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Sentence Correction: Sentence vs. Clause vs. Fragment

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, concerning the way language and culture determine thought, exercised a significant influence on cognitive psychology, based as they were on empirical field-work conducted among native American tribes, such as the Hopi.

Incorrect.

This answer choice is grammatically incorrect. The pronoun they does not agree with the noun hypothesis.

[[snippet]]

Incorrect.

This answer choice is grammatically incorrect. The pronoun their does not agree with the noun hypothesis.

[[snippet]]

Incorrect.

This answer choice corrects the Pronoun Agreement mistake in the original sentence by replacing the words based as they were with because having a basis, but creates another grammatical mistake by turning the final part of the sentence into a fragment.

This answer choice has the words having a basis as the subject of the last part of the corrected sentence, but this new subject is not matched by a conjugated verb.

The way to discover if the sentence is a fragment is by reading until the end: because having a basis in empirical field-work among the native American Hopi tribes...does what? The sentence is left dangling.

Very Good.

This answer choice corrects the Pronoun Agreement mistake in the original sentence, by changing the pronoun they, which refers to the singular subject hypothesis, to it. It also correctly changes the matching plural verb were to the singular verb was.

Notice that the pronoun it in the corrected sentence is ambiguous because it can refer to more than one noun in the earlier parts of the sentence (either hypothesis or psychology). This makes answer choice D stylistically flawed even though it is grammatically correct.

Remember that if there are no other answer choices that are both grammatically and stylistically correct, an ambiguous sentence will be preferable to answer choices that are grammatically incorrect.

Incorrect.

Although this answer choice corrects the Pronoun Agreement mistake in the original sentence, by changing the pronoun they, referring to the singular subject hypothesis, to it, it creates a new Subject Verb Agreement mistake.

The pronoun it in the corrected sentence is incorrectly matched with the plural verb were, making the sentence grammatically incorrect.

In addition, the corrected sentence creates another grammatical mistake by changing the phrase such as the Hopi into a fragment: of which the Hopi among others. Although this phrase begins with the relative pronoun (of) which, indicating that a clause should follow, what follows is not a clause because it lacks a conjugated verb.

Why did you choose this answer choice?

So that was the problem. Hypothesis is actually a singular noun

Stop Sign: a pseudo-plural singular subject

There are several types of nouns which appear plural but are actually singular:

  • Nouns that end with -s: news, thesis, crisis, analysis, politics, mathematics
  • Collective nouns: audience, committee, family, flock, group, staff, team

Answer choice (A) is grammatically incorrect, because the singular subject hypothesis is referred to later in the sentence by the plural pronoun they, which does not agree with the noun hypothesis in number.

It isn't logical to say language and culture...were based on empirical fieldwork. Empirical fieldwork is a style of research. What can be based on research? A hypothesis (=an unproved idea, or theory).

Why did you choose this answer choice?

So that was the problem. Hypothesis is actually a singular noun

Stop Sign: a pseudo-plural singular subject

There are several types of nouns which appear plural but are actually singular:

  • Nouns that end with -s: news, thesis, crisis, analysis, politics, mathematics
  • Collective nouns: audience, committee, family, flock, group, staff, team

Answer choice (B) is grammatically incorrect, because the singular subject hypothesis is referred to later in the sentence by the plural pronoun their, which does not agree with the noun hypothesis in number.

It isn't logical to described language and culture...as being based on empirical fieldwork. Empirical fieldwork is a style of research. What can be based on research? A hypothesis (=an unproved idea, or theory). Therefore the pronoun that refers to hypothesis must be in the singular (and the verb too, of course).

Ok. Next time, look out for the following Stop Sign:

Every pronoun in the underlined part of the sentence or after it

In this question, the phrase based as they were contains the pronoun they. It's your job now to correctly identify what noun they refers to logically, and to check the agreement between the pronoun and the noun it replaces.

Ok. Next time, look out for the following Stop Sign:

Every pronoun in the underlined part of the sentence or after it

In this question, the phrase their being contains the pronoun their. It's your job now to correctly identify what noun their refers to logically, and to check the agreement between the pronoun and the noun it replaces.

based as they were on empirical field-work conducted among native American tribes, such as the Hopi
their basis being in empirical field-work among native American tribes, such as the Hopi
because having a basis in empirical field-work among native Americans such as the Hopi tribes
based as it was on empirical field-work conducted among native American tribes, such as the Hopi
for it were based on empirical field-work with native American tribes, of which the Hopi among others

Because I thought hypothesis was a plural noun.

Because they refers to language and culture.

Because I didn't check to see what they refers to.

Because I thought hypothesis was a plural noun.

Because their refers to language and culture.

Because I didn't check to see what their refers to.