OWL at Purdue Logo

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue (https://owl.english.purdue.edu/). When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice at bottom.

Usage Questions

This resource was written by Jaclyn Wells.
Last edited by Jaclyn Wells on August 11, 2009 .

Summary:
This resource will help you with word usage on the GED.

Usage questions make up about 30% of the test. These questions will ask you to “correct errors in subject-verb agreement, verb tense, and pronoun reference .”  
The following practice questions are all usage questions. Try all of them. When you are finished, check your answers and look at the suggested resources.

Questions 1 through 6 refer to the following paragraphs.

Reality Television

(A)

     (1) In recent years, reality television have become very popular. (2) Some reality T.V. shows follow people as they live their usual lives. (3) Others document people doing crazy things, like eating insects or trying to escape elaborate mazes. (4) Many reality shows were about competition. (5) Contestants may compete for survival in the wilderness, to obtain a job as a model or fashion designer, or to win over the heart of a good-looking man or woman. 

(B)

     (6) In some ways, the reality television phenomenon is not entirely new.
(7) Game shows may be classified as reality shows, and they have been around since television’s earliest days. (8) Talk shows are also similar to many current reality T.V. programs, and they have been popular for many years. (9) Still, there is no denying that the popularity of reality television has exploded in the past ten years. (10) There is also no denying that the most recent shows are more extreme and takes us deeper into people’s lives than shows of the past. (11) Fifty years ago, we would certainly never have been able to observe people in their living rooms while sitting in your own!

(C)

(12) Why is reality television so popular right now? (13) One theory is that people are naturally voyeuristic. (14) This means that people naturally enjoy watching other people. (15) A second theory is that typical life challenges like dating, finding a job, and making a home had become very competitive in our society. (16) Because they are so competitive, we enjoy seeing them played out as actual competitions on television. (17) A final theory is that the Internet has increased easy access to others’ personal information, making us believe that it is normal to know about people’s lives. (18). Viewers are willing to sit and watch people’s real lives on television because we believe it is normal for us to have access to their personal information. (19) Whatever the reason, it is clear that reality television is here to stay.   

1.    Sentence 1: In recent years, reality television have become very popular.
Which correction should be made to sentence 1?

(1)    change television to televisions
(2)    replace become with became
(3)    change have to has
(4)    remove the comma
(5)    no correction is necessary

2.    Sentence 4: Many reality shows were about competition.

Which is the best way to write the underlined portion of the sentence? If the original is the best way, choose option (1).

(1)    were
(2)    was
(3)    is
(4)    are
(5)    am

3.    Sentence 7: Game shows may be classified as reality television, and they have been around since television’s earliest days.

Which is the best way to write the underlined portion of the sentence? If the original is the best way, choose option (1).

(1)    they
(2)    game shows
(3)    these
(4)    the game shows
(5)    them

4.    Sentence 10: There is also no denying that the most recent shows are more extreme and takes us deeper into people’s lives than shows of the past.

What correction should be made to sentence 10?

(1)    change are to were
(2)    change takes to take
(3)    replace people’s with person’s
(4)    insert a comma after extreme
(5)     no correction is necessary

5.    Sentence 11: Fifty years ago, we would certainly never have been able to observe people in their living rooms while sitting in your own!

Which is the best way to write the underlined portion of the sentence? If the original is the best way, choose option (1).

(1)    your own
(2)    your living room
(3)    our living room
(4)    your living rooms
(5)    our own

6.    Sentence 15: A second theory is that typical life challenges like dating, finding a job, and making a home had become very competitive in our society.

Which correction should be made to sentence 15?

(1)    change had become to has become
(2)    change had become to have become
(3)    change had become to became
(4)    change had become to become
(5)    change had become to had became

Answers to Usage Practice Questions

1.    Answer (3) change have to has is the best answer. The original sentence contains a subject-verb error. “Reality television” is a singular subject that requires a singular verb. However, “have” is a plural verb. The way to correct this error is to change “have” to the singular verb “has.” For more information, see the CWEST resources on Subject-Verb Agreement and Verb Tense.

2.    Answer (4) are is the best answer. In the original sentence, the verb (“were”) is in the past tense. This conflicts with the rest of the paragraph, which is in the present tense. Also, the topic of the essay is reality television, which is something that is happening in the present. The best way to rewrite this sentence is to put it in the present tense by using a present tense verb (“are”). This question is a really good example of how you should look at the rest of the paragraph to determine the best answer to the question. For more information, see the CWEST resource on Verb Tense.

3.    Answer (1) they is the best answer. In this sentence, it is clear that “they” refers to game shows. Therefore, this sentence does not need to be revised. It is important to remember that there will be sentences that are correct the way they are. This question is a good example. For more information on pronouns, see the CWEST resource on Pronouns.

4.    Answer (2) change takes to take is the best answer. The original sentence contains a subject-verb error. The subject is a plural subject: “most recent shows.” However, the verb in the original sentence is a singular verb: “takes.” To correct this sentence, you need to change the verb to a plural verb so that it matches the plural subject. What is tricky in this sentence is that the subject and verb are not right next to each other. This will be the case in many sentences, so remember to look carefully for the subject and verb. For more information, see the CWEST resources on Subject-Verb Agreement.

5.    Answer (5) our own is the best answer. This is true for a couple of reasons. First, it would be repetitive to repeat “living rooms.” Replacing it with a pronoun may be better. The original sentence does replace it with a pronoun, but it uses “your.” This “your” conflicts with the “we” in the sentence. Replacing it with “our” improves the sentence because it matches “we.” For more information, see the CWEST resources on Pronouns.

6.    Answer (2) change had become to have become is the best answer. The original sentence is in the past tense because of the past tense verb “had become.” This conflicts with the rest of the paragraph, which is in present tense (note that the very first sentence in the paragraph contains the words “right now.”) To correct this sentence, we need to change the verb to the present tense. When you change this verb, you must also make sure to choose a plural verb to match the plural subject (this subject is “life challenges like dating, finding a job, and making a home”). For more information, see the CWEST resources on Subject-Verb Agreement and Verb Tense.

Copyright ©1995-2014 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.