SAT Writing : Identifying Verb Mood Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Writing

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Identifying Verb Mood Errors

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

No matter how diverse a menu may be, John always orders the most basic dish that he could find. No error

Possible Answers:

most

how

could

No error

always

Correct answer:

could

Explanation:

The sentence is written in the present tense, except for the modal verb, "could," which expresses possibility where none is needed; we're told that John "always" orders basic dishes. "Could" should be changed to the present tense verb "can" so that its tense matches that of "orders."

Example Question #203 : 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.

If I was the principal, I would make the student council dedicate their time to issues that concern all students.  No error

Possible Answers:

was

council dedicate

No error

concern all students

principal

Correct answer:

was

Explanation:

Since the speaker is talking about a hypothetical situation, it is appropriate to use the subjunctive mood to denote that. The sentence should therefore begin "If I were the principal," ("were" being the first-person subjunctive form of "is") rather than "If I was the principal."  Look out for key words such as "if" or "I wish" to denote where the subjunctive mood should be used.

Example Question #3 : Identifying Verb Mood Errors

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

If I was president, I would adjust the national budget so that everyone would be able to live comfortably. No error

Possible Answers:

was

would

comfortably

No error

to live

Correct answer:

was

Explanation:

Since the speaker of the sentence is discussing a hypothetical situation, the verb "was" should be changed to its subjunctive form, "were."

Example Question #4 : Identifying Verb Mood Errors

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

Caleb was certain that if he was in charge, the student council would be able to secure his favorite band to play at prom. No error

Possible Answers:

to play

would be able 

was

No error

charge, the

Correct answer:

was

Explanation:

In this sentence, the writer is referring to a hypothetical situation of Caleb being in charge. This requires the use of the subjunctive mood of the verb. The phrase "if he was in charge" should therefore be changed to "if he were in charge," so "was" should be replaced with "were."

Example Question #204 : 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. 

In her Agriculture classes, Daisy always asks her students to grow the biggest pumpkins they could grow. No error

Possible Answers:

biggest

could

to grow 

No error

Agriculture

Correct answer:

could

Explanation:

The sentence is written entirely in present tense without the use of modal verbs except for the modal verb "could." In order to maintain consistency, we need to change "could" to "can."

Example Question #6 : Identifying Verb Mood Errors

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

Standing at the front door, Patrick passionately proclaimed that everything would change if he was in charge of the house instead of his parents. No error

Possible Answers:

instead of

No error

was

Standing at the front door

proclaimed

Correct answer:

was

Explanation:

In this sentence, Patrick is describing a hypothetical situation in which he is in charge of the house. Since this situation has not actually happened, he would need to use the subjunctive mood for the "verb" is and change "was" to "were" ("if he were in charge").

Example Question #205 : 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. 

Even when the chips are down, Daisy always thinks about how she could help her fellow students. No error

Possible Answers:

the chips

could 

always

about how

No error

Correct answer:

could 

Explanation:

While the majority of the sentence is written in the present tense, the modal verb "could" expresses potential unnecessarily. "Could" should be changed to the present tense "can" in order to match the mood of the sentence. 

Example Question #8 : Identifying Verb Mood Errors

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

If I were the head chef at a restaurant, I would include lots of bizarre dishes with rare ingredients and combinations that would be new and exciting to patrons. No error

Possible Answers:

restaurant, I

ingredients and combinations

No error

If I were

would be

Correct answer:

No error

Explanation:

"If I were" is correct because subjunctive mood is needed in hypotheticals introduced by "if." "Were" is correct here, not "was." A comma is appropriate between "restaurant" and "I" because an introductory phrase should be separated from the rest of the sentence by a comma. "Would be" is consistent with the mood of the sentence, and there are no issues with "ingredients and combinations." There is no error in the sentence. 

Example Question #9 : Identifying Verb Mood Errors

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

We quickly determined that we'd almost never stay on the ground if we was able to fly. No error

Possible Answers:

was able

quickly determined 

almost never 

on the ground

No error

Correct answer:

was able

Explanation:

The sentence is intended to convey the possibility of what would happen if the speakers could fly; therefore, "was able" should be changed to the correct subjunctive mood form: "were able."

Example Question #10 : Identifying Verb Mood 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.

 A lot of Paul's students wish that their professor was kinderNO ERROR

 

Possible Answers:

kinder

A lot 

NO ERROR

Paul's

was

Correct answer:

was

Explanation:

The "wish" in the sentence above indicates that the sentence will be in the subjunctive mood.  In subjunctive, "was" should be replaced by "were."

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