SAT Writing : Identifying Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Writing

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Example Questions

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Example Question #26 : 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 politicians support granting immunity from deportation to the children of illegal immigrants, believing that they will use the opportunities to create better lives here in America. No error

Possible Answers:

they

to create

from

granting

No error

Correct answer:

they

Explanation:

The pronoun "they" is ambiguous in this sentence, as it is not clear if it is referring to the politicians or the children of illegal immigrants. 

Example Question #27 : 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.

Monica had never been late for work before, but after escorting her cousins to the train station, she found herself running two hours late because he had gotten lost. No error

Possible Answers:

No error

he

had never

found

escorting

Correct answer:

he

Explanation:

The sentence includes an ambiguous pronoun, "he." From the information presented, it is impossible for the reader to determine which of Monica's two cousins got lost. To correct the sentence, the writer could specify this information by giving the names of the two cousins (e.g. "her cousins Tom and Harry") and then specify which one had gotten lost.

Example Question #21 : Identifying Word Usage Errors

Select the underlined portion of the sentence below that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct.  Some sentences contain no error at all.

Mark and Paul are both very good at baseball, but I think he is better. NO ERROR

 

Possible Answers:

baseball,

very

he

Mark and Paul

NO ERROR

Correct answer:

he

Explanation:

Because both "Mark" and "Paul" could potentially be the antecedent of "he" in the second part of the sentence, "he" is an ambiguous pronoun.  It should be corrected to one of their names, so that we know who the speaker is talking about specifically.

Example Question #21 : Identifying Word Usage Errors

Select the underlined portion of the sentence below that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

After breaking the plate on the floor, I had to clean it up. NO ERROR

Possible Answers:

plate

it

After breaking

I had

NO ERROR

Correct answer:

it

Explanation:

Because both "plate" and "floor" could potentially be the antecedent of "it" in the second part of the sentence, "he" is an ambiguous pronoun. It should be corrected to one of the objects, so that we know what the speaker is talking about specifically.

Example Question #721 : Sat Writing

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

Even the famous director was nervous about giving the belligerent actor his notes. No error

Possible Answers:

No error

his

giving

Even the famous

was

Correct answer:

his

Explanation:

As written above, the sentence contains an ambiguous pronoun. It is unclear whether "his" refers to the director's notes or the actor's notes.

Example Question #11 : Identifying Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

As Amy discussed the move with her mom, she knew that the potential loss of friends was a large, unspoken part of her strong emotional reaction to it. No error

Possible Answers:

her

large, unspoken

mom, she

was

No error

Correct answer:

her

Explanation:

The word "her" in this sentence is a problem because it is an ambiguous pronoun. Pronouns stand in for nouns and ambigious pronouns are ones where it's not clear which noun they are standing in for. In this case, since both Amy and her mother are female, it is unclear whether Amy or her mom is the one having the strong emotional reaction to the move. A revised sentence might look like this: "As Amy discussed the move with her mom, she knew that the potential loss of friends was a large, unspoken part of her mother's strong emotional reaction to it." 

Example Question #11 : 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.

As Jarvis and Henry approached the next house on the block, the hairs on the back of his neck began to stand up. No error

Possible Answers:

Jarvis and Henry

began to stand

his

No error

block, 

Correct answer:

his

Explanation:

"His" in this sentence is an ambiguous pronoun: it's not clear from the sentence whether the person whose hairs are standing up is Jarvis, Henry, or some unknown observer. This should be corrected by referring explicitly to the person being referred to instead of using "his."

Example Question #31 : 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.

You'll see a huge tree next to a water tower one mile down the road; climb it and you'll find the next clue! No error

Possible Answers:

You'll

No error

it

road;

clue!

Correct answer:

it

Explanation:

These directions are unclear because they contain an ambiguous pronoun: "it" could refer to either "the tree" or "the water tower." The unclear pronoun should be replaced by a clear and specific reference to one object or the other.

Example Question #11 : Identifying Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

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

As he touched the pen to the paper, it suddenly burst into flame, eliciting a shriek of terror from him. No error

Possible Answers:

eliciting

No error

flame,

it

to

Correct answer:

it

Explanation:

Pronouns should always refer to a clear and specific antecedent. In this sentence, it's unclear what burst into flame. Was it the pen he was holding, or the paper he was writing on? The sentence should be revised to specify one or the other.

Example Question #11 : Identifying Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

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

Sally and Linda both enjoyed their day of shopping, but she was secretly troubled by the implications of her friend's speech. No error

Possible Answers:

No error

enjoyed

she

of

secretly

Correct answer:

she

Explanation:

Pronouns should always refer to a clear and specific antecedent. In this example, it's unclear which woman is supposed to be referred to by "she;" is it Sally or Linda? The sentence should be rewritten to make it clear which of them is the subject of the sentence and has doubts about her friend.

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