SAT Writing : Correcting Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Writing

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Example Questions

Example Question #11 : Other Pronoun Usage Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English.

Crossing in the middle of the street, the taxi driver could not see Velma and almost ran into her.

Possible Answers:

Crossed in the middle of the street, the taxi driver could not see Velma and almost ran into her.

Because she was crossing in the middle of the street, the taxi driver could not see Velma and almost ran into her.

Crossing in the middle of the street, the taxi driver could not see Velma and almost ran into her.

As she crossed in the middle of the street, the taxi driver could not see Velma and almost ran into her.

Because Velma crossed in the middle of the street, the taxi driver could not see her and almost ran into her.

 

Correct answer:

Because Velma crossed in the middle of the street, the taxi driver could not see her and almost ran into her.

 

Explanation:

The original sentence has an unclear referent. Only the choice with Velma's name clarifies that Velma is indeed the individual who crossed in the middle of the street, as opposed to the taxi driver.

Example Question #1611 : Sat Writing

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

Doctors are notorious for having poor handwriting skills, and many pharmacists regularly complain about their prescriptions.

Possible Answers:

and many pharmacists regularly complain about their prescriptions

but many pharmacists regularly complain about their prescriptions

and many pharmacists regularly complain about their prescription

and many pharmacists regularly complain about doctors' prescriptions

and many regular pharmacists complain about their prescriptions

Correct answer:

and many pharmacists regularly complain about doctors' prescriptions

Explanation:

The sentence has a vague pronoun reference. The use of "their" before "prescriptions" is ambiguous because we do not know if "their" refers to the doctors' or the pharmacists' prescriptions. The sentence needs to clarify to whom the pronoun refers, so the best answer choice is the one that does this, "and many pharmacists regularly complain about doctors' prescriptions."

Example Question #1612 : Sat Writing

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

Yesterday, you asked me whether I agree more with John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon; after reading about their policies, I realize that I agree more with him.

Possible Answers:

Yesterday, you asked me whether I agree more with John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon; after reading about their policies, I realize that the one with whom I agreed was him.  

Yesterday, you asked me whether I agree more with John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon; after reading about their policies, I realize that I agree more with him.

Yesterday, you asked me whether I agree more with John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon; after reading about their policies, I realize that the one that I agreed with.  

Yesterday, you asked me whether I agree more with John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon; after reading about their policies, I realize that I agree more with he.  

Yesterday, you asked me whether I agree more with John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon; after reading about their policies, I realize that I agree more with Kennedy.  

Correct answer:

Yesterday, you asked me whether I agree more with John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon; after reading about their policies, I realize that I agree more with Kennedy.  

Explanation:

It is unclear if the “him” refers to Kennedy or Nixon. The correct answer makes it clear with whom I agree. 

Example Question #1613 : Sat Writing

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices repeats the underlined portion as it is written.

The businessman decided to pamper him with nice meals on the road.

Possible Answers:

to pamper him with nice meals in the road.

to pamper him with nice meals on the road.

to pamper himself with nice meals on the road.

pampering him with nice meals on the road.

to pamper him around nice meals on the road.

Correct answer:

to pamper himself with nice meals on the road.

Explanation:

The use of the simple pronoun "him" is confusing in this sentence, as it is unclear exactly who the pronoun refers to, the subject or some other person. The best way to clear this confusion up is by using the reflexive pronoun "himself" to refer back to the subject. Thus, the correct answer choice is "to pamper himself with nice meals on the road."

Example Question #1614 : Sat Writing

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

When Sheila, Veronica, and I spend time together, we always go to her favorite restaurant. No error

Possible Answers:

we always go to her favorite restaurant.

they always go to their favorite restaurant.

she always goes to our favorite restaurant. 

we always go to our favorite restaurant. 

we always went to our favorite restaurant.

Correct answer:

we always go to our favorite restaurant. 

Explanation:

This phrase must have a pronoun and a possessive pronoun which refer to all three individuals: "we" and "our."

In the answer choice "she always goes to our favorite restaurant," the pronoun “she” does not agree with the subject of “Sheila, Veronica, and I”—it should be “we.”

In the answer choice "we always go to her favorite restaurant," the possessive pronoun “her” should be “our,” as it refers to a restaurant preferred by all three subjects. Though this sentence could be correct, it is not the best option because “her” is not specified.

In the answer choice "we always went to our favorite restaurant," the verb “go” must agree with the present tense of “spend,” so it is incorrect.

In the answer choice "they always go to their favorite restaurant," the pronouns “they” and “their” exclude “I” as a subject, so it is incorrect.

Example Question #21 : Correcting Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

The political boss was notorious for making deals with his rival that only benefitted him.

Possible Answers:

that only benefitted himself

that only benefits him

that benefitted only him

that only benefitted him

which only benefitted him

Correct answer:

that only benefitted himself

Explanation:

The use of "him" at the end of the sentence is confusing and awkward, as it is not clear to whom the pronoun is referring. Changing the simple pronoun to a reflexive pronoun allows the pronoun to refer back to the subject of the sentence clearly. Thus, the correct answer choice is "that only benefitted himself."

Example Question #22 : Correcting Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

The bankers loved the technological improvement of their new computers, but they didn't work well with them.

Possible Answers:

The bankers loved their new computers, but didn't work well with them.

The new computers were loved, but the bankers didn't work well with them.

Though they loved their new computers, the bankers didn't work well with them.

The bankers, though they loved their new computers, didn't work well with them.

The bankers loved the technological improvement of their new computers, but they didn't work well with them.

Correct answer:

Though they loved their new computers, the bankers didn't work well with them.

Explanation:

The sentence is faulty because it uses a pronoun with an ambiguous antecedent. The reader can't be sure who either "they" or "them" is referring to -- the bankers or the computers. The error can be fixed by rearranging the sentence so that "they" is followed by the clarifying subject "bankers."

Example Question #23 : Correcting Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

Bessie knew when her cat started fighting her dog she had to give him away.

Possible Answers:

Bessie knew when her cat, fighting her dog, had to give away. 

Bessie knew when her cat started fighting her dog she had to give him away.

Bessie knew when her cat started fighting her dog, she had to give the former away.

Bessie knew once her cat started fighting her dog, she had to give him away. 

Bessie knew when her cat was fighting her dog, she had to give him away. 

Correct answer:

Bessie knew when her cat started fighting her dog, she had to give the former away.

Explanation:

This is an example of an ambiguous pronoun. The "him" in "to give him away" in the original sentence could be applying to either the dog or the cat, so we must make clear that it is one or the other.

Example Question #25 : Correcting Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English.

Since the advent of the original flu vaccine, they have discovered several additional drugs that, when administered by a health care professional, help to reduce the risk of influenza.

Possible Answers:

they have discovered several additional drugs that, when administered by a health care professional, helps to reduce the risk of influenza. 

they have discovered several additional drugs that, when administered by a health care professional, help to reduce the risk of influenza. 

researchers have discovered several additional drugs that, when administered by a health care professional, helps in reducing the risk of influenza. 

researchers have discovered several additional drugs that, when administered by a health care professional, has helped to reduce the risk of influenza. 

researchers have discovered several additional drugs that, when administered by a health care professional, help to reduce the risk of influenza. 

Correct answer:

researchers have discovered several additional drugs that, when administered by a health care professional, help to reduce the risk of influenza. 

Explanation:

Answer choices "researchers have discovered several additional drugs that, when administered by a health care professional, has helped to reduce the risk of influenza" and "researchers have discovered several additional drugs that, when administered by a health care professional, helps in reducing the risk of influenza" contain subject-verb agreement errors because they use singular verbs—"helps" and "has helped"—rather than the plural verbs required by the plural noun "drugs."

The answer choices containing "they" as opposed to "researchers" are incorrect because they contain an ambiguous pronoun. We don't know to whom "they" refers.

The answer choice "researchers have discovered several additional drugs that, when administered by a health care professional, help to reduce the risk of influenza" is correct because it is the only answer choice that correctly avoids using an ambiguous pronoun and doesn't introduce any subject-verb agreement errors.

Example Question #1615 : Sat Writing

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

The benevolent overseers advised the workers on the floor that it was time for them to take a break.

Possible Answers:

it was time for the workers to take a break.

it wasn't time for them to take a break.

it was time for those to take a break.

it was time for them all to take a break.

it was time for them to take a break.

Correct answer:

it was time for the workers to take a break.

Explanation:

In sentences with multiple antecedents in a sentence, it is to be important to be extremely clear with pronoun usage (perhaps even avoiding pronouns altogether in order to avoid ambiguity). In the sentence above, "them" could refer to either "the overseers" or "the workers." The best way to correct the underlined portion of the sentence above is: "it was time for the workers to take a break."

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