32. Errors with Word Forms

The most common type of Written Expression error involves word forms. As many as eight or nine items per test may be word-form problems. Most errors of this type involve using one part of speech in place of another. Both the incorrect word and the correction come from the same root (rapid and rapidly, for example, or inform and information). The four parts of speech generally involved are verbs, nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. The most common problems are adjectives in place of adverbs and adverbs in place of adjectives. Nouns in place of adjectives and adjectives in place of nouns are also commonly seen. In some word-form problems, different forms of the same part of speech may be involved. For example, a noun that refers to a person (leader) may be used in place of the field (leadership). A gerund (a verbal noun) may also be used in place of an ordinary noun (judging and judgment, for example).
Parts of speech can often be identified by their suffixes (word endings):

Common Noun Endings
-tioninformation-eryrecovery
-sionprovision-shipscholarship
-enceexistence-tudemultitude
-anceacceptance-ismcapitalism
-itycreativity-cracydemocracy
-hoodchildhood-logybiology
-domwisdom-nesshappiness
-thhealth-mentexperiment
Endings for Noun That Refer to Persons
-erexplorer-eeemployee
-orsailor-iccomic
-istpsychologist-iantechnician
-entstudent-antattendant
Common Verb Endings
-izerealize-ifysatisfy
-enshorten-ateincorporate
-errecover
Common Adjective Endings
-atemoderate-ysunny
-ousdangerous-iceconomic
-alnormal-icallogical
-ialremedial-orysensory
-ablecomfortable-lesshopeless
-iblesensible-ivecompetitive
-ishsluggish-lyfriendly
-antresistant-fulcolorful
Common Adverb Endings
-lyquickly-allyhistorically

A) Adjective/Adverb Errors

The most common type of word-form problem involves the use of an adverb in place of an adjective or an adjective in place of an adverb. A few points to keep in mind:

  • Adjectives modify nouns, noun phrases, and pronouns.
  • Adjectives often come before nouns.
    an important test
    a quiet evening
    a long letter
  • They often answer the question What kind?
    She is a brilliant doctor. (What kind of a doctor is she? A brilliant one.)
  • Adjectives also follow the verb to be and other linking verbs.
    The glass was empty.
    That song sounds nice.
    They look upset.
  • Adverbs may modify verbs, participles, adjectives, prepositions, adverb clause markers, and other adverbs.
    Ann eagerly accepted the challenge.
    (adverb modifying the main verb accepted)
    It was a rapidly changing situation.
    (adverb modifying the present participle changing)
    She wore a brightly colored scarf.
    (adverb modifying the past participle colored)
    Ted seemed extremely curious about that topic.
    (adverb modifying the adjective curious)
    We arrived at the airport shortly before our flight left.
    (adverb modifying the adverb-clause marker before)
    We arrived at the airport shortly before noon.
    (adverb modifying the preposition before)
    The accident occurred incredibly quickly.
    (adverb modifying the adverb quickly)
  • Sometimes adverbs are used at the beginning of sentences, often followed by a comma. These adverbs sometimes modify the entire sentence rather than one word in the sentence.
    Generally, I like my classes.
    Usually Professor Ingram’s lectures are more interesting.
  • Most adverbs tested in this section are adverbs of manner. They are formed by adding the suffix -ly or -ally to an adjective.
quickquicklycomiccomically
comfortablecomfortablyhistorichistorically
  • Adverbs of manner answer the question How?
    She treated her employees honestly.
    (How did she treat her employees? Honestly.)
  • A few adverbs (fast, hard, high, for example) have the same form as adjectives.
    He bought a fast car. (adjective)
    He was driving so fast that he got a speeding ticket. (adverb)
  • Well is the irregular adverb form of the adjective good.
    Juan is an exceptionally good student.
    He did very well on the last test.
  • Some adjectives also end in -ly: friendly, yearly, costly, and lively, for example.
    That was a costly mistake.
    I found Houston a very friendly city.

Sample Item

The (A) Black Hills of South Dakota are (B) covered with (C) densely (D) pine forests.

(A) The
(B) are
(C) with
(D) densely

The best answer is (D). An adjective, dense, not an adverb, is required to modify the noun phrase pine forests.

During (A) solar storms, the amount (B) of radiation reaching (C) the Earth is abnormal (D) high.

(A) During
(B) amount
(C) reaching
(D) abnormal

The best answer is (D). The adverb abnormally is needed to modify the adjective high.

B) Incorrect Forms of Words Connected with Certain Fields

This error involves a confusion between the names of fields (biology, for example) and the name of a person who practices in that field (biologist), or between one of those terms and the adjective that describes the field (biological).

Sample Item

First specializing (A) in industrial (B) photography, Margaret Bourke-White later became a famous news photographer (C) and editorial (D).

(A) specializing
(B) industrial
(C) photographer
(D) editorial

The best answer is (D). The adjective editorial is used to describe the field of editing. However, a noun referring to a person (editor) is needed in this sentence.

C) Other Word-Form Problems

There are many other word-form problems. Some examples are given here:

Sample Item

Corn played an (A) important role in (B) the cultural (C) of the cliff-dwelling  (D) Indians of the Southwest.

(A) an
(B) role in
(C) cultural
(D) cliff-dwelling

The best answer is (C). The noun culture, not the adjective cultural, is needed.

The galaxy (A) Andromeda is the most distance (B) object visible (C) to observers (D) in the Northern Hemisphere.

(A) The galaxy
(B) distance
(C) visible
(D) observers

The best answer is (B). The adjective distant is needed in place of the noun distance.

Scientists belief (A) that the continents once formed (B) a single continent surrounded by (C) an enormous (D) sea.

(A) belief
(B) formed
(C) by
(D) enormous

The best answer is (A). In this sentence, the verb believe is needed in place of the noun belief.

Bunsen burners are used (A) to hot (B) materials in (C) a chemistry (D) lab.

(A) are used
(B) hot
(C) in
(D) chemistry

The best answer is (B). The verb heat is needed in place of the adjective hot.

A sudden (A) freezing (B) can destroy (C) citrus crops (D).

(A) sudden
(B) freezing
(C) destroy
(D) crops

Rather than the gerund (-ing) form, the noun freeze is required.

Exercise 32.1

Exercise 32.2

Exercise 32.3

Exercise 32.4

Exercise 32.5

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