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Gerunds

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Teacher/Instructor Eva Holtz
Eva Holtz

Harvard University
Perfect scores on the SAT and 4 SATIIs

Eva is a certified admissions counselor and the founder of PrepPoint, a premier test prep company in the San Francisco Bay Area.

So I'm here with the inside scoop on -ING verbs. So first of all -ING verbs are something you see in everyday life all the time. Here's a sentence; 'Speaking Spanish is difficult.' Sentence sounds normal. Another example; 'Of all the skills I possess, cooking is the one I use most.' So far so good, we have -ING verbs in our sentences and they sound fine, so why are we talking about this? Well the SAT is a little different. On the SAT -ING verbs are frequently used in awkward ways in order to deliberately create wrong answers and they're especially common in the improving sentences kinds of questions. Let's look at some examples of that.
So here's our first example showing how -ING words can be used in awkward ways to make bad answer choices. 'Orchids, being delicate flowers, are both expensive and difficult to care for.' Now this isn't technically grammatically wrong, but it is stylistically wrong. You're supposed to avoid this kind of language on the SAT 'cause it's awkward. So here's our -ING word 'being'. 'Being' is one of the biggest problems in terms of -ING words on the SAT and here's a better way of phrasing it. Here's what a correct answer might look like; 'Orchids, which are delicate flowers, are both expensive and difficult to care for.'
Example two; 'After much contemplation, the family decided not to buy a house having only one bathroom.' So here's 'having' our -ING word, and like 'being', 'having' is one of the most suspicious -ING words to appear on the SAT. When you see 'having' you should be really suspicious of it and a better way of phrasing it, a way that might be a right answer choice would be this; 'After much contemplation, the family decided not to buy a house with only one bathroom.' I hope you can see that it sounds better that way.
And let's look at our third and final example. 'Being that she is president of the senior class, Sandra believes she should have the opportunity to speak at graduation. 'Being that' is especially bad, you definitely want to avoid 'being that' if you ever see it on the SAT. There are many ways to make this sound better, something like 'As president of the senior class', 'Since she is president of the senior class' or 'Because she is president of the senior class.' 'Because she is president of the senior class, Sandra believes she should have the opportunity to speak at graduation.' So now let's take this and see what it would look like on the SAT.
So here we have a question that you would expect to see in the identifying errors, portion of the writing test. To recap, the way this work is that there are four portions in the sentence underlined and one of those is probably going to be wrong or not and we write 'No error' instead. So we're looking for the part of the sentence that's flawed. So let's read it, first of all you want to start reading it through and see if something jumps out at you and then possibly go back through bit by bit and see if you can find what's wrong. Let's start by reading. 'Majoring in graphic design was a wise choice for Luke, since he had long dreamed of pursuing a career having an artistic bent.' Now maybe the right answer jumped out at you, I hope it did. We should select 'D', 'having' because it doesn't quite sound right. '...a career having an artistic bent' would sound much better as '...a career with artistic bent,' so that is the answer we should choose.
But let's just go back and look at the other choices, make sure we're not making a mistake and also see what we should be on the lookout for more generally. Here's an -ING verb and we do want to be suspicious of that, but it sounds fine, 'Majoring in graphic design,' doesn't sound weird at all nor is it grammatically incorrect. '...he had long dreamed of pursuing a career.' 'Long dreamed' may sound a little funny to you, it is not maybe the way that most teenagers speak, but it's the kind of thing you will find in a book and it's just fine. If it did rob you the wrong way, you might want to check out the lesson on using the right word, where this kind of thing is addressed in a little more detail.
And then lastly, '...pursuing a career,' we also want to be suspicious of that because it is an -ING word but it sounds fine in this case. So 'D' we should be suspicious of because it's 'having' which along with 'being' causes a lot of trouble on the SAT and it sounds funny. It would be better with the word 'with' so 'D' is the answer we choose. Alright, time for the bottom line. -ING verbs don't always make an answer choice wrong but they often do and you want to be really critical of answer choices that have those -ING verbs, especially 'being' and 'having'. So when you see them, take a really good look, they're likely to be wrong.