PSAT Writing : Identifying Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Writing

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Identifying Word Usage Errors

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Bianca and the sister were at odds because although they were members of the same family, they felt differently about their parents' divorce. No error

Possible Answers:

because

No error

the sister

their

differently

Correct answer:

the sister

Explanation:

The error in this sentence arises where we are told that Bianca and her sister disagree over their parents' divorce, but her sister is presented abstractly; the correct usage of "her sister" allows the individual mentioned to be presented in relation to Bianca. Without the "her," we cannot be certain what the relation is, although it is clearly indicated elsewhere in the sentence.

Example Question #1 : Identifying Word Usage Errors

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Since Molly won first place and Meg won second, she was honored at the awards ceremony after dinnerNo error

Possible Answers:

won

at

after dinner

No error

she was

Correct answer:

she was

Explanation:

This sentence has an ambiguous pronoun. To whom does "she" refer? You could fix this either by referring to both women with "they," if it is indeed the case that both were honored at the awards ceremony after dinner, or by replacing "she" with the name of the woman being specified.

Example Question #3 : Identifying Word Usage Errors

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Mr. Harris told Mr. Jarvins that at the latest staff meeting, the owner of the company expressed a strong interest in promoting him to a senior executive position. No error

Possible Answers:

interest in

No error

him

expressed

executive

Correct answer:

him

Explanation:

This sentence contains an ambiguous pronoun. We don't know whether "him" refers to Mr. Harris or Mr. Jarvins, so "him" is the error in the sentence. If we wanted to fix the error, we would have to replace "him" with the unique name of the person—Mr. Harris or Mr. Jarvins—being considered for the promotion.

Example Question #4 : Identifying Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Jim and Tommy were late to work for the fourth time that week, since they had to pick her up at the airport and her flight was late. No error

Possible Answers:

since

were

her

they

No error

Correct answer:

her

Explanation:

This is an ambiguous pronoun. We are not sure to whom "her" refers. The sentence should use her name.

Example Question #2 : Identifying Word Usage Errors

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Many experts advocate changing how children learn to write, theorizing that they will have more success in the long run. No error

Possible Answers:

they

theorizing

changing

to write

No error

Correct answer:

they

Explanation:

"They" is an ambiguous pronoun reference—it could refer to either "experts" or "children."

Example Question #2 : Identifying Word Usage Errors

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

After the party, Janet organized her bedroom, collected several bags of clothing for donation, and drove it to the local thrift store. No error

Possible Answers:

After the party,

bedroom, collected

No error 

donation, and 

it

Correct answer:

it

Explanation:

The error in this sentence is the use of the word "it" to refer to "several bags of clothing." In this case, the pronoun—"it"— is singular when it should be plural ("them").

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors