Cracking the English ACT Test Understanding grammar rules for a better score.
Sentence Structure- fragments Sentence fragments- Missing a subject or verb. • 1. Dependent clause waiting for a second half- As the children ran behind, shouting and laughing. • A. No Change • B. While the • C. During which the • D. The (correct) Avoid these words- when, where, why, how, if, as, because, although, while, despite, that, who, what. • 2. The test wants you to incorporate the previous sentence to create a compound sentence. Although it will always be associated with Shakespeare’s famous literary character. The castle at Elsinore was never home to Hamlet. • A.NO CHANGE • B. Character, the (correct) • C. Character; the • D.Character. A
2. Comma Splices • Comma splice- 2 independent clauses are jammed together in one sentence with only a comma holding them together. • Aunt Sally ran into the room, Tom was already gone. • turn the 2 independent clauses into their own sentences. • Aunt Sally ran into the room. Tom was already gone. • add a conjunction • Aunt Sally ran into the room, but Tom was already gone. • C. As long as the two clauses are not cause and effect, you may break up the thoughts with a semicolon. • Aunt Sally arrived home several hours later; Tom was already gone.
Run On Sentences Same as a comma splice- but without the comma. Correct these with the same rules as a comma splice. Aunt Sally swept up the shards of glass she was furious.
4. Misplaced Modifiers A modifying phrase needs to be near what it is modifying. If it is too far away, it is misplaced. Sweeping up the shards of glass, the missing key to the jewelry box was found by Aunt Sally. This sentence sounds like the key was swept up with the shards. Sweeping up the shards of glass, Aunt Sally found the missing key to her jewelry box.
5. Construction Shifts • The modifier is in the wrong place but the modifying word needs to be moved over slightly. • Stepping to avoid the large puddle, I carefully tripped and fell. • A. No CHANGE • B. (Place after stepping) (Correct) • C. (Place after and) • D. (Place after fell)
6. Parallel Construction 2 types seen on the ACT- both involve lists. The first involves verb tense agreement. When Tom finally came home, Aunt Sally kissed him, hugged him, and gives(gave)him his favorite dessert after dinner. The second involves a list of nouns. Three explanations for Sid’s locking himself in his room were a desire to do his homework, a sense that he needed to hone his college essays, and hating (and a hatred for)his brother Tom, who always got away with murder.
Pronouns • Words that replace nouns (he, she, it, they) • Agreement- pronoun must agree with the noun to which it refers. Any young boy who watched the first moon landing probably spent the next few years wishing that they (he) could become an astronaut. Although the American bald eagle has been on the endangered species lists for years, they have been sighted in wildlife preserves much more frequently during the past two years. • NO CHANGE • They are • It can be • It has been (correct) • 2. Case- if a pronoun is the subject of a sentence, it must be expressed as a subject (I, we, you, he, she, it, they, who). If it is the object of a sentence it must be expressed as an object (me, us, you, him, her, it, them, whom). Jane bought a souvenir NASA sweatshirt for (he/him). The students, who had been studying the space program, were thrilled to witness the lunar landing. • NO CHANGE (correct) • About whom had been studying the space program • Whom had been studying the space program
8. Adjectives and Adverbs- Adjectives modify nouns. Adverbs modify everything else- verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. He is very intelligent. He is very intelligently. (incorrect) She thinks intelligently. Comparative adjectives- add –er or more or less in front of the adjective. She is taller than Jane. Sid is more careful than Tom. Comparative adverbs- add more or less in front of adverb. Jane dances more gracefully than Sue. Superlative adjectives- used when more than 2 things are being compared. add –est Of the many men in the room, Joe is the strongest. Superlative adverb- used when more than 2 things are being compared. Add most. Compared to the other boys in the school, Sid behaves the most politely.
9. Idiomatic Expressions- Expressions that require the use of a specific preposition. There are no general rules to go by. I am in love with you. (correct) I am in love for you. My sculpture is based after Rodin’s Thinker. • NO CHANGE • Is based over • Is based on (correct) • Based on
10. Subject-Verb Agreement- The verb of a sentence must agree with its subject. The best moment (subj.) during a broadcast filled with many great moments were(vb.) when the astronaut stepped out of the lunar lander and bounced on the moon. Were should be was
11. Pronoun-Verb Agreement The verb of a sentence must agree with the subject, even if the subject is a pronoun. Each(Pronoun) of these moments have played(vb.) in my mind again and again as I try to recapture the excitement of that momentous day in June. Have played should be has played
12. Verb Tense- The verb tells us if the action is taking place in the past, present, or future. Sam is walking (present) down the street when he found(past) a large suitcase. Either change is walking to walked or was walking, or found to finds.
Commas • The Serial Comma- commas used to separate items in a series. When Mary walked into the classroom she saw a school teacher, a doctor, a woman eating a bagel, and a bird. • 2. Separating Clauses and phrases- • A. Two independent Clauses must be separated by a comma and a conjunction (and, or, but, for, nor, or yet) Mary wondered why there was a bird in the classroom, and she decided to ask the teacher what the bird was doing indoors. • B. An independent clause and a dependant clause just require a comma. Before Mary could reach the teacher, she saw the woman offer the bird part of the bagel. • C. An independent clause and a modifying phrase require a comma to separate them. Hungry and excited, the bird snapped up the bagel.
Commas Cont’d. • 3. Separating “Restrictive” and “Nonrestrictive” elements • A restrictive clause is essential to the meaning of the sentence and should not be separated by commas. People who snore are advised to sleep on their sides. • A nonrestrictive clause is not essential to the meaning of the sentence and must be separated by commas. My father, who snores loudly, always sleeps in his long johns. Mary, who by now is very confused, stopped in front of the woman.
15. Semicolons • Use a semicolon instead of a period to connect two related independent clauses. Just then, the woman screamed; the bird jumped up and perched on her head. • Generally cause and effect connections are connected with a comma and a conjunction. • Use a semicolon to separate independent clauses joined by a conjunctive adverb (however, therefore, nevertheless, moreover, furthermore, and consequently). Punctuation rules can be annoying; nevertheless, they are essential to good writing. • 3. To separate items in a series when the items contain commas. Student Council officers are Amy Jones, president; Tom Craig, vice president; Larry Hammer, secretary; and Rena Cook, treasurer. • 4. To separate two main clauses when one or both of them already have a comma. Ray’s progress has been good;considering her medical history, I think she will make a complete recovery.
16. Colons • Used after a complete statement to introduce a list of related details. Maria just purchased all the camping supplies for our trip: a tent, a camping stove, and three sleeping bags. • 2. To separate two independent clauses where the first clause presents a general thought, and another that explains or expands on it. I didn’t know what to do: I could either go camping, or stay home and study for the ACT. • 3. Use to introduce a question. This is the question: Do you check for errors in your work?
17. Dashes • Used to separate a word or group of words from the rest of the sentence when there is an abrupt break in thought or to introduce an explanation or afterthought. I tried to express my gratitude- not that any words could be adequate- but she just nodded and walked away. Just outside the door to the cabin we heard the howling of wolves- a sound that made our hair stand on end.
18. Apostrophes An apostrophe is used to show possession or mark missing letters in a word. • Show possession Singular doesn’t end in s- Peter’s new car is extremely expensive. Singular ends in s- The boss’s new office is huge. Plural doesn’t end in s- Women’s issues will be important in the next election. Plural ends in s- The girls’ backpacks were all lime green. If the noun is followed by a verb, no apostrophe is needed. Students must have identification cards. • 2. To indicate missing letters I’m sorry. I couldn’t make it to your party.
19. Its/It’s/Its’ • Its (possessive form) The baby bear could not find its mother. • 2. It’s (replaces it is/it has) It’s been nice talking to you. 3. Its’ (isn’t a word at all)
20. Troublesome words and phrases a/an- Use a before a word that begins with a consonant sound: a dog, a tall boy, a unit. Use an before a word with a vowel sound: an hour, an apple. Accept/except- Accept means receive: “I accept your offer.” Except means to leave out: “She invited everyone except me.” Affect/effect- Affect means to influence: “Their ideas affect my work.” Effect as a noun means result: “What was the effect of your work?” Effect as a verb means to accomplish: “Did you effect a change in the neighborhood?” All ready/ already- All ready means prepared: “We are all ready for the party.” Already is an adverb meaning previously: “They were already at the party when we arrived.” Any one/ anyone- Any one means any single person or thing in a group: “Jay would like to have any one of the dogs.” Anyone means anybody: “Anyone who skis enjoys winter.”
21. Transitions Connecting words that move the reader smoothly from one thought to another. 3 main kinds of sentence connectors • but (contradiction)- however, quite the contrary, despite, rather, notwithstanding, contrarily, on the other hand, on the contrary, although, yet, nevertheless 2. thus (cause and effect)- hence, and so, therefore, consequently, for example, because of, finally, in conclusion • 3. also (in addition)- in addition, for example, furthermore, another, and, first, second, moreover, by the same token, besides, so too, similarly
22. Redundancy Repeating the same idea in the same sentence. Cheap and inexpensive gifts can be found in the shopping district. Weak and without strength, the old car could not make it up the hill.
Works Cited Martz, Geoff, Kim Magloire, and Theodore Silver. Cracking the ACT. New York: Random House, 2005. Print.