Oh “it”—how you love to plague SAT test takers. Innocuously—coyly even—you call out, “I’m a safe bet; pick me”. And the test taker will take you in his or her arms, repeat the phrase in which you’ve seductively secreted yourself into, and trust you.
But no more! We’re on to you, ‘it’. We’re going to frisk you and check your identification.
In grammar-speak, we are going to look for that antecedent—no more sweet whispering your name. Who are you affiliated with “it”? Give us a clear answer, a clear noun—not a pronoun—that you logically refer to and agree with in number (you are singular after all). If we can find that noun, then you are off the hook. If anything is unclear, we are going to eliminate you and the answer choice you rode into town on.
So let’s practice what we preach. Good “it” or bad “it”? You make the call.
1. Given a choice between Pepsi and Coke, Mike always decides that it is better to drink Coke.
2. Mike likes both Pepsi and Coke, but usually prefers Coke since it is not overly sweet.
3. Many corporations make the mistake of expanding into markets that differ markedly from those that it was initially successful at navigating.
4. The best thing I ever did was go to space camp in the 6th grade. It allowed me to understand the crucial role science plays in our lives.
Did you get “it”?
1. Bad “it”
What does the “it” refer to? If you are unsure, choose a noun that you think it might refer to (“Pepsi”) and put that in place of “it”: Mike always decides that Pepsi is better to drink Coke. Okay, that is flat out weird. The truth is there is no noun that “it” refers to, so get rid of “it”. The sentence is much cleaner if you just write: Mike always decides to drink Coke. (Remember, SAT loves concision!).
2. Good “it”
“It” clearly refers to Coke.
3. Bad “it”
“It” refers to corporations. But “corporations” is plural so “it” should be “they”.
4. Bad “it”
This one is tricky. “It” logically refers to space camp (you can substitute it for “it”), and it does agree in number. But there’s something else going on here: When you begin a new sentence—at least on the SAT—you want to be very clear what that it refers to.
Of course, the SAT wouldn’t simply replace the “it” with space camp (this makes for choppy, unsophisticated prose). Instead, it would say: “This experience allowed me to understand…”
One quick thing: the SAT wouldn’t just put: “This allowed me to understand”. That’s for another lesson (“The Lonely This”). Especially at the beginning of a sentence you always want to make sure that you put a word a noun in front of “this”.
Getting back to “it”
Okay, so you think you can outsmart “it”? Check out the video below.
And of course, if you have any questions about this, leave them for me in the comments below! 🙂