New SAT Writing and Language : Clause Construction

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for New SAT Writing and Language

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Clause Construction

Ecosystems are made of a complex system of energy and nutrient transfers from one organism to another. Some of these transfers are in the form of predation - one organism eating another – while others are in the form of ecosystem engineering, an organism changing the environment around them. One major form of ecosystem engineering is niche creation. Niche creation is the process of an organism changing their environment to create a competitive advantage. In order for an organism to be considered as creating a niche, three things must be true: the organism must significantly modify their environment, those changes must affect other organisms’ survival, and those changes must lead to an evolutionary response in another organism.

What is the most effective way to combine the two underlined sentences at the underlined portion?

Possible Answers:

creation, the process of

creation – the process through which

creation, processing

creation, which is the process by which

Correct answer:

creation, the process of

Explanation:

When you are asked the best way to combine two sentences, remember that the way the sentence is given is technically correct, and that you are looking for an option that is both grammatically correct and is concise. Option "creation, the process of" is the only option that is both. Choice "creation, processing" is illogical since it implies that niche creation itself is changing the organism. Choices "creation, which is the process by which" and "creation – the process through which" are redundant and wordy. Since "creation, the process of" is both concise and grammatically correct, it is an effective way to combine the sentences.

Example Question #2 : Clause Construction

[1] The job of CRM archaeologists is to identify the potential cultural significance of a site and then document and preserve any artifacts of historical or cultural significance. [2] The surplus of people who want to work in archaeology has meant that the majority of archaeologists aren’t employed by universities or museums, but by construction companies and the government. [3] Most archaeology positions in today’s economy are for what are referred to as a “cultural resource management” archaeologists, or CRM archaeologists, who are often involved in building projects as representatives of the 1 state, Native American tribes, and historical societies. [4] While part of this analysis might involve starting a dig at the site in question to find relevant artifacts, much of this research process requires CRM archaeologists to consult historical records and talk to members of the community where the building process has been proposed. 

Possible Answers:

 state; Native American tribes,

state; Native American tribes;

NO CHANGE

 state, Native American tribes;

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

Whenever you are writing a list of three or more items, you generally will need to separate each item in the list with a comma. (Note that the SAT doesn't test the Oxford comma, so you don't need to worry about whether you need a comma before the "and" in any list.) The exception to this rule is if you have a complex list, especially one containing commas in the individual items. In that case, you can choose to instead separate each item with a semicolon. No matter which you use, however, the key is that you remain consistent. Since this isn't a complex list, the semicolon isn't allowed - each item in the list would be comprehensible with only a comma. This allows you to eliminate "state; Native American tribes;". And since " state; Native American tribes," and " state, Native American tribes;" mix the use of a semicolon and comma, you can also eliminate both of those since you must have consistency within the list. Only as it is written (NO CHANGE) correctly uses commas to separate each item in the list.

Example Question #1 : Clause Construction

A series of paintings in the museum depicting the heroes of the disaster that occurred nearly a decade ago.​

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

paintings in the museum, which depicted

paintings in the museum, depicting

paintings in the museum depicted

Correct answer:

paintings in the museum depicted

Explanation:

In this example, using the term “depicting,” whether we include the comma in “paintings in the museum, depicting,” or eliminate it as in the original construction, introduces a participial modifier. This modifier correctly refers back to the series of paintings in the museum, but leaves the sentence without a conjugated verb. The construction “paintings in the museum, which depicted​” makes a similar mistake, as the relative clause “which depicted” also leaves the sentence without a verb in verb form. The correct answer, “paintings in the museum depicted​,” corrects this error, as the past tense verb “depicted” creates a complete sentence and agrees with the subject, “a series of paintings.”

Example Question #2 : Clause Construction

He assumed that his mother, her having lived through similar events in the past, would understand his concerns.

Possible Answers:

which

NO CHANGE

she had

who had

Correct answer:

who had

Explanation:

In this example, the existing phrasing, “her having,” appears to be an attempt to construct a participial modifier referring back to “his mother,” but the inclusion of the pronouns “her” renders the choice redundant and grammatically incorrect. The choice “she had” creates an independent clause within the commas, which cannot occur grammatically inserted into the middle of a sentence. The choice “which” renders the clause within the commas a relative clause, which might seem correct, but “which” seems to convey the incorrect sense that “his mother” is an inanimate object. The choice “who had,” on the other hand, similarly introduces a relative clause which correctly signifies that “his mother” is a person, and it is accordingly the best choice.

Example Question #1 : Clause Construction

Deep in the rainforests of the Amazon, vibrant plant life of many shapes and sizes that flourishes in unexpected places.

Possible Answers:

flourish

flourishes

DELETE the underlined portion

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

flourishes

Explanation:

In this example, the existing phrasing, “that flourishes,” makes the remainder of the sentence a relative clause which describes the “vibrant plant life.” However, this choice leaves the sentence without a conjugated verb, making it an ungrammatical fragment. Deleting the underlined portion makes “in unexpected places” a prepositional phrase to describe the “vibrant plant life,” but the sentence is similarly left without a conjugated verb. The choice “flourish” is problematic because of subject-verb disagreement between “vibrant plant life,” which is singular, and “flourish,” which is conjugated to agree with a plural subject. Alternatively, the choice “flourishes” provides the sentence with correctly conjugated subject-verb agreement.

Example Question #2 : Clause Construction

Because the results of the study were inconclusive the researchers were never able to garner further financial support.

Possible Answers:

inconclusive, and the researchers

inconclusive, the researchers

NO CHANGE

inconclusive then the researchers

Correct answer:

inconclusive, the researchers

Explanation:

In this example, the choice which includes a comma followed by “and” is incorrect because of the relationship between the two clauses. Because the first clause begins with the subordinating conjunction “because,” it introduces a subordinate clause, which should be set off by a comma when it precedes an independent clause. The inclusion of “and,” however, means that a subordinating conjunction and a coordinating conjunction are used, ungrammatically, in tandem. The choice which includes “then” and no comma is wrong on two counts, as it fails to include a comma to separate the subordinate and independent clause, and the use of “then,” which indicates causation, is redundant with the subordinating conjunction “because,” which has already signaled a causal relationship. The existing phrasing, with no conjunction and no comma, is incorrect because a comma is necessary between an independent clause and a subordinate clause which precedes it. Accordingly, the choice with the comma and no conjunction is these, as there is no redundancy in conjunctions and the comma correctly separates the two clauses.

Example Question #2 : Clause Construction

Tasked with completing the blueprints himself, Jefferson soon found himself overwhelmed with work.

Possible Answers:

himself; Jefferson

NO CHANGE

himself because Jefferson

himself, so Jefferson

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

In this example, the choice which uses a semicolon suggests that both clauses are independent. The first clause, however, cannot stand alone as a complete sentence, as it does not contain a conjugated verb. For a similar reason, the choice which uses a comma and “so” can be discarded. A comma followed by a coordinating conjunction like “so” can only separate independent clauses, and as previously discussed, the first clause is not a full sentence. The choice which uses “because,” a subordinating conjunction, is also incorrect, as it suggests that the second clause is subordinate, but the first clause is not an independent clause, and subordinate clauses cannot appear unless adjacent to independent clauses. The correct choice, then, is the existing phrasing, containing only a comma, as it correctly marks the first clause as a participial clause followed by an independent clause.

Example Question #113 : New Sat Writing And Language

Charlie Parker, one of the pioneers of bebop style, which changed jazz music for decades to come.

Possible Answers:

bebop style; which

bebop style,

bebop style

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

bebop style,

Explanation:

In this example, the existing phrasing is ungrammatical, as an appositive clause is followed by a relative clause. In context, “one of the pioneers of bebop style” is an appositive clause which describes who “Charlie Parker” is, and it is followed by “which,” a relative pronoun which marks the remainder of the sentence as a relative clause describing “bebop style.” This choice, however, contains no conjugated verb, making the sentence a fragment. The choice to replace the comma with a semicolon, retaining “which,” is no better, as it suggests the clauses preceding and following the semicolon are independent, which they are not. The choice with no punctuation makes the sentence after “Charlie Parker” appear to stand alone as an independent clause, but this leaves a noun set off by a comma at the beginning of the sentence, for which there is no grammatical justification. The correct choice includes only a comma, as it correctly makes “one of the pioneers of bebop style” into an appositive clause which describes Charlie Parker, while the remainder of the sentence contains a conjugated verb and a description of how he changed jazz “for decades to come.”

Example Question #352 : New Sat

There is no reason that Americans, who have often interfered with international politics in the past and have a hand in this situation.

Possible Answers:

past have

past, to have

NO CHANGE

past, should have

Correct answer:

past, should have

Explanation:

In this example, the existing phrasing means that everything which follows “who,” a relative pronoun, should be interpreted as part of the relative clause, as there is no other comma in the sentence to mark the end of the clause. This leaves the sentence erroneously incomplete, as the complementizer “that” suggests that something Americans have “no reason” to do will be introduced after the relative clause. In examining the other choice which doesn’t contain a comma, it appears similarly erroneous, as the relative clause continues through the end of the sentence, never revealing what it is that Americans have “no reason” to do. The choice containing “to have” seems like it might work, as the relative clause is closed with a comma, but in removing the relative clause to examine the remaining sentence, “no reason that Americans to have a hand” remains, and it becomes clear that the complementizer “that” and the infinitive construction “to have” do not function together. The final choice, with “should have,” uses the relative clause correctly, and in removing it, we are left with “no reason that Americans should have a hand,” which is entirely grammatically correct.

Example Question #4 : Clause Construction

Plenty of experts from within the industry testified on the subject at the hearing.

Possible Answers:

industry, which testified

NO CHANGE

industry has testified

industry who testified

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

In this example, the choice containing “who” and “which” both suggest that the information to follow is part of a relative clause. The comma before “which” suggests that the clause is non-restrictive, while the absence of a comma before “who” suggests that the clause is restrictive. In either case, however, the sentence is left without a conjugated verb, so neither choice is the correct one. The choice “industry has testified” might seem right, as there appears to be a conjugated verb, but there is subject-verb disagreement between “experts,” which is plural, and “has,” which is singular. The existing phrasing, on the other hand, has correct subject-verb agreement, meaning the sentence contains a conjugated verb and is otherwise grammatically correct.

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors