PSAT Writing : Identifying Sentence Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Writing

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Example Questions

Example Question #2 : Identifying Other Verb 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.

Tanner was afraid for returning to the cold winters of the northern states. No error.

Possible Answers:

No error.

was 

cold winters

northern

for returning to

Correct answer:

for returning to

Explanation:

The adjective “afraid” is usually followed by either an infinitive (“to return”) or “of” and a gerund (“of returning”). Choose one of those to fix this sentence: "Tanner was afraid to return to the cold winters of the northern states."

Example Question #1 : Identifying Other Verb 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.

The sense of expectation in the air was almost unbearable; the curtain was supposed to risen at half past six, and it was almost seven. No error.

Possible Answers:

risen

unbearable; the curtain

almost

No error.

The sense of expectation

Correct answer:

risen

Explanation:

This sentence uses a participle (“risen”) after “to.” Here, an infinitive is correct. If you read the sentence as it is written out loud, it will probably sound incorrect. The corrected sentence reads, "The sense of expectation in the air was almost unbearable; the curtain was supposed to rise at half past six, and it was almost seven."

Example Question #1 : Identifying Other Verb 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.

A revolutionary in American dance, Isadora Duncan rejected pointe shoes and stiff corsets, chose instead to dance barefoot in loose tunics. No error

Possible Answers:

to dance

chose

No error

A revolutionary in American dance

stiff corsets

Correct answer:

chose

Explanation:

The last clause in this sentence needs to be reformatted to fit into the logic of the sentence. Turning “chose” into a gerund accomplishes this. The corrected sentence reads: "A revolutionary in American dance, Isadora Duncan rejected pointe shoes and traditional stiff corsets, choosing instead to dance barefoot in loose tunics."

Example Question #11 : Identifying Other Verb 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.

Not wanting being behind on her work, Maria furiously finished editing the pile of documents on her desk. No error

Possible Answers:

No error

her

furiously

being behind

the pile of documents

Correct answer:

being behind

Explanation:

This sentence uses the gerund “being” when the infinitive “to be” is more appropriate. The corrected sentence reads, "Not wanting to be behind on her work, Maria furiously finished editing the pile of documents on her desk."

Example Question #1 : Identifying Appositive Errors

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

Marvin, the librarian from Ridgedale always has a good recommendation for something to readNo error.

Possible Answers:

good

has

No error.

Ridgedale always

for something to read

Correct answer:

Ridgedale always

Explanation:

"The librarian from Ridgedale" is an appositive phrase, which is extra information renaming a noun that is set off by commas. Here, it is missing the closing comma. The corrected sentence reads, "Marvin, the librarian from Ridgedale, always has a good recommendation for something to read."

Example Question #1 : Identifying Appositive Errors

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

The dogs, who were basset hounds liked to run and sniff; they typically spent three hours outdoors every day. No error 

Possible Answers:

every day

No error

basset hounds

sniff; they

The dogs,

Correct answer:

basset hounds

Explanation:

The error in the sentence is "a basset hound." This appositive phrase, which describes "the dogs," needs to be closed off with a second comma. Appositive phrases rename the noun beside it. Non-essential appositives must always be separated from the rest of the sentence with commas.

Example Question #1 : Identifying Appositive Errors

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

Our family's pet bird, a canary wakes me every morning with her beautiful song. No error.

Possible Answers:

morning with 

canary wakes

family's

No error

bird, a

Correct answer:

canary wakes

Explanation:

An appositive phrase sits next to a noun and renames it. An appositive phrase is surrounded by commas, and the sentence would still be grammatically correct if it were taken out. Because the appositive phrase "a canary" renames "Our family's pet bird," it should have a comma at the beginning and a comma at the end, making the correct sentence, "Our family's pet bird, a canary, wakes me every morning with her beautiful song." 

Example Question #1 : Identifying Appositive And Interrupting Phrase Errors

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

I've never understood how bugs tiny creatures, could scare such big humans! No error. 

Possible Answers:

creatures, could 

big humans

bugs tiny

No error

never understood

Correct answer:

bugs tiny

Explanation:

An appositive phrase sits next to a noun and renames it. An appositive phrase is surrounded by commas, and the sentence would still be grammatically correct if it were taken out. Because the appositive phrase "tiny creatures" renames "bugs," it should have a comma at the beginning and a comma at the end, making the correct sentence, "I've never understood how bugs, tiny creatures, could scare such big humans!" Note that while an exclamation points is not necessary, it is also not strictly incorrect in this instance. Exclamation points are optional, stylistic punctuation marks.

Example Question #2 : Identifying Appositive And Interrupting Phrase Errors

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

That dress, even if it flatters Maureen, is not one that I would wear to the prom. No error.

Possible Answers:

I would 

Maureen, is

No error

dress, even

the prom

Correct answer:

No error

Explanation:

An interrupting phrase provides extra information about the subject that is not necessary for the sentence to be correct. A correctly-formed interrupting phrase should have a comma at the beginning and a comma at the end, and the sentence should remain correct even if the interrupting phrase is deleted. This means that the correct form of this sentence is "That dress, even if it flatters Maureen, is not one that I would wear to the prom." 

Example Question #1 : Identifying Interrupting Phrase Errors

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

It's hard to believe that Arthur though he did work very hard, received a full scholarship to an Ivy League school. No error. 

Possible Answers:

hard, received

Ivy League

No error

Arthur though

It's hard

Correct answer:

Arthur though

Explanation:

An interrupting phrase provides extra information about the subject that is not necessary for the sentence to be correct. A correctly formed interrupting phrase should have a comma at the beginning and a comma at the end, and the sentence should remain correct even if the interrupting phrase is deleted. This means that the correct form of this sentence is "It's hard to believe that Arthur, though he did work very hard, received a full scholarship to an Ivy League school."

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