Grammar Relations for Praxis I: Pre-Professional Skills Test Study Guide
For the multiple-choice section of the PPST Writing test, you must be able to identify problems in the relationships between the parts of a sentence. You need to be on the lookout for the incorrect use of adjectives and adverbs, subject-verb agreement, pronoun agreement, and shifting verb tenses.
Adjectives and Adverbs
Adjectives and adverbs add spice to writing—they are words that describe, or modify, other words. However, adjectives and adverbs describe different parts of speech. Whereas adjectives modify nouns or pronouns, adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs.
- We enjoyed the delicious meal.
- The chef prepared it perfectly.
The first sentence uses the adjective delicious to modify the noun meal. In the second sentence, the adverb perfectly describes the verb prepared. Adverbs are easy to spot—most end in -ly. However, some of the trickiest adverbs do not end in the typical -ly form. The following are problem modifiers to look out for in the PPST Writing test:
Good/Well—Writers often confuse the adverb well with its adjective counterpart, good.
Ellie felt good about her test results. (Good describes the proper noun, Ellie.)
Ruben performed well on the test. (Well modifies the verb, performed.)
Bad/Badly—Similarly, writers confuse the function of these two modifiers. Remember to use the adverb badly to describe an action.
Henry felt bad after staying up all night before the exam. (Bad describes Henry.)
Juliet did badly in her first classroom presentation. (Badly describes the verb form, did.)
Fewer/Less—These two adjectives are a common pitfall for writers. To distinguish between them, look carefully at the noun modified in the sentence. Fewer describes plural nouns, or things that can be counted. Less describes singular nouns that represent a quantity or a degree.
The high school enrolls fewer students than it did a decade ago.
Emilia had less time for studying than Maggie.
Adjectives that follow verbs can also cause confusion. Although an adjective may come after a verb in a sentence, it may describe a noun or pronoun that comes before the verb. Here is an example:
The circumstances surrounding Shakespeare's authorship seemed strange. (The adjective, strange, describes the subject, circumstances.)
Take special note of modifiers in sentences that use verbs that deal with the senses: touch, taste, look, smell, and sound. Here are some examples of sentences that use the same verb, but different modifiers:
- Sarah felt sick after her performance review. (The adjective, sick, modifies Sarah.)
- The archaeologist felt carefully through the loose dirt. (The adverb, carefully, modifies felt.)
- The judge looked skeptical after the witness testified. (The adjective, skeptical, modifies judge.)
- The judge looked skeptically at the flamboyant lawyer. (The adverb, skeptically, modifies looked.)
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