Make a Little Sense of Idiom Errors
There are at least 1 and as many as 3 idiom errors out of the 18 questions of Identifying Sentence Errors. Most of their difficulty levels are coded medium or hard. While there are no absolute rules governing idioms, it does not mean that students can only learn them individually by rote. Let’s try to make a little sense of idiom errors commonly tested in the SAT.
5. Unidiomatic use of preposition
Many prepositional usages are idiomatic. That said, each preposition itself indeed has meaning.
- against: in opposition to
- with: accompanied by
- from: indicates separation
You have probably picked up these meanings in your reading. Now that you are aware prepositions are meaningful words, you can check their meanings in the dictionary. You will find that you acquire their so-called “idiomatic” usages much more quickly than before.
A) Analyze by meaning
Try to judge if a preposition is used correctly in terms of its meaning.
B) Substitute with a familiar synonym
As prepositions are meaningful words, synonyms generally go with the same preposition. When you are unsure which preposition should be used, you can substitute the word with a more familiar synonym.
C) Vary with context and intended meaning
A word can be followed by different prepositions depending on the context and, hence, the meaning intended.
6. Wrong/awkward conjunction
6a. Inappropriate correlative conjunction
Correlative conjunctions are pairs of conjunctions which connect parallel (that is, similar in length and part of speech) words, phrases and clauses. Their combinations are idiomatic and cannot be changed. Luckily, there are only a few correlative conjunctions.
6b. Illogical relationship
Besides correlative conjunctions, there are also coordinating conjunctions, subordinating conjunctions and conjunctive adverbs. In the SAT, since you do not need to explain why an underlined option is wrong, questions related to these various types of conjunctions can be dealt with easily by considering if the conjunction connects two parts of a sentence logically and fits the sentence’s meaning as a whole.
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