SAT Writing : Identifying Pronoun Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Writing

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Identifying Sentence 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 new budget was not determined entirely by the Board of Directors, but they certainly had a lot of influence. No error

Possible Answers:

was not determined

they

by

had

No error

Correct answer:

they

Explanation:

The correct answer is "they."

This is a case of subject-pronoun disagreement. Although the subject in the first clause is "the budget," the subject becomes "the Board of Directors" in the second clause. Therefore, the pronoun must be replacing that subject, and the subject is singular ("the Board of Directors"), while "they" is plural, so it is a definite error. While there are several people, at least more than one, in a Board of Directors, the subject is not the directors, it is the entity itself— the Board. There is only one Board.

Though "was not decided" is in the passive voice, it is not grammatically wrong, just weaker writing. "By" is the correct usage, "and had"  is a verb-verb agreement, both are in past tense.

Example Question #1 : Identifying Sentence Errors

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

Lauren sulked all during school because she felt "left out," but the conversation was between Jenny and I, and I had every right to keep it that wayNo error

Possible Answers:

"left out,"

No error

all during

keep it that way

between Jenny and I

Correct answer:

between Jenny and I

Explanation:

"Between Jenny and I" is incorrect. In this case, the sentence should say, "Lauren sulked all during school because she felt 'left out,' but the conversation was between Jenny and me, and I had every right to keep it that way." This sentence has a pronoun case error. Since Jenny and the speaker are objects (grammatically) within the sentence, the objective case pronoun ("me") is required, instead of the subjective case pronoun ("I"). In order to better understand these situations, when the phrase includes a noun and a pronoun simply remove the noun before the pronoun, for example, remove "Jenny and." Once you do that, you will much more easily identify the correct pronoun.

Another example: "Dad bought Roger and I a bicycle." As opposed to: "Dad bought (Roger and) I a bicycle." One would not say: "Dad bought I a bicycle."

Example Question #1 : Identifying Sentence Errors

Members of the blue team travel around the city collecting buttons, and it will not be able to communicate with the red team at any time.

Possible Answers:

No error

at any time

collecting buttons

will not be able to

it

Correct answer:

it

Explanation:

In this sentence, the pronoun “it” does not match in number with its antecedent “Members.” The corrected sentence reads: Members of the blue team travel around the city collecting buttons, and they will not be able to communicate with the red team at any time.

Example Question #1 : Identifying Pronoun 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:

No error

their

the sister

because

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 #2 : Identifying Pronoun 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:

she was

No error

after dinner

won

at

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 #1 : 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.

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:

No error

him

expressed

interest in

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

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:

No error

since

her

they

were

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 #1 : 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.

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

Possible Answers:

No error

they

changing

theorizing

to write

Correct answer:

they

Explanation:

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

Example Question #6 : Identifying Pronoun Errors

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

When Susanne and Patricia were called on stage as the finalists for the debate competition, she knew who was going to win. No error.

Possible Answers:

the finalists

When

were called

No error.

she

Correct answer:

she

Explanation:

"She" contains this sentence's error. As Susanne and Patricia are both girls, the pronoun "she" is ambiguous. Also, the "she" could refer to another person—perhaps someone observing the competition in the audience. We don't know if the she refers to Susanne, Patricia, or someone else, and this makes the sentence's meaning unclear.

Example Question #1 : Identifying Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

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

Jane and Annabel were so focused on the music the DJ was playing that she lost track of time. No error

Possible Answers:

were

was playing

she

of time

No error

Correct answer:

she

Explanation:

While the subjects of the sentence are "Jane and Annabel," the sentence later uses the pronoun "she," which could refer to either of the women. We can correct this ambiguity by replacing "she" with "they."

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