

Possible Answers:

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

Mary diligently watered the plant every day. 

Every day, the plant was watered diligently by Mary.

NO CHANGE

The plant was being diligently watered every day by Mary.

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 #42 : 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 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

NO CHANGE

they

we

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 #42 : 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 repeats the underlined portion as it is written.

Horses were domesticating by humans thousands of years ago.

Possible Answers:

domesticating

domestication

were domesticating

were domesticated

domesticated taking place

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 #1 : Verb Tense 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:

are

NO CHANGE

have been

could be

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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