To master the multiple-choice writing questions on the SAT, you will have to pay attention to subtle yet important rules that are often overlooked in colloquial speech. Number agreement is one such rule. The essentials are simple: in short, make sure you compare singular nouns to singular nouns, and plurals to plurals. Yet the SAT tests noun-to-noun agreement in some of its trickiest questions, and tests a few especially challenging versions of this error type. Here are a few helpful tips for spotting, and dealing with, number agreement:
– Basic Agreement: Try to figure out what is wrong with the following sentence: “The students all want to be a teacher when they grow up.” You may hear sentences like this in everyday speech and never think twice, but the grammar turns out to be incorrect. Instead of aligning multiple “students” with a single “teacher”, you need to line up plural with plural or singular with singular. “The students all want to be teachers when they grow up” would be an excellent re-write.
– Countable/Not Countable: The SAT features another question type involving noun numbering—and here as well, everyday speech habits can lead you in the wrong direction. Try to spot the error in the following sentence: “There are less than four pencils on Gail’s desk.” The error is the “less,” which you should only use to describe a quantity that cannot be counted. If you are describing items, like pencils, that can be counted, always use “fewer.” Oddly enough, this countable/not countable error is even committed by big businesses; you might see the sign “Ten items or less” at a supermarket express checkout. However the right grammar will always be “Ten items or fewer.”
For more helpful tips like these, see our SAT Grammar Workbook of the Advanced Practice Series!
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