ACT English 5.1 Sentence Structure
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ACT English: Sentence Structure Drill 5, Problem 1. Which choice uses the correct tense?
|ACT English||Sentence Structure|
|Product Type||ACT English|
|Sentence Structure||Consistency and Tense|
This speaker is a hot mess.
Not only is she using the oldest excuse in the book for being late, she is also mixing verb tenses.
The sentence starts out with the verb “woke,” which is in the simple past tense.
This means that the other verbs in the sentence need to indicate that things happened in the past as well.
However, “has failed” uses the auxiliary verb “has,” which places “has failed”
in the present perfect tense.
This is a little confusing because verbs in the present perfect tense do designate action
that began in the past.
But...and this is a big but...the action (or the effect of it) has to continue into the present.
It’s called present perfect tense, so it has to have something to do with “now,” right?
Since this slacker’s alarm isn’t currently going off, “has failed” is incorrect,
and we can cross off choice (A).
Choice (C) is even further off the mark than the original sentence. “Is failing” is
in what’s called the “present progressive tense.”
This is when a verb indicates action that’s happening right now and that may continue into the future.
An example might be, “Because he overslept, he is running like crazy to get to work on time.”
The present progressive tense is, of course, wrong in this sentence, however, because the
past tense verb “woke” insists that the rest of the action in the sentence has to do with past.
We’ve got another clunker on our hands with choice (D). “Having failed” is what’s
known as a present perfect participle, and it isn’t called for in this sentence.
A present perfect participle is used to describe an action that came before something that’s
going on in the present.
Here’s an example: “Having run all the way to work, he’s now dripping sweat.”
Here, the present perfect participle does its job by clearly indicating that the marathon
run to work caused the profuse sweating that this guy’s co-workers are now blessed to witness.
In our original sentence, “woke” is in the past tense, so it and the present perfect
participle “having failed” don’t get along.
At long last, we’ve found the right answer with choice (B). “Had failed” is in the
past perfect tense, which is used to describe an action that occurred before another event
in the past.
So our speaker woke up in the past…to find that the alarm had failed to go off when it
was supposed to earlier in the morning. Makes sense right?
Next time our speaker should come up with a more creative excuse for being late.
What, there couldn’t have been a unicorn stampede?