ACT English : Usage Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

Example Question #2 : Verb Tense Errors

I now ride horses and run for fun.  I am lazy however because as I mentioned before I don’t have much endurance.  I’m a sprinter through and through!  I like the pain to be over in less than 60 seconds.  I am able to run longer but wasn't usually happy about it.  For as much as I love sports I also love to sit on my couch with potato chips and watch tv too!  Generally I love athletics but I am a lazy relaxer also!

What would make the underlined portion of the passage grammatically correct?

Possible Answers:

I am able to run longer but am not usually happy about it.

None of the other answers

I am able to run longer, but I wasn't usually happy about it.  

I am able to run longer but was not usually happy about it.  

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

I am able to run longer but am not usually happy about it.

Explanation:

The first verb in the sentence is in the present tense; therefore, the second verb needs to be in the present tense also.

Example Question #1 : Verb Tense Errors

Construction on the tunnel began in 1988, and the tunnel had opened for passengers in 1994. However, the history of the Chunnel goes back all the way to 1802 when the idea of connecting the two countries across the narrow English Channel was first suggested by a man named Albert Mathieu.

Possible Answers:

open

NO CHANGE

will have opened

opened

Correct answer:

opened

Explanation:

The paragraph is written in the simple past tense, so the verb "to open" must also be written in the simple past tense. The simple past tense of "to open" is "opened."

Example Question #4 : Verb Tense Errors

It was about halfway through his last set of conferences that Mr. Man realizes (1) he did not (2) much like his current set of students.  Unlike his students in the past, none of them seemed to care about their (3) grades, (4) none of them was able to tell a dangling modifier from a participle, (4) and, apart from a few, (4) they didn't know (5) how to start a paper.  He would never tell any of them this, of course, (6) they might get offended, and if there was one thing that Mr. Man learned (7) about teaching, its (8) that in order to keep one's job, you couldn't offend your students (9).  As yet another student whined about not understanding Mr. Mans (10) perfectly clearly written assignments, he sighed inwardly (and possibly outwardly as well), (11) and waited for the last (12) one to finish so that he could get to the next one, finish his conferences, and get back to daydreaming about being anything but a teacher.

Choose from the following four options the answer that best corrects the underlined mistake preceding the question number.  If there is no mistake or the original text is the best option, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

is realizing

realized

had realized

Correct answer:

realized

Explanation:

The rest of the sentence and the context of the paragraph suggests past tense, so this verb should be in the past tense.

Example Question #5 : Verb Tense Errors

It was about halfway through his last set of conferences that Mr. Man realizes (1) he did not (2) much like his current set of students.  Unlike his students in the past, none of them seemed to care about their (3) grades, (4) none of them was able to tell a dangling modifier from a participle, (4) and, apart from a few, (4) they didn't know (5) how to start a paper.  He would never tell any of them this, of course, (6) they might get offended, and if there was one thing that Mr. Man learned (7) about teaching, its (8) that in order to keep one's job, you couldn't offend your students (9).  As yet another student whined about not understanding Mr. Mans (10) perfectly clearly written assignments, he sighed inwardly (and possibly outwardly as well), (11) and waited for the last (12) one to finish so that he could get to the next one, finish his conferences, and get back to daydreaming about being anything but a teacher.

Choose from the following four options the answer that best corrects the underlined mistake preceding the question number.  If there is no mistake or the original text is the best option, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

had learned

is learning

NO CHANGE

has learned

Correct answer:

had learned

Explanation:

The lesson about teaching is something that Mr. Man learned before the past tense events described in this paragraph, so the past perfect phrase "had learned" is appropriate.

Example Question #6 : Verb Tense Errors

It was about halfway through his last set of conferences that Mr. Man realizes (1) he did not (2) much like his current set of students.  Unlike his students in the past, none of them seemed to care about their (3) grades, (4) none of them was able to tell a dangling modifier from a participle, (4) and, apart from a few, (4) they didn't know (5) how to start a paper.  He would never tell any of them this, of course, (6) they might get offended, and if there was one thing that Mr. Man learned (7) about teaching, its (8) that in order to keep one's job, you couldn't offend your students (9).  As yet another student whined about not understanding Mr. Mans (10) perfectly clearly written assignments, he sighed inwardly (and possibly outwardly as well), (11) and waited for the last (12) one to finish so that he could get to the next one, finish his conferences, and get back to daydreaming about being anything but a teacher.

Choose from the following four options the answer that best corrects the underlined mistake preceding the question number.  If there is no mistake or the original text is the best option, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

its'

it was

NO CHANGE

it's

Correct answer:

it was

Explanation:

The rest of the phrase is in past tense, so this part should reflect that by changing the "is" in "it's" to "was," thereby negating the contraction.

Example Question #7 : Verb Tense Errors

In the last day of classes (1), everyone was distracted and unable to do their (2) work.  Even the teacher, which normally (3) was attentive and cheery, seems (4) unable to focus.  The final test took (5) way too long for everyone to complete, and many of students (6) had put down his head (7) on the desk.  The sound of the heat blowing through the room was enough to put everyone (8) to sleep, and the teachers' (9) eyes began drooping despite hisself (10).  After what seemed an eternity; (11) the bell had rung (12) and everyone, including the teacher, ran out of the room.

Choose from the following four options the answer that best corrects the underlined mistake preceding the question number.  If there is no mistake or the original text is the best option, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

seeming

has seemed

seemed

Correct answer:

seemed

Explanation:

The tense of the entire passage is past tense, making "seemed" the correct answer.

Example Question #8 : Verb Tense Errors

In the last day of classes (1), everyone was distracted and unable to do their (2) work.  Even the teacher, which normally (3) was attentive and cheery, seems (4) unable to focus.  The final test took (5) way too long for everyone to complete, and many of students (6) had put down his head (7) on the desk.  The sound of the heat blowing through the room was enough to put everyone (8) to sleep, and the teachers' (9) eyes began drooping despite hisself (10).  After what seemed an eternity; (11) the bell had rung (12) and everyone, including the teacher, ran out of the room.

Choose from the following four options the answer that best corrects the underlined mistake preceding the question number.  If there is no mistake or the original text is the best option, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

will be taking

had taken

was taking

Correct answer:

was taking

Explanation:

The past continuous tense ("was taking") is used here to show that the test took a long time to complete during the past event of the last day of school.

Example Question #9 : Verb Tense Errors

In the last day of classes (1), everyone was distracted and unable to do their (2) work.  Even the teacher, which normally (3) was attentive and cheery, seems (4) unable to focus.  The final test took (5) way too long for everyone to complete, and many of students (6) had put down his head (7) on the desk.  The sound of the heat blowing through the room was enough to put everyone (8) to sleep, and the teachers' (9) eyes began drooping despite hisself (10).  After what seemed an eternity; (11) the bell had rung (12) and everyone, including the teacher, ran out of the room.

Choose from the following four options the answer that best corrects the underlined mistake preceding the question number.  If there is no mistake or the original text is the best option, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

had been ringing

rang

was ringing

Correct answer:

rang

Explanation:

The action of the bell ringing refers to a single event in the past, so the simple past tense of "rang" is appropriate.

Example Question #10 : Verb Tense Errors

My lunch I had with my friend Gary (1) did not go very well. For one thing (2) he said he would come to pick me up (3) at noon. He normally texts me when he's outside, so I waited until 12:25.  Finally, at 12:30, he sends (4) a text: "Left my phone at home and had to come back to get it since you weren't downstairs waiting."

When he came back to get me, he was mad, at me. (5) "I couldn't find your doorbell," he shouted, "because there was no name tag on it, so I had gone (6) all the way home to get my phone just to text you!" (7)

"Wait a minute," I said, starting to get angry myself, "you're mad at me because you left your phone at home and you couldn't find my doorbell?"

"That's right," he replied __________ (8). "If you had been waiting downstairs, I would have had to not go through all of this." (9)

"But you're the one who left your phone at home," I countered, "and you always text me when you get here. Never have you asked me (10) to wait outside for you."

"Well, you should have," he muttered.

The rest of the day goes (11) downhill from there, all because my former friend Gary is (12) too proud to admit when he makes a mistake.

Choose from the following four options the answer that best corrects the underlined mistake preceding the question number. If there is no mistake or the original text is the best option, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

he said he would have been coming to pick me up

he said he will come to pick me up

NO CHANGE

he said he would be coming to pick me up

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

The sentence is fine as originally phrased: the other revisions either create redundancy or change the verb tense of the passage unnecessarily.

Example Question #11 : Verb Tense Errors

My lunch I had with my friend Gary (1) did not go very well. For one thing (2) he said he would come to pick me up (3) at noon. He normally texts me when he's outside, so I waited until 12:25.  Finally, at 12:30, he sends (4) a text: "Left my phone at home and had to come back to get it since you weren't downstairs waiting."

When he came back to get me, he was mad, at me. (5) "I couldn't find your doorbell," he shouted, "because there was no name tag on it, so I had gone (6) all the way home to get my phone just to text you!" (7)

"Wait a minute," I said, starting to get angry myself, "you're mad at me because you left your phone at home and you couldn't find my doorbell?"

"That's right," he replied __________ (8). "If you had been waiting downstairs, I would have had to not go through all of this." (9)

"But you're the one who left your phone at home," I countered, "and you always text me when you get here. Never have you asked me (10) to wait outside for you."

"Well, you should have," he muttered.

The rest of the day goes (11) downhill from there, all because my former friend Gary is (12) too proud to admit when he makes a mistake.

Choose from the following four options the answer that best corrects the underlined mistake preceding the question number. If there is no mistake or the original text is the best option, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

sent

is sending

NO CHANGE

has sent

Correct answer:

sent

Explanation:

The rest of the passage is in simple past tense, and thus this verb should be conjugated similarly.

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