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Usage

Usage items comprise 30 percent of the multiple-choice questions on the Language Arts Writing Test. Usage items assess the following types of common errors.

Subject-verb agreement
In the present tense, singular third-person subjects take verbs that end in –s.

Subject-Verb Agreement Error Tiger Woods practice his golf game every day.
Correction Tiger Woods practices his golf game every day.

Verb tense errors
Verbs reflect past, present, future, and other shades of meaning related to time, not just in single sentences, but in a document as a whole.

Verb Tense Error She is going to town and bought some milk, cheese, and butter.
Correction She went to town and bought some milk, cheese, and butter.

Verb form errors
Irregular verbs do not follow the usual pattern for past tense and past participle.

Irregular Verb Form Error She seen the movie several times.
Correction She has seen the movie several times.

Pronoun reference
Pronouns, such as he, she, they, them, take the place of nouns. The antecedent noun and the pronoun must agree.

Pronoun Reference Error An infection can lead to serious health problems if they are not treated.
Correction An infection can lead to serious health problems if it is not treated.

Teaching Tip:
Have students read sentences containing usage errors aloud. Often students will say, "That doesn’t sound right." Reading aloud helps them to catch errors that they would not find through silent reading.