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Verbals

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[edit section] Inside SAT Writing Section Guide: Identifying Sentence Errors

  1. Breaking Down Sentence Error Questions
  2. Subject/Verb Agreement
  3. Pronoun/Antecedent Agreement
  4. Verb Tenses
  5. Adjectives, Adverbs
  6. Verbals
  7. Parallel Structure
  8. Idiomatic Expressions in English


[edit section] Verbals

The College Board was charged with creating a test for the English language that assesses your basic recognition of sentence structure and how to write good sentences. In the Improving Sentence Errors portion, you will see a handful of questions dealing with verbals. Verbals are a common part of any language, including English. A verbal is a phrase used to replace a part of speech. For the SAT purposes, you should be familiar with the following three types of verbals:


  • Infinitive: "To + verb" form of a verb that can be used to replace a noun, adjective, or adverb. For example, you may say: "To be, or not to be, that is the question."
  • Gerund: Present progressive ("-ing") form of a verb that can be used to replace a noun. For example, you may say: "I sure love running!"
  • Participle: Present progressive or perfect/past ("-ed" or "-ing") form of a verb that replaces an adjective. For example, you may say: "Panting, I caught my breath."


On the SAT, you will not be expected to recite these definitions from memory. However, you should know how they are correctly applied to a sentence. Consider the following sentence with a verbal used incorrectly:


He said that I should really start to instruct the kids, including to teach them reading.


The sentence is very confusing because "to teach" is actually an incorrectly-placed infinitive. The verb should be conjugated to its proper form, which makes the sentence much clearer. The new sentence reads:


He said that I should really start to instruct the kids, including teaching them reading.


Notice that in the above sentence, "teaching" and "reading" are both gerunds used as nouns. Similarly, "to instruct" is an infinitive.


The only way you will become proficient with these verbals is by practicing them. Here is an incorrect version of the sentence:


The only way you will become proficient with these verbals is by to practice them.


Here, the infinitive is used in place of the gerund, but this is incorrect by convention. You know this because it just doesn't "sound" right.


Let's try another example:


Singing my prepared song, the audience all clapped for me.


Here, it should obvious to you that the sentence is ambiguous. You are probably "singing my prepared song," not the audience. Yet, the placement of the words suggests that the whole audience is singing along.

[edit section] Word Use

Have you ever heard somebody use the wrong word? You may understand what they are saying, but it doesn't make sense in English. The College Board likes to test you on your ability to use the right word even when two words sound very similar. For example:


I cannot except any kind of personal check.


Although the sentence may "sound" right, "except" should obviously be "accept." Here's another example:


There are many affects of global warming that are starting to show up.


"Affects" is a verb, while "effects," the right word, is a noun. The sentence should read:


There are many effects of global warming that are starting to show up.


Affect and Effects are commonly mistaken words, so here are the definitions:


Effect: (n), the result or outcome of something:

ex. John's protests had no effect.

(v), to cause or to bring something into being

ex. The doctor tried to effect a change in the boy's eating habits.


Affect:(n), emotions (this is rarely used except by psychologists so if the word affect is in a sentence that acts as a noun, 94% of the time it's supposed to be effect).

ex. A person's affect can be easily disturbed.

(v). To influence

My emotions are not affected by anything.


Here are a list of commonly-mistaken word pairs:


  • Write/right
  • Affect/effect
  • Infamous/famous
  • Conscience/Conscious
  • Principal/Principle
  • It's/Its (The word it's is a contraction for "it is")
  • Contraction/Contradiction

[edit section] Moving Along

In our next lesson, we will take a look at the idea of parallel structure in Identifying Sentence Errors. Now, take the SAT Writing: ISE III quiz. See how you do!

[edit section] Additional Resources

[edit section] Inside SAT Writing Section Guide: Identifying Sentence Errors

  1. Breaking Down Sentence Error Questions
  2. Subject/Verb Agreement
  3. Pronoun/Antecedent Agreement
  4. Verb Tenses
  5. Adjectives, Adverbs
  6. Verbals
  7. Parallel Structure
  8. Idiomatic Expressions in English

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