SAT II Literature : Form, Structure, Grammar, and Syntax

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

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Example Questions

Example Question #21 : Grammar And Syntax

1 Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness, 
       Thou foster-child of silence and slow time, 
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express 
       A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme: 
5 What leaf-fring'd legend haunts about thy shape 
       Of deities or mortals, or of both, 
               In Tempe or the dales of Arcady? 
       What men or gods are these? What maidens loth? 
9 What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape? 
               What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy? 
 
11 Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard 
       Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on; 
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd, 
       Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone: 
15 Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave 
       Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare; 
               Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss, 
18 Though winning near the goal yet, do not grieve; 
       She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, 
               For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair! 
 
21 Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed 
         Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu; 
And, happy melodist, unwearied, 
         For ever piping songs for ever new; 
25 More happy love! more happy, happy love! 
         For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd, 
                For ever panting, and for ever young; 
28 All breathing human passion far above, 
         That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd, 
                A burning forehead, and a parching tongue. 
 
31 Who are these coming to the sacrifice? 
         To what green altar, O mysterious priest, 
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies, 
         And all her silken flanks with garlands drest? 
35 What little town by river or sea shore, 
         Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel, 
                Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn? 
38 And, little town, thy streets for evermore 
         Will silent be; and not a soul to tell 
                Why thou art desolate, can e'er return. 
 
41 O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede 
         Of marble men and maidens overwrought, 
With forest branches and the trodden weed; 
         Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought 
45 As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral! 
         When old age shall this generation waste, 
                Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe 
48 Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st, 
         "Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all 
                Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."
 
(1819)

What is the antecedent of the pronoun "That" in line 29?

Possible Answers:

the beauty of the artwork being described (implied)

"happy love" (line 25)

"All breathing human passion" (line 28)

"a parching tongue" (line 30)

"A burning forehead" (line 30)

Correct answer:

"All breathing human passion" (line 28)

Explanation:

The antecedent of a pronoun is the noun to which the pronoun refers. For example, in the sentence, "I found the book that I was looking for," the pronoun "that" refers back to the noun "book." Therefore "book" is the antecedent of the pronoun "that" in this sentence.  

In Line 29 of the poem, "That" is referring back to "All breathing human passion" in the previous line.

Passage adapted from John Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn" (1819)

Example Question #22 : Grammar And Syntax

  1. One day I wrote her name upon the strand,
  2. But came the waves and washed it away:
  3. Again I wrote it with a second hand,
  4. But came the tide, and made my pains his prey.
  5. Vain man, said she, that doest in vain assay
  6. A mortal thing so to immortalize,
  7. For I myself shall like to this decay,
  8. And eek my name be wiped out likewise.
  9. Not so (quoth I), let baser things devise
  10. To die in dust, but you shall live by fame:
  11. My verse your virtues rare shall eternize,
  12. And in the heavens write your glorious name.
  13. Where whenas Death shall all the world subdue,
  14. Our love shall live, and later life renew.

The adjective “rare” (line 11 ) modifies which noun?

Possible Answers:

fame

you

eternize

virtues

verse

Correct answer:

virtues

Explanation:

"Rare" (that is, unusual and precious) modifies the noun "virtues".

In modern English, we usually put the subject first, then the verb, then the object:

"My verse shall eternize your virtues rare."

In addition, we almost always put the adjective in front of the noun that it modifies:

My verse shall eternize your rare virtues."

The archaic syntax of this poem may mislead us into interpreting "rare" as an adverb modifying "eternize" (as in, "My verse shall rarely eternize your virtues.")

Passage adapted from Edmund Spenser's "Sonnet 75" (1594)

Example Question #23 : Grammar And Syntax

1. Better to see your cheek grown hollow,
2. Better to see your temple worn,
3. Than to forget to follow, follow,
4. After the sound of a silver horn.

5. Better to bind your brow with willow
6. And follow, follow until you die,
7. Than to sleep with your head on a golden pillow,
8. Nor lift it up when the hunt goes by.

9. Better to see your cheek grow sallow
10. And your hair grown gray, so soon, so soon,
11. Than to forget to hallo, hallo,
12. After the milk-white hounds of the moon.

The poem’s point of view is best characterized as _________________.

Possible Answers:

First and second person combined

Third person omniscient only

Third person limited only

Second and third person combined

Second person only

Correct answer:

Second person only

Explanation:

The poem is written entirely in the second person (“Better to see YOUR cheek grown hollow…”.) There are no occurrences of first person (“I . . . “) or of third person (“he/she/it . . .”).

Passage adapted from Eleanor Wylie's "A Madman's Song" (1921)

Example Question #1 : Grammar And Syntax: Prose

Dear Sir, 

You are pleased to call again, and with some earnestness, for my thoughts on the late proceedings in France. I will not give you reason to imagine, that I think my sentiments of such value as to wish myself to be solicited about them. They are of too little consequence to be very anxiously either communicated or withheld. It was from attention to you, and to you only, that I hesitated at the time, when you first desired to receive them. In the first letter I had the honour to write you, and which at length I send, I wrote neither for nor from any description of men; nor shall I in this. My errors, if any, are my own. My reputation alone is to answer for them. 

You see, Sir, by the long letter I have transmitted to you, that, though I do most heartily wish that France may be animated by a spirit of rational liberty, and that I think you bound, in all honest policy, to provide a permanent body, in which that spirit may reside, and an effectual organ, by which it may act, it is my misfortune to entertain great doubts concerning several material points in your late transactions.  

(1790)

The second paragraph ("You see, Sir, by the long letter...") is comprised of one sentence. What is the main verb of this sentence?  

Possible Answers:

"see"

"reside"

"have transmitted"

"wish"

"entertain"

Correct answer:

"see"

Explanation:

The main verb of any given sentence is the verb of the sentence's main clause. "See" in "You see..." at the beginning of this sentence is the main verb because it, unlike all other verbs in this sentence, is part of the main clause. All other verbs in this sentence appear in subordinate clauses.

Passage adapted from Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790).  

Example Question #2 : Grammar And Syntax: Prose

From the dim woods on either bank, Night’s ghostly army, the grey shadows, creep out with noiseless tread to chase away the lingering rear-guard of the light, and pass, with noiseless, unseen feet, above the waving river-grass, and through the sighing rushes; and Night, upon her sombre throne, folds her black wings above the darkening world, and, from her phantom palace, lit by the pale stars, reigns in stillness.

Then we run our little boat into some quiet nook, and the tent is pitched, and the frugal supper cooked and eaten. Then the big pipes are filled and lighted, and the pleasant chat goes round in musical undertone; while, in the pauses of our talk, the river, playing round the boat, prattles strange old tales and secrets, sings low the old child’s song that it has sung so many thousand years...

Harris said: “How about when it rained?”

You can never rouse Harris. There is no poetry about Harris—no wild yearning for the unattainable. Harris never “weeps, he knows not why.” If Harris’s eyes fill with tears, you can bet it is because Harris has been eating raw onions, or has put too much Worcester over his chop.

Which of the following terms describes sentence 1?

Possible Answers:

Ambidextrous

Paratactic

Hypotactic

Telegraphic

Circumlocutory

Correct answer:

Hypotactic

Explanation:

Hypotaxis or hypotactic sentences are ones in which clauses are subordinate to other clauses (e.g. “I am late because I overslept”). Parataxis or paratactic sentences are ones in which short, simple clauses are placed beside each other without subordination (e.g. “I am late; I overslept”). Telegraphic sentence refers to any concise sentence (usually five or fewer words in length) that omits unnecessary words and parts of speech. Circumlocution is the act of talking around a point rather than directly about it, and ambidextrous describes being both left- and right-handed.

Passage adapted from Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat (1889).

Example Question #3 : Grammar And Syntax: Prose

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

(1776)

What is the subject of the verb "requires" in the first paragraph?  

Possible Answers:

"they"

"respect"

"mankind"

"the causes"

"opinions"  

Correct answer:

"respect"

Explanation:

The end of the first paragraph reads:  "...a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."  

The subject of the verb "requires" is the noun "respect." The subject of a verb is whatever performs the action of that verb. For instance, in the sentence, "The dog runs," the dog is the thing doing the running and is therefore the subject of the verb "to run." At the end of the first paragraph, it is the "respect" that is doing the "requiring."

Passage adapted from The Declaration of Independence of the Continental Congress of the United States of America in 1776.

Example Question #4 : Grammar And Syntax: Prose

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

(1776)

In the second paragraph, in "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism," to whom does the pronoun "them" refer?  

Possible Answers:

Members of government

Lower-class citizens

Early Americans

Mankind in general

The King of Great Britain

Correct answer:

Mankind in general

Explanation:

Like most of the passage, this sentence is making a general observation about mankind at large. Therefore, "them" is referring simply to "mankind." For very clear evidence, observe the sentence that comes immediately before:  "...all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed." Here, "mankind" is mentioned explicitly as the topic of discussion, and that topic continues into the next sentence.

Passage adapted from The Declaration of Independence of the Continental Congress of the United States of America in 1776.

Example Question #5 : Grammar And Syntax: Prose

(1) The Baron's lady weighed about three hundred and fifty pounds, and was therefore a person of great consideration, and she did the honours of the house with a dignity that commanded still greater respect. (2) Her daughter Cunegonde was seventeen years of age, fresh-coloured, comely, plump, and desirable. (3) The Baron’s son seemed to be in every respect worthy of his father. (4) The Preceptor Pangloss was the oracle of the family, and little Candide heard his lessons with all the good faith of his age and character. (5)

Pangloss was professor of metaphysico-theologico-cosmolo-nigology. (6) He proved admirably that there is no effect without a cause, and that, in this best of all possible worlds, the Baron's castle was the most magnificent of castles, and his lady the best of all possible Baronesses.

(1759)

Which sentence in the passage can be described as sesquipedalian?

Possible Answers:

Sentence 4

Sentence 3

Sentence 5

Sentence 6

Sentence 2

Correct answer:

Sentence 5

Explanation:

The definition of “sesquipedalian” is excessively polysyllabic or very long-winded. With the description of Pangloss’s studies as “metaphysico-theologico-cosmolo-nigology,” the author is poking fun at overly pompous or esoteric professors. None of the other sentences in the passage contain overly long words.

Passage adapted from Voltaire’s Candide (1759)

Example Question #6 : Grammar And Syntax: Prose

As I ponder'd in silence,

  Returning upon my poems, considering, lingering long,

  A Phantom arose before me with distrustful aspect,

  Terrible in beauty, age, and power,

  The genius of poets of old lands,    (5)

  As to me directing like flame its eyes,

  With finger pointing to many immortal songs,

  And menacing voice, What singest thou? it said,

  Know'st thou not there is but one theme for ever-enduring bards?

  And that is the theme of War, the fortune of battles,    (10)

  The making of perfect soldiers.

How can this passage’s poetic meter best be described?

Possible Answers:

It is primarily iambic

It has none

It is split between iambs and spondees

It is primarily dactylic

It is split between iambs and trochees

Correct answer:

It has none

Explanation:

This is free verse, unmetered poetry with no rhyme scheme or pattern of syllables.

Passage adapted from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” Leaves of Grass (1855). 

Example Question #21 : Grammar And Syntax

. . . Suffering is one very long moment. We cannot divide it by seasons. We can only record its moods, and chronicle their return. With us time itself does not progress. It revolves. It seems to circle round one centre of pain. The paralysing immobility of a life every circumstance of which is regulated after an unchangeable pattern, so that we eat and drink and lie down and pray, or kneel at least for prayer, according to the inflexible laws of an iron formula: this immobile quality, that makes each dreadful day in the very minutest detail like its brother, seems to communicate itself to those external forces the very essence of whose existence is ceaseless change. Of seed-time or harvest, of the reapers bending over the corn, or the grape gatherers threading through the vines, of the grass in the orchard made white with broken blossoms or strewn with fallen fruit: of these we know nothing and can know nothing.

For us there is only one season, the season of sorrow. The very sun and moon seem taken from us. Outside, the day may be blue and gold, but the light that creeps down through the thickly-muffled glass of the small iron-barred window beneath which one sits is grey and niggard. It is always twilight in one’s cell, as it is always twilight in one’s heart. And in the sphere of thought, no less than in the sphere of time, motion is no more. The thing that you personally have long ago forgotten, or can easily forget, is happening to me now, and will happen to me again to-morrow. Remember this, and you will be able to understand a little of why I am writing, and in this manner writing. . . .

(1897)

What is the antecedent of the pronoun "which" in the bolded and underlined sentence?  

Possible Answers:

"paralysing"

"immobility" 

"pattern"

"life"

"circumstance"

Correct answer:

"life"

Explanation:

The antecedent of a pronoun is the noun to which the pronoun refers. For example, in the sentence, "I ate an apple, which was delicious," "which" refers to "apple" and "apple" is therefore the antecedent of "which."

In the case of the "which" in this passage, "which" is referring to "life." This is especially clear because it is the "life" the speaker is describing when he says it is "regulated after an unchangeable pattern." "Life" is therefore the antecedent to "which."

Passage adapted from Oscar Wilde's De Profundis (1897). 

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