ACT English Practice: Sentence Construction

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  • 0:02 Sentence Construction
  • 0:57 Question 1
  • 2:21 Question 2
  • 3:55 Question 3
  • 4:58 Question 4
  • 6:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.

Without proper sentence construction, your writing will be unclear, not to mention incorrect! Get some practice with ACT sentence construction questions here.

Sentence Construction

What happens when your house has shabby construction? Maybe the floors aren't level, or the roof leaks, or the basement floods every time it rains. It's a lot harder and pretty inconvenient to live in.

Sentence construction is a lot like that. Just like a house, a sentence is constructed out of several smaller pieces, and they all have to fit just right together to make a complete whole. If the parts of the sentence don't fit together well, it'll be confusing for the reader and incorrect on the ACT. 'Sentence construction' is a catch-all term that covers all those 'fitting together' errors, from parallel structure to identifying fragments and run-ons to shifts in construction halfway through the sentence.

If you're not familiar with those concepts, your first job is to go back to the other lessons in the ACT English course and review. But once that's done, come back here for some practice!

Question 1

Here's the first question. Can you pick the best replacement for the underlined part of this excerpt?

I looked all around the house. But I couldn't find my ID. And starting to panic a little.

(A) (as it is now)

(B) house, but I couldn't find my ID and

(C) house, but I couldn't find my ID. I was

(D) house. I couldn't find my ID,

First of all, let's identify what's wrong with the original. You might notice at first that it seems choppy or broken up. And if you look more closely, you'll see that one of these 'sentences' isn't actually a sentence at all: it's a fragment. Can you spot which one?

It's the third one. The third sentence has no main verb, so it's not a complete sentence. In the revision, your main job is to fix that fragment.

Now, can you spot the answer choice that does the job?

It's (C). Choice (C) adds 'I was' to the beginning of the third sentence, which gives it a main verb and turns it into a complete sentence. As a bonus, it also connects the first two sentences, so the whole thing reads much more smoothly.

Choices (B) and (D) make the original less choppy, but the subject of 'starting' is grammatically unclear, so these two are both incorrect.

Ready for another question? Try this one:

Question 2

Again, you're looking for the best replacement for the underlined portion of the sentence.

I don't like lemonade, but my favorite drink in the summertime is iced tea I can drink at least a pitcher a day with the weather being hot.

(A) (as it is now)

(B) tea; I can drink at least a pitcher a day when the weather is hot.

(C) tea, I can drink at least a pitcher a day, in hot weather.

(D) tea, with the weather being hot I can drink at least a pitcher a day.

Does anything stick out to you about this sentence? Maybe it seems kind of long, or even a little breathless, like the writer was just rushing to get words on the page and didn't really stop for air. That's because this is a run-on sentence: a sentence with two complete thoughts that are not properly connected. 'I can drink at least a pitcher a day' is a complete thought, so you need some kind of punctuation between it and the previous part of the sentence; you can't just smush them together!

Knowing that, can you spot the answer choice that works best?

If you picked (B), you got it! Let's break this down: in choice (B), the independent clause 'I can drink at least a pitcher a day' is separated from the rest of the sentence by a semicolon. That's a grammatically correct way to manage two independent clauses. As a bonus, (B) also swaps in 'when the weather is hot' for 'with the weather being hot.' This makes the sentence much less awkward.

Choices (C) and (D) don't work because you can't connect two independent clauses with a comma.

Question 3

Ready for the third question? Here you go - again, pick the best replacement for the underlined part.

When you're mowing your lawn, one has to be careful not to mow over any stray garden tools or toys.

(A) (as it is now)

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