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Sentence Combination
Please Note:
The last administration of the SAT II Writing was on 1/22/05. Beginning 3/12/05, parts of the SAT II Writing test will be included in the New SAT. You should be studying the New SAT book. Go there!
Sentence Combination
Some questions will ask you to combine two or, occasionally, three sentences. For combining sentences questions, you need only reread the sentences you’ve been asked to combine. Context does not usually matter. Here are two typical sentence combination questions:
Which of the following is the best way to combine and revise sentences 5 and 6?
How should the underlined portions of sentences 4 and 5, which are reprinted below, be revised so that the two sentences combine into one?
Frequently, you’ll combine the sentences by using a comma and a conjunction (a conjunction is a word like and, but, so, etc.). You can also combine sentences using semicolons and colons. All of the different combination methods are discussed below.
Some rare sentence combination questions will require you to look at context:
In order to vary the repetitive sentence structure of the sentences in the first paragraph, how should sentences 8 and 9 be combined?
On a question like this, you must look back at the relevant paragraph so that you know what repetitive sentence structure the question is asking you about.
Comma and Conjunction
Say the question asks you to combine these two sentences:
She accidentally flushed her ring down the toilet. The plumber got it back for her.
One way of combining these two sentences is to use a comma and a conjunction. In this case, using a comma and a conjunction gives you a sentence like this:
She accidentally flushed her ring down the toilet, but the plumber got it back for her.
Be sure the conjunction you choose makes sense. The revision below is grammatically correct, but logically flawed:
She accidentally flushed her ring down the toilet, because the plumber got it back for her.
The word because does not make sense, since it suggests that the woman in question flushed her ring down the toilet a second time as a result of the plumber initially retrieving it.
Semicolon
If two sentences are closely related, you can combine them with a semicolon. Say you begin with these two sentences:
Margaret recently met her future mother-in-law. Problems ensued immediately.
Using a semicolon, the combination is:
Margaret recently met her future mother-in-law; problems ensued immediately.
Expressing a Logical Relationship
Some sentence combination questions will ask you to combine two sentences in a way that makes their relationship more clear. As always, it’s true that it’s a good idea to prepare your own answer. It’s also true that on this specific type of question, the answer choices can do a lot of the grunt work for you. They’ll make it clear what kind of logical relationship the test writers see between the two sentences, and you’ll simply have to pick the grammatically and logically correct answer choice. Look at this example:
To vary the pattern of sentences in the first paragraph, which of the following is the best way to combine sentences 2 and 3 (reprinted below)?
My sister eats cottage cheese and grapes for lunch. I eat tacos.
(A) While my sister eats cottage cheese and grapes for lunch, tacos are what I’m eating.
(B) In contrast to my sister eating cottage cheese and grapes for lunch, I will be eating tacos.
(C) My sister was eating cottage cheese and grapes for lunch, I was eating tacos.
(D) My sister eats cottage cheese and grapes for lunch and I am not the same because I eat tacos.
(E) Unlike my sister, who eats cottage cheese and grapes for lunch, I eat tacos.
The correct answer is (E). As you can see, all of the answer choices express the basic logical relationship between the two sentences: the speaker is drawing a contrast between her sister’s eating habits and her own. Only answer choice (E), however, expresses this contrast grammatically. (A) has a parallelism error; it begins by saying my sister eats, so the second half of the sentence should say I eat, so that both halves of the sentence use present tense. However, the second half of the sentence reads I’m eating. (B) has a tense problem; the sister is eating in the present tense, but the speaker is eating sometime in the future. This changes the original meaning of the two sentences, in which both people are eating at the same time. Answer choice (C) is a run-on sentence. Answer choice (D) is awkward and wordy because of the phrase and I am not the same.
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