ACT English : Usage Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Preposition Errors

Alex came in last; his total time raced was just over fifteen minutes.

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

Possible Answers:

in

NO CHANGE

on

with

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

Here, the author of the sentence is clearly trying to express that the runner in question ran the race in a time that is slightly longer than fifteen minutes. The optimal way to express this in context is to say, "his total time raced was just over fifteen minutes," because the word "over" is a preposition that conveys this fact clearly. The best answer is "NO CHANGE."

Example Question #741 : Usage Errors

Claire had to wash her clothes very carefully on a special solution to get all of the stains out.

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

Possible Answers:

under

through

NO CHANGE

with

Correct answer:

with

Explanation:

"With" is the correct preposition to use whenever an instrument with which something is being done is in the sentence. In this case, "special solution" is just such an instrument; therefore, the best answer for this sentence is "with."

Example Question #11 : Preposition Errors

After the latest failure, she was sure that she lacked with the tenacity to go on.

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

Possible Answers:

she lacked in the tenacity

she lacked for the tenacity

she lacked the tenacity

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

she lacked the tenacity

Explanation:

With a transitive verb like "lacked," you can follow the verb directly with the direct object. A preposition is unnecessary. The best answer is the one which deletes the preposition entirely from the sentence.

Example Question #12 : Preposition Errors

My mother was not pleased to me when I hit my brother on the head.

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

Possible Answers:

My mother was not pleased with me

My mother was not pleased for me

NO CHANGE

My mother was not pleased about me

Correct answer:

My mother was not pleased with me

Explanation:

Here, the best preposition to use is "with." "With" is typically used to deal with how people express their feelings, and since the phrase in question deals with how the mother feels about the narrator, we must use the word "with."

Example Question #12 : Preposition Errors

I cannot believe that Paul talked in the phone for over an hour!

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

Possible Answers:

over

with

on

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

on

Explanation:

When referencing a person talking with the aid of a telephone, the correct expression is always talking "on" the phone. As such, "on" is the best answer to this question. 

Example Question #13 : Preposition Errors

In spite of horrific conditions, there were many great acts of heroism committed during the First World War.

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

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

over

in

for

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

"In spite of" is a common phrase that means "despite," or "regardless of." Putting another preposition in the phrase changes its meaning, or causes it to function differently; therefore, the best answer is "NO CHANGE."

Example Question #2255 : Correcting Grammatical Errors

He was to be congratulated because all of his myriad achievements.

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

 

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

He was to be congratulated on all of his myriad achievements.

He was to be congratulated over all of his myriad achievements.

He was to be congratulated in all of his myriad achievements.

Correct answer:

He was to be congratulated on all of his myriad achievements.

Explanation:

When "congratulate" is the verb in question, it can be followed by the prepositions "for" and "on," although "on" is more common. As such, of the answers available, "He was to be congratulated on all of his myriad achievements" is the correct choice.

Example Question #14 : Preposition Errors

After the string of errors, one thing lead for another, and the whole lab had to be shut down due to safety issues.

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

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

one thing lead by another

one thing lead to another

one thing lead another

Correct answer:

one thing lead to another

Explanation:

The phrase "one thing lead for another" does not really make sense—"for" is a word typically used to indicate exchange or duration. "One thing lead to another" is a common expression indicating a string of causation. It is the best answer for this question.  

Example Question #747 : Usage Errors

Adapted from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (1892)

At three o’clock precisely I was at Baker Street, but Holmes had not yet returned. The landlady informed me that he had left the house shortly after eight o’clock in the morning. I sat down beside the fire, however, with the intention of awaiting him, however long he might be. I was already deeply interested in his inquiry, for, though it was surrounded by none of the grim and strange features which were associated with the two crimes which I have already recorded, still, the nature of the case and the exalted station of his client gave it a character of its own. Indeed, apart to the nature of the investigation which my friend had on hand, there was something in his masterly grasp of a situation, and his keen, incisive reasoning, which made it a pleasure to me to study his system of work, and to follow the quick, subtle methods by which he disentangled the most inextricable mysteries. So accustomed was I to his invariable success that the very possibility of his failing had ceased to enter into my head.

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:

apart of

apart by

apart from

apart

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

apart from

Explanation:

The preposition "apart" is used here as a multi-word preposition in which it is paired with the word "from." The other answer choices do not fix the prepositional error or are ungrammatical.

Example Question #748 : Usage Errors

Adapted from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (1892)

At three o’clock precisely I was at Baker Street, but Holmes had not yet returned. The landlady informed me that he had left the house shortly after eight o’clock in the morning. I sat down beside the fire, however, with the intention of awaiting him, however long he might be. I was already deeply interested in his inquiry, for, though it was surrounded by none of the grim and strange features which were associated with the two crimes which I have already recorded, still, the nature of the case and the exalted station of his client gave it a character of its own. Indeed, apart to the nature of the investigation which my friend had on hand, there was something in his masterly grasp of a situation, and his keen, incisive reasoning, which made it a pleasure to me to study his system of work, and to follow the quick, subtle methods by which he disentangled the most inextricable mysteries. So accustomed was I to his invariable success that the very possibility of his failing had ceased to enter into my head.

Which of the following alternatives would NOT be an appropriate substitution for the bolded and underlined sentence?

Possible Answers:

So accustomed was I to his invariable success that the possibility of he failing had ceased to enter into my head.

I was so accustomed to his invariable success that the very possibility of his failing had ceased to enter into my head.

None of the other answers.

I was so accustomed to his invariable success that the very possibility of his failing had ceased to enter my head.

So accustomed was I to his invariable success that the very possibility of his failing had ceased to enter my head.

Correct answer:

So accustomed was I to his invariable success that the possibility of he failing had ceased to enter into my head.

Explanation:

The grammatical error that cannot be ignored is that of the prepositional phrase, "of his failing" in which the gerund, failing, must follow a possessive pronoun ("his," not "he").

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