Worksheets illustrating the specific English usage errors tested for on the SAT

This playsheet contains examples of the specific usage errors tested for on the SAT. It is important to understand that these usages are not all universally regarded as erroneous, and some are used extensively in both spoken and written scholarly works. It is nonetheless easy enough to learn these grammar point and to comply with the rules of English as the Educational Testing Service would like them to be.

Subject/verb agreement. Subjects must agree in number and person with associated verbs.

  1. There’s too many reasons for not letting Mrs. Drookle’s second grade class reenact the Boston Tea Party at the Main Street fountain.
  2. The brown leeches, the only really appetizing items in the buffet, was hardly a substitute for bungee jumping in renaissance costume outside the embassy.
  3. Rowland and Boadicea, of the Gypsy Violinists’ Existential Reading Circle, was visibly distressed at the state of the herring tarts.
  4. Neither Rowland nor Boadicea, when applying to the Clockwork Submarine Fanciers’ Amateur Operatic Society, were visible behind the giant mushroom.
  5. Quilp Springle, author of the monograph, Romance Languages as a Primary Cause of Dental Deformities, were unavailable for comment.
  6. Neither the dwarf on his tricycle nor the accountants with their wheelbarrow was able to overtake the heavily laden swallow.
  7. Neither of the flamingoes show any sign of plotting sedition.
  8. The number of mistakes he made were limited only by his typing speed.
  9. A number of variations on the painting, The Muses Contemplating an Egg Whisk, was up for auction as was a wealth of marginally bizarre and somewhat dangerous looking kitchen utensils.
  10. The odds of catching measles is greater than that of finding a dugong in your coal cellar. Measles are highly contagious.
  11. Statistics are a difficult course of study, especially when they are used to prove things that aren’t true.
  12. There are bacon and eggs in the fridge. Bacon and eggs isn’t my favorite ever since I tried them with Molasses and cranberries.
  13. Billiards don’t function well as an aerobic exercise but the tactics employed is challenging.
  14. Ethics meet at 2:00 PM but the ethics of attending under these circumstances bothers the troll with the giant marshmallow.

Verb voice. Passive voice is simply to be avoided on the SAT. Use active voice even when passive is better.

Verb tense. Consistent and appropriate tenses and subjunctive usages are required by the context. This can be tricky. Fix errors.

  1. When Uncle Cuthbert asked Boadicea for the Etruscan water skis, she just laughs asking him whether he needs a quinquereme.
  2. Currently the state of the bathysphere were such that, when he embarks tomorrow, he was more likely to attract mermaids than cartilaginous fish.
  3. Ahab already launched the dingy and assumed a precarious position in its crow’s nest when Boadicea arrived with the mangle and the dried eels livers.
  4. If he would be successful in his effort to have elliptical wheels installed on all rental bicycles, accidents on the island would no doubt have been reduced, though not necessarily for the reasons stated.
  5. “If only the cat was more acquiescent or, at least, sedentary, it will fly beautifully” exclaimed Rupert re-gluing the ruptured wing strut and swore under his breath.
  6. The sentry insisted that she removes the pantomime diplodocus head and is recognized.
  7. Boadicea and her coterie had been known to taunt the particularly officious prefects but “hide the dyspeptic ruminant in the wardrobe” is rarely ever played by them.
  8. Rupert contends that convention officials need never be apprised of the source of the soup and recommends that no further research into the spontaneous sprouting of feathers is undertaken.
  9. I hoped to finish the water slide and the flying teacups by the time the retirement home bus arrived, but when Rupert and Boadicea start quoting Spinoza at each other, everything else had to wait.

Subjunctive usages. Choose the correct verb form:

  1. If only Boadicea is/was/were/would be able to extract the squid from the vacuum cleaner, we should have a breakfast to remember.
  2. Juliette reluctantly decreed, through billows of acrid polyester fumes, that stuffed toys are/be/were prevented from playing with the waffle iron.
  3. A rather threadbare terrycloth squid avoided Juliette’s gaze lest it is/be/were prevented from reaching the toaster oven.
  4. Perhaps Aunt Agatha would come out of the wardrobe if Rupert is/was/were to flush the fireworks down the euphemism.
  5. Uncle Cuthbert has a profound fear of postage stamps, are/were/is/be they foreign, domestic, canceled, or not.
  6. If that was/were/would be/is the loathsome profligate you saw in the seaweed emporium on Sunday, he can’t be held responsible for the affair involving the dyspeptic ruminant.
  7. If it could be determined that the meteor actually was/were composed of gorgonzola, we would know a great deal more about the nature of the universe than we currently do.
  8. The irascible cossack demanded that the ironmonger produce/produces 16 hand-wrought Sicilian trivets.
  9. The beast in the hamper produced an exhalation of green vapor as if it was/were a dyspeptic dimetrodon.
  10. If the beast in the hamper was/were a dimetrodon, then this egg should not be kept in the refrigerator.
  11. Rupert took exception to the demand that he relinquish/relinquishes/relinquished his fleet in the Adriatic.

Correct the mistakes in the following.

  1. The cloth emu has several advantages: it isn’t classified as luggage, you aren’t required to check it at the door, to open it, the overall whimsical effect, and nobody will guess you have a saxophone.
  2. When we heard the curate coming, Penelope hid the saxophone, Hermione, the liver pâté, and Boadicea, the greasy overalls; so that he would find it harder to guess what we had been up to.
  3. On the third floor you will find collector’s editions, scuba equipment, tribal headgear, and a discount bin of assorted flanges, bushings, cams, and a display of second century Roman baldrics.
  4. Thusfar only chewing gum, singing, certain violent card games, and to do Stephen’s infamous Groucho Marx impression were strictly forbidden, though after today, quoting Spinoza is likely to be added to the list.

Parallelism in comparisons. The apples and orange comparison: “I like Bronte much better than the novels of Austen.” Always be sure that similar things are being compared.

Idiomatic usages. Usually a case of choosing the correct preposition. There is no way to apply a universal rule to these; one must simply know what sounds best. To determine which usage is best, Google the phrase in quotes and compare hit-counts. Choose the correct preposition.

Uncle Cuthbert has had an aversion [from, to, over, about] large incontinent rhinoceroses ever since the infamous incident with the hydrangea and the bag of infested Argentine lentils. He has even acquired a distaste [of, for, from, with] unsupervised pachyderms in any form though remains thoroughly enamored [about, for, from, of] wildebeest. He has always retained an inordinate fondness [of, for, with, about] water voles while never becoming fond [of, for, with about] mimes.

Boadicea plied Uncle Cuthbert [about, with, over, from] questions [about, with, over, from] his days as a member [for,from, of, on] the Ministry of Erroneous Assumptions (formed to dispel misconceptions [under, over, by, for] which members of the ministry of extraneous folkloric perversions had been laboring).

Aunt Agatha’s views on waterfowl in the classroom diverge [to, from, with, for] those established by the provost, without whose avian predilections the campus would appear much like that of other colleges – but [about, by, with, for] the vast courtyard mosaics depicting farm machinery and turn-of-the-century diving equipment, on which score she finds little [from, on, with, to] which to disagree

Pamela was indeed so in love [over, of, for, with] the hirsute aerialist that the audacious balloonist, [over, of, for, with] whom she had so recently been enamored, abandoned the cause and returned the diesel-powered vacuum cleaner and the hand-wrought Sicilian trivets.

Boadicea plied Uncle Cuthbert [about, with, over, from] questions [about, with, over, from] his days as a member [for, from, of, on] the Ministry of Erroneous Assumptions (formed to dispel misconceptions [under, over, by, for] which members of the Ministry of Extraneous Folkloric Perversions had been laboring).

He stressed that his answer must be contingent [with, from, by, upon] receiving assurance that no member of the ministry be subjected [with, to, by, for] accusations of frivolity and general silliness nor would they be the subject [from, of, over, to] derisive mimicry including, but not limited to, verses, songs, chants, effigies, hand-puppetry, or other forms of demeaning comedic caricature.

Boadicea retorted that, though some ministers had diverged [on, in, from, for] the original fatuous agenda, in her opinion, complete reconciliation [with, over, by, onto] the Society for Conscientious Deferential Irreverence was unlikely, as five skits, a float, three song cycles, and a short oratorio had already been composed and that significant progress had been made [around, in, on, by] costumes, scenery, and props, including a life-sized replica of a very baffled looking diplodocus.

Uncle Cuthbert interpreted Boadicea’s response as the harbinger [of, for, from, over] a raucous and tumultuous weekend with members of the SCDI, redolent [from, of, with, over] curry, WD40, and decaying floral vegetation. He refrained [of, from, with, for] comment [for, of, with, by] fear that further remonstration might serve [as, for, with, by] inspiration – something [from, over, with, by] which he was loathe to provide them.

Misplaced Modifiers. Usually an ambiguous reference to something or a reference to something that isn’t there at all. Find the errors in the following:

  1. While perusing “Ethel the Aardvark on Differential Calculus,” I happened to notice the shoe salesman driving a compact car wearing a hat.
  2. Being far too full to eat a bite more, the offer of Venezuelan beaver cheese did not evoke the anticipated howls of delight.
  3. To Rupert’s surprise, he was comfortably able to drive the tractor wearing swim fins and goggles.
  4. Ducking under the flock of pestilent soiled budgies, the handlebars struck the sandwich in my pocket doing irreparable harm to the avocado.
  5. While climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, which is quite steep up to the very top and then slopes away rather sharply, Rupert’s hair dryer required constant adjustment.
  6. Wriggling around like that, it took me more than four hours to bury the cat.
  7. After constructing the elaborate pasta nativity, the fioriettini windows worked beautifully, but the linguine thatch had to be propped up by the calamarata donkey.
  8. Unable to extract the squid from the vacuum cleaner, breakfast consisted only of eggs and aging Braunschweiger.

Noun/pronoun or noun/noun agreement, including synesis in anaphoric references, pronoun reference problems and ambiguity. Identify the errors in the following.

  1. The spinning wheel stood on the ancient parapet before it was dismantled.
  2. Gladys was the kind of person who vastly underestimates the milkman and the amount of confusion they can cause.
  3. Each student participating in the relativity gala should have their clocks, scales and measuring tapes handy.
  4. While trying ineffectually to retrieve the eggplant centerpiece from his neighbor’s trout pond, Rupert’s phone wouldn’t stop playing Monteverdi’s Orfeo and the chicken just kept dancing until Irmgard threw a yogurt-encrusted spatula at him.
  5. Uncle Cuthbert is really very very diligent on Saturdays, though it is rarely appreciated when he forgets to replace the furniture or leaves the cat in the hamper.
  6. Many people vaguely accept relativistic phenomena as part of the cotton-candy experience, but, Rupert contended that it wasn’t due to stickiness so much as the color of the confection. .
  7. One is rarely so thoroughly inspired by a meal of his own creation as Rupert was with the Chili Tapioca.
  8. There was a rumor going around that the library’s copy of 16 More Things to Do in Zero Gravity had been used to store the dessicated duck’s liver long after the expiry date and it was nasty.
  9. The banner flew in the sparkling sun as the cavalcade approached the battlements just before it disappeared from view.
  10. Harold helped Hermione rewrite the screenplay of Delightful Moments with Hideous People before being insulted by the dockworker, and it reminded her of a mermaid on a motorcycle.
  11. The members of the sixth grade cooking class were issued charismatic wooden spoons, but were told by the three whisk-wielding Muscovites that they were expected to present them to the members of the board of holistic balloonists when they finished their tour of the campus model-railroader’s exhibit of extinct Siberian waterfowl.
  12. None of them was able to find their weapon in the peanut shells.
  13. The day after the strange incident with the petulant penguin, Mabel found Hermione and Penelope putting the finishing touches on the marble bust of Jane Austin and then she came down with a bad cold and hid it in the refrigerator until she could think of a better way to explain why she missed the deadline.

Pronoun case. Correct use of I/me, he/him, who/whom.

  1. Severus asked the three braves and I whether a greased ferret might stand a chance of fetching the broken spectacles.
  2. Rowena and Boadicea assured the artist that nobody in the kingdom could possibly fling yogurt more gracefully or with more sublime effect than him.
  3. Neither Rowland nor Boadicea, emerging slowly from behind the inflatable hyena, could imagine anyone irritating the postman as artfully as them.
  4. To the phlegmatic butler, his listless iguana, and I, the word “mañana” conveyed far too acute a sense of urgency.
  5. It wasn’t me whom the assistant vice principal accused of impertinence after he saw a copy of his bulletin with appropriate grammar corrections printed in the local newspaper.
  6. To Einstein, Rupert and I, its all relative — weather the stone hits the window or the window hits the stone.
  7. It wasn’t me who put the cheese in the dishwasher. It was just laying on the plate I put in.
  8. Mom saw Rupert and I stuffing the musk oxen behind the refrigerator.
  9. Rupert saw the curate and I mixing anchovies into the nougat.
  10. Whom do you think is responsible for the toad infestation in the library?
  11. Who should we make clean up the tapioca, peanut shells, and horse droppings in the cafeteria after the 4H Club’s cavalcade of ethnic indigenous cuisines?
  12. Whom should be expected to unload the amorous giraffe before the rain washes all the fudge away revealing the magic tortoise and the baseball cap.
  13. Please give the dead parrot to whomever wants it.
  14. Neither the dwarf on the tricycle nor me could be seen clearly behind the smoldering bagpipes – or it is to be sincerely hoped that we could not.
  15. Even these strangely loony Hungarians could suspect neither the ornately painted guests nor I of hiding the recalcitrant ostrich in our luggage.
  16. Only when accompanied by the troubadour, the two thoroughly inebriated ice-cream salesmen, and I, did Hermione stand a chance of intimidating the officious, flowerpot-wielding zookeeper.

Choose the correct who/whom pronoun.

  1. I don’t know _____ the paste-encrusted soup bowl belongs to. Give it to _____ever comes out of the library holding a spoon.
  2. She gave the musical score to the prenuptial agreement to Rupert and ______ else? _____ should perform it for the board and _____ do you think should be blamed for the idea if they walk out in the middle?
  3. _____ did you consider to be the least likely to approach aunt Agatha about the earring in the salad? She is not likely to be pleased with ____ever we pick to break the news to her.
  4. Would ______ever found my copy of “Ethel, the Exculpated Aardvark” please return it to Mr. Thakaray’s mailbox with a note of apology.
  5. Would _____ever the statuary director designated, please replace Prometheus’ sword and remove the kangaroo?
  6. Would _____ever put the Jello on the table of the last supper tableau please return the fish?
  7. Hermione presented the briefly used mustard container to the sixth-grader _____ Boadicea had accused of artistic debauchery.
  8. She gave the rapidly rotting onion to the student ____ was chosen to be the standard bearer.
  9. She gave the spear to the one ____ the giant frog seemed to like best.
  10. Few members of of the committee had yet had occasion to visit with the nurse ____ the kindergarten class had dubbed “Flatula.”
  11. Understanding the prefect _____ wore the diplodocus suit was not easy for those ____ Mrs. Muffet had seated in the balcony behind the pastry nativity.

Clauses: Run-on sentences, fragments, and the comma splice.

A sentence fragment is an incomplete structure that cannot stand on its own as a sentence:
When the Elephant hiccoughed.
Using three pairs of slippery thermal underwear.
To invoke the spirit of the compost pile.
In a desperate effort to avoid familial distractions.
Or else the cat might roll in the butter all afternoon.

Avoid using fragments like these as sentences. However, these dependent clauses are very useful in building sentences, to add information to a complete thought. For example: When the Elephant hiccoughed he blew a chartreuse bubble out his trunk.

Common Errors: the run-on sentence

Run-on sentences are independent sentences either linked with a comma (the comma splice), or simply run end to end (the fused sentence) and are regarded as improper:

Telephone tag has become a serious health hazard, it is particularly dangerous in a crowded office or with older heavier equipment.

Lawn mowers don’t run well on catsup some varieties are highly corrosive.

Run-ons are easily corrected by creating two separate sentences, making one a dependent clause, or by linking the phrases with a semicolon, or a conjunction.

Telephone tag has become a serious health hazard, particularly in a crowded office or with older, heavier equipment.

Telephone tag has become a serious health hazard; it is particularly dangerous in a crowded office or with older, heavier equipment.

Telephone tag has become a serious health hazard and is particularly dangerous in a crowded office or with older, heavier equipment.

Lawn mowers don’t run well on catsup; some varieties are highly corrosive.

Lawn mowers don’t run well on catsup as some varieties are highly corrosive.

Confused words. illusion, allusion — that lot. Identify the misused words in the following and correct them.

Boadicea had a flare for a specific type of creative work. Though admittedly miner, they’re existed nonetheless a significant demand four her unusual talents and she boar the mantel of artistry with inspired resignation. Her recitative and concert aria setting of the Jameson-Smythe prenuptial agreement did meat with universal laudation and was not considered contributory in any weigh too the brevity of the marriage nor the subsequent murder investigation.

The gnu semester brought with it fresh challenges as orders continued to floe in, including a coral setting of selections from the updated union contract and an elaborate themes-and-variations for base-baritone and wind ensemble based upon variously fatuous, prurient, and ungrammatical utterances maid by the Provost during the previous semester – the latter having been anonymously commissioned bye the cafeteria staph and groundskeepers.

To Boadicea, however, their could be no grater challenge than that of transforming Dr. Vladislav Prosniki’s paper on post-cold-war decay into a cycle of libidinous limericks to be performed at the upcoming conference, a not-entirely-fictive memoir commissioned by Prosniki’s erstwhile mistress and translator.

Boadicea’s works had faired very well in campus productions ever since the imminent scholar, Sir Arthur Mackelthwaite had taken over as art director, insisting that artistic merit bee the soul criterion by which works were chosen for performance.

Commonly mistaken verbs. Correct the errors:

  1. Could you lie those Etruscan water skis over there next to where the experimental begonias and the enigmatic Siberian banana sculpture are laying?
  2. I couldn’t rise the somnolent tortoise high enough to be seen above the rising flood of enthusiastic insipient herpetologists.
  3. I couldn’t figure out whether to fall or fell the tree before it falls on its own, so I just cut it down.
  4. Tiberius couldn’t sit the elaborate but somewhat aging eggplant centerpiece so that it would set reliably upright on the table, so he lay it down next to the infuriated Rabbi.
  5. The imaginary emu lay in the corner of the room blithely laying eggs and knitting thneeds.
  6. Set it on the couch besides where the querelous scabiosa is laying and the truculent eschscholtzia is setting.
  7. I couldn’t lie down where the peacock had laid yesterday.
  8. I couldn’t lie down where the peahen had laid yesterday.

The school principle remonstrated bitterly to Alice that weather the bison had actually caused the custard flood in the cafeteria or not was irreverent. He contended that it was the principal of the thing that mattered and went on to rebut, but could not refute, Alice’s claim that fairies were the irresponsible parties and were in fact quite infamous for their irresponsible parties. Alice countered that the rout taken by cafeteria staff to route the beast was the root of the problem, and that it was common knowledge that the proscribed method for dealing with unruly ungulates was toast and marmalade on a poll. Her insistence that students be poled to determine the preferred method was not entertained seriously. Of course, Alice preferred a little frivolity in entertainment and voiced that opinion.