New SAT Writing and Language : Pronouns

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Pronouns

Since 1988, the mission of molecular gastronomy has shifted. Kurti and This originally sought to investigate “kitchen old wives’ tales,” invent new recipes, improve old ones, and make the case to the public that science was a useful part of everyday life. Even if 1 their experiments weren’t intended to be replicated in home kitchens, they were intended to encourage home cooks to experiment. Today, molecular gastronomists seek to explore the social, artistic, and technical aspects of food preparation. Some have argued that this shift in focus, along with the fact that techniques in molecular gastronomy have so far surpassed what any home cook could do, means that molecular gastronomy has lost its ability to impact how the world cooks at home.

Possible Answers:

its

NO CHANGE 

it’s

there

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE 

Explanation:

The first decision you should make with this problem is whether you need to use the possessive. Since the experiments in question were the ones done by This and Kurti, you need a possessive pronoun to indicate this fact, eliminating "there" and "it's". And since the experiments were done by two people, you need a plural pronoun. Eliminate "its" since it is both singular and refers to non-humans. "Their" is correct since it is possessive and refers to an item belonging to multiple people.

Example Question #1 : Pronouns

The traditional view of archaeologists usually involves a college professor who spends much of his or her time digging and researching in ancient foreign libraries or a museum curator who works every day to preserve the artifacts the museum holds. While this view isn’t completely incorrect, it is incomplete, both in terms of the types of jobs available to archaeologists and in terms of the types of work within those jobs. For example, college professors may spend summers at dig sites, but much of their time is also spent writing grants, teaching students, and writing about their research projects. Additionally, although there are still many people who work in archaeology as professors and museum curators, the demand for this job far outstrips the number of positions available, making the positions difficult to acquire.

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

an individual job

these jobs

each job

Correct answer:

these jobs

Explanation:

Whenever the SAT gives you a choice between a singular or a plural noun, it is probably testing some form of noun agreement. Just like pronouns have to agree with the nouns they refer to, nouns must also be consistent. The question you should ask yourself, therefore, is what the noun is referring back to. In this case, the word "job" refers to the positions of curators and museum curators. Because multiple people want these jobs (and because there is more than one job), you must have a plural noun here, making  "these jobs," the only viable option.

Example Question #2 : Pronouns

The Sagrada Familia has stood, incomplete, as part of the Barcelona skyline since the early 1 phase's of it's construction in 1882. The project, originally intended to be a cathedral in the gothic style, was begun by the bookseller Joseph Maria Bocabella under the direction of the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar. Del Villar and Bocabella imagined a basilica modeled on the Gothic revival churches Bocabella had seen on trips to Italy. However, Bocabella’s ideal basilica never came to be. In 1883 del Villar resigned from the project, and 30-year old Antoni Gaudi, a young but already well-known architect from Catalonia, took over as lead architect.

Possible Answers:

phases of its

phase's of its

NO CHANGE 

phases of it's

Correct answer:

phases of its

Explanation:

This question has two distinct decision points: between "phases" and "phase's" and between "its" and "it's." In both cases, the correct answer hinges on whether the word is meant to be possessive. The word "phase" should be plural rather than possessive (the phase of the construction can't possess anything), so the correct form of the word is "phases."  Between "its" and "it's," you need to determine whether the word should be possessive (its) or the contraction "it is" (it's). Since you are looking at the construction of the Sagrada Familia, you need the possessive form "its."

Example Question #91 : New Sat Writing And Language

John and James were both invited to the regional cross country tournament, but only he participated in the competitive 5k event.

Possible Answers:

but only the former

only he

only the former

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

but only the former

Explanation:

This example tests us on pronoun ambiguity. In the original construction, it is unclear whether “he” refers back to John or James. Since we do not have a clear antecedent for our pronoun, any answer choice that utilizes “he” can be eliminated. In fact, in many cases, we correct pronoun ambiguity by eliminating the pronoun entirely, as the correct answer, “but only the former” has done. By referring to “the former,” the sentence has made it clear that we’re referring to John. The correct answer also includes the logical coordinating conjunction “but” after the comma to connect the two independent clauses in the sentence. Our final incorrect answer, “only the former” fails to include this conjunction and creates a comma splice.

Example Question #3 : Pronouns

Jazz music originated in late 19th century New Orleans, where it gained it’s inspiration from ragtime and blues music, popular genres of that time, and region.

Possible Answers:

which gained it's

which gained its

NO CHANGE

where it gained its

Correct answer:

where it gained its

Explanation:

This question primarily tests us on reference and the use of the proper, possessive form “its.” In the sentence, it would be illogical to use the contraction “it’s,” as the sentence is not attempting to say “it gained it is inspiration.” Instead, if we use “its,” the single possessive pronoun to refer to the inspiration Jazz gained. It is also important that we begin the underlined portion with “where,” as “which” illogically refers back to New Orleans and implies that New Orleans gained its inspiration from ragtime and blues. The correct answer, “where it gained its” correctly addresses that New Orleans is the location where Jazz gained the inspiration it possesses.

Example Question #4 : Pronouns

The New Kingdom Egyptians, who inhabited ancient Egypt from 1500-1000 B.C., was well known for its impact on the world of movemental dance and the visual arts.

Possible Answers:

were well known for its

was well known for their​

NO CHANGE​

were well known for their​

Correct answer:

were well known for their​

Explanation:

If we look to the answer choices, we can see that this question primarily tests the singular vs. plural nature of the verb was vs. were, and the possessive pronoun its vs. their. Two of our choices, “was well known for their​” and “were well known for its” are illogical given that they utilize a plural verb with a singular pronoun, or a singular verb with a plural pronoun. Since both of these terms refer back to the same subject: “Egyptians.” Since “Egyptians” is a plural subject, we need a plural verb and a plural pronoun, so the correct answer is “were well known for their.” Here, if we remove the modifying phrase “who inhabited ancient Egypt from 1500-1000 B.C.” the agreement of “Egyptians” to “were well known for their” becomes more straightforward and clear.

Example Question #92 : New Sat Writing And Language

The North American bald eagle is no longer threatened with imminent extinction in the United States, primarily because prohibitions on hunting and the ban of a poisonous pesticide have led to a rebound in the eagle population.

Possible Answers:

because its prohibitions

NO CHANGE

because it has prohibited

because their prohibitions

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

This example tests us on meaning and pronoun ambiguity. In the original construction, we can clearly see that two things have led to a rebound in the eagle population: prohibitions and the ban of a pesticide. However, our incorrect constructions introduce either the singular pronoun “it” or “its,” or the plural possessive pronoun “their.” This is illogical, as it is unclear whether the pronoun should refer to the bald eagle (an illogical construction) or the United States (a more logical but unclear antecedent. Additionally, “because it has prohibited” introduces a sentence construction error by forming the underlined portion as a verb phrase that does not parallel the rest of the sentence as intended. This leaves us with our original answer, “because prohibitions on.”

Example Question #5 : Pronouns

In nests across North America, the host mother tries to identify their own eggs and weed out the fakes, but the brown-headed cowbird – a brood parasite that sneaks its eggs into other birds’ nests – produces eggs that look very similar to the host’s, making that task surprisingly difficult.

Possible Answers:

host mothers try to identify their own eggs

NO CHANGE

host mothers try to identify its own eggs

the host mother try to identify their own eggs

Correct answer:

host mothers try to identify their own eggs

Explanation:

In this example, we’re being tested on the use of singular vs. plural possessive pronouns to refer back to their proper antecedents. In the original construction, “their” illogically attempts to refer back to “the host mother.” This is incorrect, as we need to match a singular possessive pronoun with a singular antecedent, or a plural possessive pronoun with a plural antecedent. Only our correct answer, “host mothers try to identify their own eggs” accomplishes this. We want to be particularly careful when both elements of an agreement or ambiguity-based question are within the underline, as the author of the question could choose to change both components of the agreement at hand, as we see in this example.

Example Question #6 : Pronouns

Threatened by the potential for overpopulation, officials of Central New Jersey have limited their population growth by putting stricter housing regulations and zoning requirements into effect.

Possible Answers:

Central New Jersey has limited their

NO CHANGE

officials of Central New Jersey has limited its

Central New Jersey has limited its

Correct answer:

Central New Jersey has limited its

Explanation:

This example tests us on pronoun ambiguity and meaning. In the original construction, the underlined portion seems to imply that officials are “threatened by the potential for overpopulation,” since the modifier at the start of the sentence must logically modify what follows. This is illogical, as officials are neither threatened by or limiting “their” population growth. “officials of Central New Jersey has limited its” makes a similar mistake, and also incorrectly attempts to agree “officials” with the singular pronoun “its.” When we begin the underlined portion of the sentence with “Central New Jersey,” rather than “officials,” we correct the modifier error previously described. However, in “Central New Jersey has limited their,” we incorrectly agree the singular noun “Central New Jersey” with the plural pronoun “their.” Our correct answer, “Central New Jersey has limited its” corrects both of these issues by presenting the location itself as threatened and creating proper agreement to that location with the singular pronoun “its.”

Example Question #4 : Pronouns

The company manual specifically outlines rules for employees about contacting managers while they are out of the office on vacation or for personal reasons.

Possible Answers:

who are

as they are

NO CHANGE

if they are

Correct answer:

who are

Explanation:

This example tests us on pronoun ambiguity. In the original construction, and in all constructions that utilize the pronoun “they,” the pronoun is ambiguous and creates a reference error. A reference error exists when it is unclear who or what the pronoun refers back to. In this case, the pronoun “they” could refer back to the managers, or to the employees. Does the manual outline rules for employees about contacting managers while the managers are out of the office, or while the employees are? Because we are uncertain of the pronoun’s antecedent, all answers that utilize “they” can be eliminated, and we’re left with “who are.” “Who are” is logical in this case, as the relative clause opener “who” must logically refer back to the noun or noun phrase before, in this case, managers.

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