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Kristin Fracchia

ACT Challenge Question 8: A Singular Subject – Explanation

Magoosh ACT Challenge Question
 

Here’s a refresher on the ACT English Challenge question I posted earlier this week! If you missed it, give it a try, then check out the answer below!
 

ACT Challenge Question #8

Acclaimed novelist Toni Morrison likens memory to the way the Mississippi River, and other rivers like it, years after being straightened and pushed into levees by the Army Corps of Engineers, still strain at times to flood its banks and revisit the original, meandering route.

A. NO CHANGE
B. strains
C. strained
D. straining
 

Answer and Explanation

ANSWER: B

This one is tricky because of the complex structure of the sentence. The subject is “Mississippi River,” which is singular. There are two bits of parenthetical information in the middle: “and other rivers like it” and “years after being straightened and pushed into levees by the Army Corps of Engineers.” Remember, parenthetical information set off by commas can always be bracketed off so you can focus on the main part of the sentence (which should still read correctly without it). If you do this, we have:

Acclaimed novelist Toni Morrison likens memory to the way the Mississippi River, [and other rivers like it, years after being straightened and pushed into levees by the Army Corps of Engineers,] still strain at times to flood its banks and revisit the original, meandering route.

This makes it easier to see that our subject is Mississippi River. There is also a clue later in the sentence when the pronoun “it” is used. Now, we need to make sure the verb tense is correct. The word “still” before the verb indicates that we need present tense, so our answer is B.

 

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About Kristin Fracchia

Kristin makes sure Magoosh's sites are full of awesome, free resources that can be found by students prepping for standardized tests. With a PhD from UC Irvine and degrees in Education and English, she’s been working in education since 2004 and has helped students prepare for standardized tests, as well as college and graduate school admissions, since 2007. She enjoys the agony and bliss of train running, backpacking, hot yoga, and esoteric knowledge.


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